When Technology and Tradition Meet – Patrick Egbunonu

Leaders possess a clear vision of a better future. Patrick Egbunonu sees the fusion of technology and entrepreneurship as the great leveler: the path from poverty to prosperity. That outlook—the pursuit of change driven by technology—has taken Patrick along a fascinating path from Nigeria to Canada and to a fulfilling life in Kingston. Now the Acting Dean of Business and Community Services at St. Lawrence College (SLC) and the co-founder and Chair of several organizations, Patrick’s long journey hasn’t taken him away from the formative experiences of his youth, which continue to animate him to this day.

Some of those experiences resulted from fortunate circumstances. Of Igbo heritage, Patrick grew up in Lagos and spent his teenage and young adult years among predominantly Yoruba people. Enriched by intermingling styles of thought—the Igbo seen as entrepreneurs/innovators and the Yoruba as educators—he cultivated a love of learning and a desire to create. “Entrepreneurship, innovation, and creating and improving things have always been in my DNA,” he says. However, various uncertainties often undermined any good fortunes provided by the culture and environment he grew up in. “I’ve seen poverty. I know what poverty means. I know what it means to go an entire day not knowing where the next meal will come from.”

Patrick’s talents in science and mathematics provided him a way forward, leading to an undergraduate degree in engineering and a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Queen’s, on scholarship. But adjusting to life in a different country isn’t easy. Navigating change at the personal level—the shift to life in Canada combined with the self-realization that he truly does see the world through the eyes of an innovator—has left him stronger and clear-eyed about handling life’s constant challenges. “When you’re different, people might think something is wrong with you. So you have to be okay with yourself. The way you think may be different, how you see things may be different. But nothing is wrong with you. It’s okay to carve out a unique path for yourself.”

You have to believe in yourself more than anyone else believes in you.

Today, Patrick’s willingness to be different and innovative is channelled into digital technology, with a particular focus on analytics, which led to the encouragement to lead the launch of SLC’s Business Analytics Graduate Certificate Program in 2017. He stresses the importance of digital transformation and the necessity for Canadian companies to adopt new technologies. He’d like to see improvements in digital and technology adoption, both locally and nationally. “Not every company is properly leveraging digital technologies to improve their processes, products, and business models,” he says. “And organizations that aren’t leveraging Artificial Intelligence, or planning to, aren’t even in the game.”

Patrick is also passionate about giving back and has not forgotten his roots. His wife, Cynthia, runs the family business (Informanus Analytics and Artificial Intelligence), which is focused on leveraging technology, analytics and artificial intelligence to help leaders grow and succeed. He’s also hoping to leverage technology and analytics to hold leaders more accountable in developing parts of the world. Patrick’s focus on change extends to education and digital skills, “We have to rethink what we teach, how we teach, and how we assess our students to prepare them for a future that is different from the past.” Patrick’s aims further include encouraging black entrepreneurs, especially newcomers, by emphasizing the opportunities available in Canada. This passion continues to drive him as the Chair of the Black Entrepreneurship Ecosystem – South Eastern Ontario. He believes Canada provides people with the chance to come, establish, and grow their businesses on a global scale. It’s a positive, future-oriented outlook encapsulating Patrick’s belief that technology-driven innovation is the way for people who think differently to change the world, from Kingston to the global stage.