Bringing the World Home

Following the path Colin Savage has taken in life can be a little dizzying. After graduating from Campion College in 1995, his career traversed many areas: teaching English as a Second Language, international relations, political and social risk analysis, management consulting, marketing and analytics.

His studies are equally diverse. After Campion, he attended universities in six countries, earning graduate degrees in journalism, social anthropology and a global Masters of Business Adminstration (MBA).

Now, after 20 years abroad building a global perspective, the Regina native has returned home.

“My wife Chiaki and I were living and raising our children in London,” he said. “All of our holidays meant trips to Japan and Regina, but we decided we didn’t want third culture kids—born in the UK but with an okaasan (Japanese mom) and a Canadian dad. We wanted them to have a place to call home.”

This decision also allowed him more time with his family and less time in airports. After considering their options, the family returned to Canada in 2015 to let nine-year-old Alexi and five-year-old Tomi settle in Regina.

For Savage, finding a job that capitalized on his skills, experiences and interests was difficult at first. Eventually, he became Vice-President of Marketing for DirectWest, a subsidiary of SaskTel and the provider of Mysask411. Here, Savage spied a great chance to share his penchant for looking at things from a new perspective.

“I’m here to be a little provocative, “ he claimed. “When people ask me why they should use Mysask411 when there is Google, I reply that Google looks at the earth from space, which makes Saskatchewan seem small. But it’s not small for the people here. It’s important. It’s their world. And then I ask them, ‘What does life after Google look like?’”

His ability to inject new perspectives into common problems is a thread that weaves his life experiences together. “Sharing ideas and solutions was always something I wanted to do,” he explained. “I’ve led very diverse groups of people in over 60 countries. And I’m a failed management consultant by choice. I like investigating, pitching ideas, and telling colourful, data-rich stories, but I revel in the results – what works, doesn’t work, and what’s next.”

Savage credits former Campion College professor Dr. George Marshall with helping him realize his global potential. “We always had colourful debates,” recalled Savage. “Like many students, I had no clue what I wanted. Dr. Marshall understood and encouraged me to get my BA and to only return to school when I knew what I wanted.”

Savage obviously took that advice seriously. His education includes: a Master’s in social anthropology from SOAS University of London (UK), a postgraduate diploma from the London School of Journalism (UK), and an MBA from Durham University (UK) and Sun Yat Sen University (China) alongside professional qualifications. He also attended Kanazawa University (Japan) to study modern Japanese literature and started a PhD in identity studies at Goldsmiths, University of London (UK) that was shelved to focus on his career. And his studies continue. He is now completing a microinsurance program at the Frankfurt School of Management (Germany) and a diploma at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (USA).

He completed most of this education while working a variety of jobs as he built his own unique career expertise, partly by planning and partly by capitalizing on chance when it arose.

 “My degree was an amazing ticket to seeing the world,” he said. “Back then, a liberal arts degree didn’t see traditional companies banging on your door to give you a job.”

In time, Savage became fluent in Japanese and, after teaching English and French, he took the Japanese civil service exam and worked as a public servant—leading international relations and market research, interpreting and translating, editing a magazine (English, French and Japanese) and helping found the Kanazawa Film Commission to promote the city, known as Little Kyoto, as a new hub for filmmaking in East Asia.

But further studies beckoned him away from Japan. Savage then moved to London (UK) to study before spending several years conducting research and strategy for global companies, travelling and working across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In 2007, he became corporate anthropologist for Meiji Yasuda Life, one of Japan’s largest insurance companies, advising decision-makers on global trends and proposing opportunities in Europe, South America and Asia.

Before returning to Canada in 2015, Savage was head of research for The Asian Banker, based in Singapore, and led teams across Asia while speaking at events and consulting for clients as far afield as Australia, China, Egypt, India, Kenya, Nigeria and the Middle East. However, the role and its commitments meant he was away from family more often than not.

“If I was lucky, I’d leave home at 6 a.m., fly to Malaysia, work all day and be back to Singapore by 11 p.m. But it usually meant three or four days away each week. So I never saw my family, outside Skype, and that’s awful. My life was travel,” he admits.  It was then that his family chose to return to Regina.

Despite his vast international experiences, Savage sees Regina as no different than other places around the world. “It’s not slower. It’s not about size. People have the same concerns everywhere,” he explained. “They care about family, they complain about taxes, they worry about standards of living.” In fact, he finds that his boys’ classrooms in Regina are more culturally diverse than many other places he has seen. “I know this, and other things, mean our kids will get a great education, a great upbringing.”

As he settles into life in Regina, his verve for new ventures continues. Whether acting as “chief narrator” and mentor for local boutique marketing company Ayden Creative or founding and leading, with partner Dr. Paul Sinclair, a business intelligence network called Tsubasa linking Japanese and Saskatchewan businesses, Savage thinks non-stop. “Tsubasa means wings in Japanese,” he explained, “because I believe that information gives you wings.”

According to his long-time friend George Marshall, Savage will be a great addition to Regina. “Colin is a fascinating guy and he always has been,” said Marshall, a son of Savage’s Campion College professor. “He was also so great with language. He is one of those guys who can immerse himself in a culture and learn the language so quickly.”
Marshall added that, even when Savage was working in the Rockies during university, he spent time with the tourists instead of Canadians. So, it was no surprise when Savage sought opportunities overseas.

According to Marshall, Savage will find success in Canada because of his willingness and determination to try new things. “When he decides he’s going to do something, he goes and does it,” said Marshall. “He’s overcome adversity, but always had the ability to shake it off and move forward. I’ve always admired that about him.”

For now, Savage is thrilled about learning to become a leader in Saskatchewan business and culture. “I have a fantastic opportunity,” he said. “I love working with businesses eager for new opportunities because I know my fresh perspective and broad experience can support them to be better than they have imagined.”

Article by Lori Weins

Photo: Trevor Hopkin, University of Regina Photography Department