The Backstory

Out of the shadows

Jennifer Turliuk sitting on a couch with her elbow resting on the back of the couch and her other hand sitting in her lap.

Photography by Ashley Klassen

When Jennifer Turliuk, Com’10, reflects on her life journey, she thinks about the wisdom Steve Jobs shared in his 2005 Stanford commencement speech: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.”

When Jennifer took the time to connect her own dots, she realized there was a book in them.

Her journey started early, when a Harry Potter website she coded in elementary school went viral after being featured in a children’s magazine.

By the time she graduated from Queen’s, Jennifer’s interests had evolved and she was ready to enter the corporate world. Less than a year into her first job, though, she realized that world wasn’t for her. In search of a new start, she entered a competition to job-shadow a Silicon Valley angel investor. She was so confident in her chances of winning that she quit her job and moved to California. “I didn’t win,” she says, “but I realized that I still wanted to shadow people.”

For the next six months, Jennifer lived in the shadows, job-shadowing everyone from Stanford professors to the founders of Kiva and Airbnb. “I was figuring out what I wanted to do and what kind of environment I wanted to do it in,” she says.

After deciding that she preferred small for-profit companies, Jennifer set out to start one of her own. In 2012 she attended NASA’s Singularity University, where she learned about using exponential technologies such as 3D-printing to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. “I chose to focus on education,” she says, “because if you help people level up their educations, you empower them to help in other areas as well.”

Remembering how empowering her childhood coding experience had been, she started MakerKids, a Toronto-based company that is inspiring thousands of kids around the world to become entrepreneurs and innovators through virtual camps, programs, and parties. 

As she connected the dots that brought her to MakerKids, Jennifer realized she had created a viable process that could help people find satisfying careers quickly. “It was all about how to go from a place of overwhelm with thousands of possibilities to a place of knowing what makes the most sense for you,” she says.

Her realization led her to write an article for Forbes and then expand it into a book, How to Figure Out What to Do With Your Life (Next), released by Dundurn Press in March.

“The productivity crisis in North America is a trillion-dollar crisis, and it’s directly attributed to dissatisfaction at work,” Jennifer says. “My hope is to move the needle – even slightly – so more people can find satisfying work, and that way we can have more people tackling the world’s grand challenges with their full potential.”

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