Midlife Crisis

Today I turn 40

On the cusp of 2010, I told a dear friend that I needed a major change. I wanted to find meaningful work that combined my love of politics, history and technology with social good. My cousin Cori was home for the holidays. She was working in Dhaka (Bangladesh) teaching engineering, physics and music. Her journey to share her skills and make the world a better place inspired me to make a leap of some kind. My whole family has always volunteered locally and, sometimes, globally. My Mom and Dad are tireless supporters of their neighbours-always willing to deliver a pot of soup or be amazingly handy. My sister and brother-in-law are both long time volunteers and instill this value raising my nieces and nephew.

Fast forward twelve days to the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Much like others, I watched the TV and twitter streams helplessly. My sister had volunteered in Haiti a few years ago and called me. As a medical professional she wanted to get on a plane to help. I wanted to do more but wasn’t sure how beyond donating money. At 21:30 ET I received a Facebook message from CrisisCamp DC inviting everyone to join a Global Conference call to discuss what technologists and crisis response partners could contribute. I joined the first conference call and everything changed. A similar life-changing path is a shared by many people involved in the various volunteer technology communities who responded. As one friend joked, she takes “map-cations” and I take “hack-cations”. We both spent most of 2010 vacations volunteering our skills for technology in crisis.

Barcelona (Spain)

(Biking in Barcelona, Spain before the awesome Mozilla Drumbeat event.)

Mid-life Crisis

Some people buy a car for their midlife crisis, I found my path.

The CrisisCommons journey has introduced me to the converged world of technologists, emergency planners, crisis communicators, GIS mappers, and countless other skilled professionals answering the call. I’ve had the awesome pleasure to make the acquaintance of new people who share this vision. I’ve been to Washington (DC) (twice), Boston (MA), Sydney (Australia) and Barcelona (Spain) to learn, engage and collaborate. My job has changed too.

Currently, I am on a short-term contract providing research and community-building for CrisisCommons. I don’t know if the contract will equate a full-time job. But, I do know that I am inspired. I also know that I will spend the rest of my life trying to figure out how technology can help during the whole emergency response cycle. Even if it is only as a volunteer, I am a believer. While our collective work might not change the world today, it will in time with perseverance and community efforts. We all have made a good start.

In June 2010, I participated in Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) Sydney (Australia) and really wanted to bring the project home. Just this past weekend UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon spoke at the RHoK-New York opening gala. Respected world leaders get the power and shift of this movement. Is there anything more wonderful than the Secretary General of the UN giving a call to action citing the open source movement? The very next day I had the pleasure of kicking off Canada’s and Toronto’s first RHoK event. Techs really can make a difference with their keen problem-solving and innovation skills. Happily, I am a bridge to facilitate.

It is the best gift to know oneself and determine your path(s) in life. (Well, besides landing a full-time job doing what I love.) I don’t know what will happen next Tuesday with our CrisisCommons proposal, but I am proud to part of this dream and help build it.


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About Heather


  1. Happy Birthday Heather! You did not forget to be awesome this year even through the dark spots. You are incredible and a testament to following your heart, working hard and making a difference. My birthday wish for you is that you continue to direct your passion to help lead and grow with the CrisisCommons movement.

  2. Happy Birthday Heather. You deserve the best this life has to offer and have worked to give that to yourself. You inspire and illuminate my life and many others too. Here’s looking at you!
    Love your cousin,
    Miss. Jacqueline


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