Farah Nasser is a career journalist, now at Global News. Surrounded by tech her whole career, Farah’s tracking the power of VR to make global issues locally relevant. Read on to see her global idea for tech and innovation.
How did you get involved in tech?
I’ve been involved in tech for quite some time, but always through the lens of media.
After graduating from Ryerson University in 1999, where I studied journalism, I joined a media startup called Toronto 1, which failed shortly after.
I stayed in media, moving to CityTV, CP24, and then, my current company, Global News.
I started telling stories twenty years ago, so I was always looking for unique ways to tell stories. When I first started in the journalism world, not many people in front of, or behind, the camera looked like me, so I was always looking to bring new stories into the newsroom.
We work to cover human interest stories, so tech is not really what we “do.” However, you cannot tell a story without looking at the technological elements, and that’s been a fact throughout my entire career.
In the past five years, though, technology has accelerated the pace at which I’m able to tell stories.
For example, I wanted to cover Syria and the issues going on in Aleppo in 2016. Many in the newsroom thought that it was not a safe assignment for me to cover, and ultimately I didn’t go. I thought the story might have been lost, but technology helped us change that narrative.
We used virtual reality technology to build a “set,” showing what the people of Toronto would go through if the issues in Aleppo were happening in Toronto.
Through VR we were able to show what Toronto would be like if the DVP was bombed, if there were no airports, or what it might look like living on the “safe” side of the city versus the “war-torn” side.
This was my first major foray into technology after a career of interacting with tech, and I love the power of VR to bring global issues to a local audience.
You have 3 hours to make someone fall in love with Toronto – where do you take them and what do you show them?
If it’s a Saturday in Spring or Summer, we’d go to the Brickworks Farmers Market so I could show them the beautiful hiking trails in the area and sample some of the best food in the city.
If it’s baseball season, we’d go to a Toronto Blue Jays game. It shows not only how diverse the city is but also is a great example of something that unites a lot of people.
If we can’t do those two things, we’d go exploring in different neighbourhoods. I personally love Little India, Queen West, and Leslieville because they all show off the city and our diverse cultures.
Elevate Toronto is founded on three principles (#DiversityIsOurStrength, #DisruptTogether, #ItsOurTime). Which one resonates most with you?
When we talk about tech, it’s obvious that Toronto has a lot going on. We’re a burgeoning AI hub, global companies set up shop here or come here to recruit. We have so much diversity here in terms of identity, experience, socioeconomic backgrounds, and sexualities, and people are accepted and celebrated here.
Tech is a big thing – it’s the way of our future. It’s therefore not only wonderful but necessary to bring people with different ideas, different pasts, and different paths into tech. It will help shape how we do and see things in the future, creating better products and solutions along the way.
What is your “global idea” for tech and innovation?
My global idea is to champion more women to be in top leadership positions in technology companies and communities around the world.
Speaking generally, women have more demanded of them when it comes to having to balance. They are often the primary caregivers, are pushed to be more well-rounded in schools, and are expected to balance family and work seamlessly.
Women are absolutely being treated better in the workplace now, and I’m grateful for that, but I think what’s missing is that many tech leaders currently don’t see that balancing act.
This knowledge, however, needs to come into tech when we think of building technology and tech companies in the future.
The reason I say this is because tech is going to affect every single person on the planet, so it should be made by the people who are going to be affected. This isn’t about making yardstick claims of women being treated 100% identical to men – everyone has their own stories, path, and struggles, and those should be respected and valued.
That being said, though, I firmly believe that bridges can, and should, be built from both sides.
We already see a lot happening from women when it comes to working hard to build that bridge; I’d like to see men looking over at the work women are doing and then see how they can help to build the other side of the bridge.
What should the world know about the Toronto tech community?
The world needs to know that there is so much innovation happening in Toronto already from tons of open minded people.
However, they also need to know that Toronto is one of the best cities in the world to live and grow up, and that this fact will make Toronto the next big thing in tech as more and more innovative and open minded people seek a higher quality of living.
Couple a high quality of living in a location with the foundational infrastructure we already have and it’s a great combination for success.