Weekend Warrior: How John Smythe, Olympian and Trulioo leader, connects hockey and business

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John Smythe talks about penalties, Tokyo 2020 and his role as Business Development Manager

It was during a field hockey game of his older brothers that John Smythe remembers being really lucky. He watched with the kind of anticipation and wonder only a four-year-old could possess as someone, in a fit of rage, threw his stick in the trash.

“I went to my mom and dad and asked if I could have this stick,” Smythe laughs. “It was the very first thing I owned. I was attached to it from there.

This attachment is what led Smythe to his first playing action at the age of seven. He now follows a strict regimen that sees him train and play four to six times a week with the Canadian national team, but it’s quite a balancing act with his role as business development manager for a local regtech. Trulioo.

“Teamwork is an integral part of my life,” he says. “Being at a club for 11 years now, I have just learned about the different dynamics of working as a team. It taught me the importance of diversity, inclusion and effective communication, as well as when where to ask your peers for help.”

A few years after earning a degree in psychology from UBC, where he became captain of the school’s varsity field hockey team, Smythe joined the RBC Olympians Program in 2017. The program helps athletes gain career experience and learn business fundamentals while following a vigorous travel and training schedule. As an RBC Olympian in Branding and Communications, Smythe has facilitated partnerships and events like the GranFondo RBC and RBC CCG Sports Dinner.

“Each athlete has a really unique story to tell and it’s very inspiring,” notes Smythe. “I also did my fair share of events.”

However, it was his interest in all things tech that drew him to Trulioo last year. By partnering with data verification entities around the world, the company helps authenticate the identity of people who register online for businesses. As a business development manager, Smythe helps find, negotiate and contract those partners, but he’s more of a weekday warrior in that his work schedule is sidelined by his athletic pursuits: “Whenever I I have downtime, I do my work for Trulioo, usually late at night.

Smythe’s debut with the national team in 2014 was a particularly special moment for him. It was in Kuantan, Malaysia, and it was his first time representing his country alongside his older brother Iain: “We ended up finishing second and getting a silver medal,” he says about the Champions Challenge.

And yet, the road to becoming an Olympian was long and full of detours for the Vancouverite. From battling Crohn’s disease to making one of the final cuts for the Rio Olympics in 2016, Smythe was fighting to maintain her resolve.

Just three years later, in 2019, he found himself one phone call away from scoring his biggest dream.

“It was a beautiful Saturday in October,” recalls Smythe of his favorite game to date. By then, he had been playing in midfield and defense for the senior team for five years, and he was set to play a two-game series against Ireland in West Vancouver. It was the moment of truth: the Olympic qualification.

“On the first day we went out and ended up losing 5-3.”

The team that scored the most goals at the end of the two days got its ticket to Tokyo. Thanks to a Team Canada penalty shot in the final seconds, Day 2 ended in a fierce shootout.

“They took a 3-0 lead over us in the shootout,” Smythe said. “We ended up coming back 3-3. It was crazy. We went into sudden death shootouts.

In the end, Canada scored the last goal. The crowd went wild and Smythe was left speechless. “Just a rush of adrenaline, excitement, happiness…everyone I knew, watching at that time, in Vancouver, at home…it was a very exciting day.

“People always come up to me like, I’ve never seen a field hockey game in my life, but I watched this and it was the best sporting event I’ve ever been to.”

He remembers the feeling that followed him until the Tokyo Olympics in 2021: “The first anthem of the first game, there is a great photo of me smiling all the time, because I knew it was when I was going to be an Olympian.

Warrior Spotlight

Vancouver-based regulatory technology company Trulioo acts as a middleman for its clients to confirm whether people signing up for their digital services are legitimate. With partnerships around the world, Trulioo verifies the identities and addresses of people and businesses online. “The way we do it is through a [application programming interface]says John Smythe, Business Development Manager. “We’re sending a signal to our data partners, and they’ll tell us whether or not it matches their records.” With investors ranging from Goldman Sachs to American Express, the global verification team has grown from less than 10 people in 2011 to more than 400 employees today. It currently offers real-time verification of five billion consumers and 330 million businesses worldwide.

Naomi C. Amerson