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My name is Sandra Milne and I’m the new Regional Innovation Network (RIN) Coordinator for Southeastern Alberta. I was hired about a month ago to replace Elizabeth Blair who after a long 17-month wait, was finally reunited with her family in Frisco, Texas. Congratulations Elizabeth! everyone at CFEC wishes you an abundance of success and happiness.

An RIN Coordinator is someone who works with technology and knowledge-based entrepreneurial and venture development to discover and address gaps in the systems within which they are trying to achieve success. So basically, I get to speak with brilliant people who are committed to advancing technology and innovation and provide one-to-one coaching and guidance, support peer-to-peer or B2B networks, connect people with experts who can help take their ideas from concept to actualization, and I get to plan and organize a variety of training and events based on the gaps found during the process.

My background is fairly diverse. I grew up in small-town British Columbia where I graduated from Prince Rupert Senior Secondary School in the mid-’80s. Fun fact,

I attended college and graduated with a diploma in Construction Engineering Technology, quickly decided this wasn’t the career for me and joined the Canadian military. Early in my military career, it was revealed that I had a high aptitude for learning language and my commanding officer posted me to the Canadian Forces Language School (CFLS) in Ottawa to learn to read, write and speak Russian. During my 10-year career as a soldier, I spent most of my time in Ottawa. If you were to ask me about my most memorable experience during those 10 years, my answer would be the 18 months I spent at the North Pole (Alert, NWT located about 400 kilometres south of the North Pole).

After retiring from the military, I moved to Calgary and worked in investor relations, in a law firm as a paralegal and then as a stay-at-home mom. In 2005 I moved to Dawson Creek, B.C. and began working for an oilfield service company; I enjoyed running the business so much that in 2008 I purchased the company.

In 2009 I graduated university with an MBA and in 2010 I was listed 24 on Profit Magazine’s Top 100 Female Entrepreneurs in Canada and my company was included in the Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies in Canada with a five-year gross revenue increase of 250%. The accolades kept coming and in 2011 I was named a “Rising Star in the Oil and Gas Industry” and I was nominated for the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

I spent the next eight or so years expanding and running the business, raising my children and gaining experience and insight into the joys and trials of being an entrepreneur. In 2016 I sold the business and in early 2017 a completely life altering collision happened, I met the love of my life!

In 2018 my children were all living independently, my earn-out from the sale of my business was complete and my love was offered an excellent position with the City of Medicine Hat. As Neale Donald Walsch wrote, “When Everything Changes, Change Everything”; so we moved to Medicine Hat.

It’s been a winding road with many jubilations and challenges along the way and I’m so excited to be here and in the role of RIN Coordinator. If you have an innovative or technology driven idea or business, come on down to Community Futures on Fourth Street and have a coffee with me. I look forward to listening, encouraging and connecting you with the resources that will move you, your idea and/or your business forward!

Sandra Milne is the Regional Innovation Network Coordinator for APEX Alberta. APEX Alberta has programs to help support the growth of innovative and technology-oriented businesses in Southeast Alberta. APEX Alberta is a collaborative initiative between three core service providers: Community Futures Entre-Corp, Medicine Hat College and Alberta Innovates.

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