Martin Vera serves as Chief Operating Officer of BioMark, where he oversees the design and implementation of business operations. Highly motivated to create and maintain a positive company culture, he creates the focus and systems needed for BioMark's sustainable growth. Martin earned an MBA from INSEAD and has a degree in mechanical engineering from McGill University. Martin started his career in aerospace engineering at CAE, where he worked on flight simulators that help train military pilots to fly high-tech aircraft. Originally hailing from Canada's vibrant and energetic Montreal, Martin is fluent in French and conversant in Mandarin, having spent time studying in China and Taiwan. Here, Martin speaks of his passion for health and wellness, which eventually led him towards BioMark.
What was it like growing up in Montreal with your family?
Montreal is a beautiful and multicultural city to grow up in, full of life across four very different seasons. Among the changing seasons and immersed in the melting-pot of cultures, I was raised by two hard-working, academic immigrant parents, one from South America, the other from Europe. This meant I grew up surrounded by an incredible mix of cultures, languages, and communities. Having this diverse background fostered my curiosity and sensitivity to other ways of life and travel early on. My parents always were, and still are, supportive of any curiosities I developed and always did their best to encourage my exploration of new interests.
I was lucky enough to have spent much of my Montreal time growing up in a single home until I moved out. This allowed me to truly create a community and know my neighbourhood like the back of my hand. It will always be home no matter how far across the world I am.
What drew you towards the healthcare industry?
I’ve had a personal passion for health and wellness for quite some time and strive to bring that to others in a constructive and meaningful way; making that part of my professional life seemed like the natural choice. My MBA year served as a strong pivot opportunity and allowed me to realign my industry with my passion. I was lucky enough to find and strongly resonate with BioMark and it’s vision… and here we are!
How did your passion for health and wellness come about?
I wish I could say that I was always health-minded and motivated to live and eat well but the truth is, up to my early twenties, that was not the case. Between you and me, I used to eat a chocolate bar or two every day! All that quickly changed when I was diagnosed with advanced thyroid cancer when I was twenty-two. That was a very strong and blunt wake-up call to say the least and I was forced to re-evaluate my relationship with my body and my own wellbeing, both physical and mental. Throughout my treatments and cancer-journey I developed a sense of responsibility for my personal health, which continues to this day – and one I do my best to convey to others.
How did you go from working on flight simulators in the aerospace industry to implementing business operations for a healthcare analytics start-up?
There is an expression that resonates very strongly with me: life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. My career path was no different, and not entirely planned.
I loved the intensity, technology, and opportunity to fly simulators I had in the aerospace industry, but when the chance to move to Paris to manage a family business popped up, I couldn’t say no. Despite my plans to develop in aerospace, I packed up my bags in a few weeks and flew across the Atlantic to work with luxury textiles. That was my first introduction to business, management, and working abroad and simply put, I was hooked. I felt the strong need to develop my business knowledge and sought out an MBA which would complement my skills and development.
An MBA presents you with an unparalleled opportunity to pivot and make changes. With that in mind, I looked for an opportunity that would play off my combination of strengths, experiences in engineering, business and management, as well as my personal passions. Operations in a healthtech company is the perfect fit and one I am lucky to have found.
What excites you about predictive healthcare?
“Good health is a crown on the head of a well person that only a sick person can see”.
A simple example is appreciating the ability to breathe from both nostrils but only after you are sick and stuffed up with a cold. Few of us realize how lucky we are and how nice it is to be healthy, until the day we realise we are not.
Predictive healthcare is a way to empower us to push that day as far as we can and promote healthier living without too much additional effort or big changes in our day-to-day lives. It’s always easier to prevent than to take corrective action. One can also feel even better when healthy so what is there to lose?
I’m excited to see that predictive healthcare is spreading with the work we do daily, and individuals are increasingly becoming aware of their health and that of their loved ones. We truly see individuals becoming empowered as they gain greater access to resources, education, and information.
What are some of the craziest risks you’ve taken in life?
Taking a flight from Kathmandu to Lukla must rank up there in my life. It’s a small 12-seater plane flying into the Himalayas that lands on a slanted, short runway, facing a wall and a café– very little room for error, and absolutely terrifying. That being said, I now know I prefer to see a wall rushing towards me during landing than a cliff during take-off.
What keeps you going? And what keeps you up at night?
New experiences, learning and making personal connections drive me forward day to day. I try to find something to enjoy and learn in each day.
Keep me up at night? Generally speaking and luckily enough, not much. I sleep well (though I am a bit nervous about that Spartan race in November)!
What was the proudest moment in your career and life?
Making it to Everest Base Camp was a personal achievement resulting from months of planning, great friends, and nine incredible days of pretty tough hiking up the valley. Hiking up before the sunrise in the freezing cold was instantly rewarded with watching the sun rise above the clouds and illuminate the entire valley and Himalayas.
From a professional standpoint, I am incredibly proud and motivated each time someone approaches me after using our app to see their diagnostic results and begin asking follow-up questions. I’ve seen a number of cases where people realize on the spot that they need to start taking better care of themselves and a change is necessary. To see that mental switch flip is incredibly rewarding.
What books do you have on your nightstand?
Currently making my way through “How We Learn”, a book which is aptly titled as it uses scientific studies to describe how we learn best; “Shoe Dog” on audiobook, the incredible story behind Nike; “The Untethered Soul” for the nth time for pre-sleep reading and reflecting; “1Q84”, a dystopian novel by Murakami; and “The Three Body Problem”, a Chinese sci-fi.
Favourite go-to health food?
Salad is my comfort go-to health food. A few lettuce leaves, tomatoes, avocado, and some nuts, makes for a happy me.
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you, and did you follow it?
A piece of advice I’ve always held very strongly onto is “The best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago, the second-best time is now”. This constantly encourages me to learn and undertake new adventures and not feel bad that I didn’t 10 years ago. Better now than in 10 years’ time, or even never. Practising those 10 minutes of the piano or reading those 5 pages is better than nothing at all and will add up over time, as consistency is key.