Geek looking at data


Geek Of The Week: Sean Bourque

Jan 17, 2014, 04:00 AM by Nicole Wright

Assumptions and Surprises

Few can claim they were named for someone famous, but Sean Bourque can make that assertion. “I’m named after one of my father’s favourite actors, Sean Connery, who became James Bond,” he says proudly. Although Sean Connery assumed a position of fame, Sean Bourque has taken a less assuming, yet otherwise interesting, path—with a few surprises along the way.

Born in the canal city of Welland, Ontario, Sean lived a small-town existence in the heart of the Niagara Escarpment region. The town is notable for its significant francophone population, and Sean speaks French fluently. His father, of French heritage, worked for General Motors fixing machinery. “Anything that was broken, my father could fix,” he says. “He’s good with his hands.” Sean’s mother, of Ukrainian descent, tended to Sean and his older sister, Melanie, until they entered high school; she then began working in a local grocery store. Although Sean played many school sports—including baseball, hockey, and basketball in which he became the regional free throw champion—for a long time he figured he would grow up to become a lawyer. “I love talking to people, listening to what they have to say and debating issues, like sports or current events,” he says. “People always told me I should be a lawyer.”

Sean knew he would go to university, though at the time he had no thought to a career in spatial analysis—much less what the subject entailed. A teacher in high school planted the seed, suggesting geography as a pursuit. “I was a pretty average student in high school, though when I was passionate about something, I did well,” he explains. After completing an honour’s degree in geography at Brock University, he spent a few years in field surveying and then returned to academia at Ryerson University, entering the graduate program in spatial analysis. His thesis explored how power centres affected shopping centre growth from 1993 to 2005, particularly the subsequent decline of large anchor retailers and to the rise of a more service-oriented model. He managed to achieve his goal of completing his master’s degree before he turned thirty, by presenting his thesis the day before his thirtieth birthday. “Getting the master’s was definitely the highlight of my education,” he says.


Sean assumed he would land a job in Toronto but, to his surprise, he spent several years navigating the globe while working on surveying projects in Scotland, the U.S., Philippines and Solomon Islands. His arrival on the Sulawesi islands of Indonesia was a typical eye-opening experience for someone from small-town Ontario. “I got off the plane in Jakarta after leaving Toronto, and stopping in Alaska and Hong Kong,” he recalls. “But when the boss didn’t show up, a colleague and I were told to take a blue reputable taxi. Before we could, some guy grabbed my bag so we followed him. It was not the right type of taxi but he did take us to the hotel—for a much higher price.”

Eventually, Sean adapted to his tropical surroundings, embracing the chaos, heat and lush environment, even
                                                                               Melissa and Sean, with Penny,                                                                                by Lake Ontario

jumping off a waterfall during an excursion to the Sulawesi highlands. Working with the local surveyors, Sean initially assumed that the language barrier would be a challenge. To his surprise, he found that technical skills trump language skills in the surveying world, and that talking had very little to do with the actual work. Recalling the friendliness and hospitality of residents, he plans to take his family back to Sulawesi in the near future to experience the unique foods and array of cultures.

"There are always surprises and assumptions that arise through the initial mapping analysis."

Formerly with Generation5, Sean now works as a Research Analyst with the Environics Analytics Standard Research team and has been busy familiarizing himself with new tools and approaches. He typically receives requests from Client Advocates to perform analyses of client customers, which, from his point of view, are the crucial first steps to analyze the data and bring a visual aspect to a project, often in the form of maps and charts. His biggest challenge so far is learning the new processes at EA and how to operate the company’s micromarketing platform ENVISION. While he used similar tools prior to joining EA, he appreciates ENVISION’s broader analytical capabilities and the fact that it’s designed to help both technical and non-technical people make sound analytics-based decisions.

The secret to succeeding at his job? According to Sean, it’s about challenging assumptions and being detail-oriented in order to understand what the client wants to do. “In doing the analysis,” he states, ”you find things that you think would be more obvious, but there are always surprises and assumptions that arise through the initial mapping analysis.”


Although he has only been with EA a short time, Sean found EA’s annual user conference last November to be instrumental in understanding his new job. “We really saw how clients use the data and make adjustments in the way they do business,” he recalls. “You can see how EA’s services are important to the bigger picture.”

The football jersies.

While the big picture is important in data analysis, the details can be quite surprising in life, as Sean realized when he ended up marrying a hometown girl. The friend of a friend, Melissa met Sean when they walked down the aisle together—as groomsman and bridesmaid at another wedding. When they later married a few years later, friends joked that they had actually walked down the aisle together twice. Fortunately for Sean, his penchant for playing, watching and following sports met the approval of Melissa’s family. “My father-in-law is a big sports fan and his favourite team is the Buffalo Bills,” he says. “I’m also a sports fan though it’s okay that I root for the Miami Dolphins. He’s just happy having a son-in-law who takes care of his daughter.”


Sean and Melissa are active in family and community events, and they recently bought a home in a quiet Mississauga neighbourhood close to Trillium hospital. It’s a good thing, too, as they are expecting their first baby in March.

Their neighbourhood is classified Old World Style by the PRIZMC2 system, which
                                                                   Bourque baby announcement with                                                                            Penny
describes the setting as middle-aged, multi-ethnic, urban and family-oriented. Sean and Melissa are among the younger members of the neighbourhood, and Sean claims the area is slowly gentrifying as young families move into the established homes previously owned by older Italian and Portuguese couples. “We were living in a high-rise condo near Square One, and our dog, Penny, was a condo dog,” he says. “But now that we live in a house, she owns the backyard.” For Sean and Melissa, it’s a perfect neighbourhood to raise a family. Although the maintenance that comes with home ownership takes up some of their free time, they enjoy grabbing a meal out at one of the many local restaurants, entertaining at home with friends, vacationing south with family or heading back to Welland to attend family events and festivals.


Whether there are more surprises down the road, time will tell. But for now, Sean looks forward to a new addition to his home that is not an appliance. Melissa works in the household appliance business so a baby will be a welcome surprise. And Sean seems to be adapting well to both home ownership and the Environics Analytics culture. A fan of colourful shirts, he already
Not quite a Geek, but close: Sean Connery
as Professor Henry Jones Sr. in the 1989
 film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

happens to own a bright purple one in the company’s logo colour—but maybe he’ll take a liking to the unofficial Geek attire of a bowtie and vest. After all, if Sean Connery can pull it off, Sean Bourque might too.


—Nicole Wright