Only a few weeks ago I settled into my new office at the UK Consulate General. In addition to the usual desk, chair, IT and telephony, it’s home to a struggling Yucca that I will doubtless see to a drawn-out dehydrated death, a framed painting of Her Majesty the Queen, and a corner window overlooking downtown Vancouver. It’s a five minute walk to almost anywhere – Canada Place, The Vancouver Club, DFAIT, and a hundred excellent eateries. I resisted the temptation to sit in my chair and swivel; but I did remain at the window smiling, for quite some time. This is quite some city.
Realising I couldn’t stand still for the next four years, I took to wandering the corridor and inviting the members of my team in for a chat. I sense that what we do here may be un-common knowledge to many outside. A couple help British companies looking to export into British Columbia, Yukon and NWT; providing market information, advice, and relevant contacts. Another couple help Canadian companies looking to invest in the UK, providing anything from specific infrastructure opportunities to help with in-country support. Others work on science and innovation and clean tech collaboration; on public and media affairs; on helping British citizens in distress; and of course keeping the office running (too often forgotten).
It also turned out one of them is Italian and the only smoker. One of them has never owned a mobile phone (cell, sorry), and seems reassuringly content. One rides horses, two have cats, and three are married. What they all have in common is they are incredibly welcoming, supportive, and forthright. If you think we can help you in any way (not with smoking or pets, but business or partnerships), then do get in touch.
Of course my next step has been to leave the office and meet people in the outside world. So I’ve been making appointments, with the Vancouver Board of Trade, the British Columbia Business Council, DFAIT, BC’s Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, UBC, Vancouver City Council and many others. We need to be engaging if we are going to thrive. Our targets (yes, even UK civil servants have them) grow as our resources shrink, so we must keep getting smarter and quicker. Plus the competition is tougher every year. And despite the many comforts of my office, and the warm metaphorical embrace of my colleagues, I am incredibly excited at the prospect.
Further episodes from a British Consul General in Vancouver will follow shortly.