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Elizabeth Epp, Director of Health and Wellness

For thirty-three years we have been over-joyed as we watched our daughter Elizabeth grow into such a competent and caring woman. Despite a string of not so bright (or kind!) English teachers in her high school years, she still chose to get her degree in English and Communications, slogging long hours at Tim Horton’s to make ends meet. Her career path since then has been somewhat eclectic, from cleaning horse stalls to grooming dogs, from retail management to executive assistant in oil companies.

For the past three years we have been in awe of her strength, grace and compassion as she became a Mom to Russ, dealt with the unthinkable loss of their darling baby Raylan and their twins they never got to meet. We are so grateful for Greg, the young man that has been her supportive husband for the past six years. Their beautiful little Layla brought great joy and a measure of healing to their little family. Her first year of life was overshadowed by the illness and passing of Greg’s Dad, two days before her first birthday.

One of the most amazing things of it all was that all this time, behind the scenes, Liz was studying part-time to follow a dream to become a Recreational Therapist and work with Senior citizens. At one point, in the midst of loss, she was out of school too long and was forced to repeat a number of courses. She was able to use the last two months of her maternity leave to finish her final internship and before that internship was even finished she landed a dream job at a brand new luxury retirement community just a few minutes away from their home. Her new title is Director of Health and Wellness.

This is not a role that we saw in her future of our daughter when we were raising her, although we certainly saw her helping and compassionate spirit. We are both so delighted to see our darling daughter take this next step in her life, and of course we wish her all the best. But more than that. Our prayer is that she will grow to become the person in her career that she is in her dear heart.

 

We are very proud of our son Jonathan but readily admit that we can’t even begin to understand what it is he does. Best just to let him tell it.

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The last big company I worked for afforded me a number of different roles. At the start of my career, I worked for about 10 years as a software developer — a job I was passionate about and reasonably proficient at. After about a decade of that, though, I got a little tired of constantly learning how to solve the same problems again but with yet another new technology, but also afraid of turning into the guy in the cubicle next to me who was still doing the same job on 20 year old technology.

Fortunately, God moved my career toward more commercial roles, and I realized that my sweet spot would be somewhere between technology and business. It turns out there are a lot of different options for careers for people like me. I tried my hand at evangelism, business development, and finally product management. And that last stop, at Amazon, felt like home. As a product owner, you get to create the theories of market impact, define the vision, and once in execution mode, you can go as deep as you want with the engineering team on how to solve the problems that get you there. There aren’t many jobs where you can be in an executive board room one minute, and checking in code for the nightly build the next.

About 15 months ago, when I started my current job, our leadership had put out a dual challenge: do something in a space called “analytics”, and go fast. Analytics is just information software, which I wrote for years. And going fast is something we did really well at Amazon. It was a good fit. My new boss and I spent many hours reviewing analyst and market data, talking to customers and potential partners, and (for me) learning about what technology we had available to us in-house. Old friends and colleagues provided input and guidance, and a plan formed. We went back to the leadership and proposed assembling a small, cross-functional team with engineering, design, quality, business and product skills all reporting to the same leader (an “A-Team” if you like…) My boss would be that leader, and I would lead the product and technical effort. We set a goal of building a product in one calendar year, from sketch on a whiteboard to box on shelves — an unheard of target at this company, but one we thought we could pull off by combining new code with some existing bits pulled together to express something new.

In January of this year, after a few false starts and final approvals, we had the core of the team: 3 software developers, 1 part time designer, me as a product owner, and my boss as manager and business owner. Within a couple weeks we had added a test automation developer, a part time researcher and a front-end contract developer, and we were off to the races. Although we had those pre-existing bits, our computers, and a few cardboard boxes of tech that one of the developers brought with them, we were otherwise starting from scratch. The team built our test environment, simulating an industrial operation, our build system, pulling together and compiling the code from each participant, and our process, a combination of Scrum and Kanban with a lean Agile philosophy.

We work in 2 week sprints, automate our testing to ensure quality within a small team, and demo our work regularly to the leadership and potential customers. By August we had prepared a “preview release” that we invited 5 customers to run in their labs to validate our approach and ideas. And in less than 2 weeks, we’ll officially announce our product to the world at our annual conference. We lost a developer to retirement this summer, which impacted our velocity, but our contract developer moved to full time, as a great hire for the company, and we’ll soon have the empty seat filled for the final stretch of this race.

My job is a lot of things I love — and just a few I don’t. I do get into the code, a little more than I expected, but it helps take some of the pressure of the team’s deliverables. I present a lot, and throughout the year, as our product has evolved, those get more fun. Customers have never seen anything quite this cool coming from this space. We’re leveraging some consumer technology and ideas to make our product more approachable and interactive, with a focus on making sure customers can start using what we’re building within minutes (as opposed to weeks or months for most information software in industrial automation.) Because we’re in a big company, I also have to do a lot of paperwork — a necessary step for audit-ability and customer confidence — but thanks to some of the pre-work by other smart people in the company, we’re able to do a “light version” of the process, on the understanding that our product will be able to be updated and improved continuously after launch.

The codename for the product is Shelby — and as it started fetching information for us, Shelby took on a dog personality. Its software and hardware, married together as a single-purpose, near zero-configuration appliance. On start-up, it needs to know what language you speak, what time it is, and how it will get an IP address — and that’s about it. Shelby configures itself from there by exploring the operation its been connected to, identifying the parts, and building an information model about what it sees. Once that’s done, it starts analyzing the data and looking for problems in the operation, and producing information about what’s going wrong (or potentially, about to go wrong.) In the customer sites and labs we’ve been in, Shelby’s record so far is 121 devices and 23 problems — all discovered in less than 3 minutes. To be clear, this could be done before Shelby — but it would take weeks of custom system and tool configuration. Shelby makes turning data into information an instant and repeatable solution, that customers can buy as a (relatively) inexpensive product and service.

We’ve had highs and lows, support from outside has come and gone and come back again, but my little team has never failed to wow people with what we’ve accomplished in the short amount of time we’ve been working together. I couldn’t be more proud of my crew, and of our little product. Its industrial analytics for everyone; its a little bit of magic in a box, and its almost here.

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Coming to Cayman the first time was like entering a theme park. It is a jewel set in the glittering seas of the Caribbean, seemingly serenely unaware and unaffected by the tumultuous political and economic seas on which Pam and I had been sailing the previous eight years (that is the past perfect progressive, for those who believe that verb tense never gets used in ordinary conversation). Every once in a while I wake up in a nervous sweat thinking that we are still trapped in Malaysia, a fate that very well might have been ours, had the Lord not protected us. I want you to keep that fear in mind as I describe what it is like to come back here. Whatever my present lot – the work, the trial, the unremitting pressure of performance – there is no fear in it. Therefore it is a good that I am about to describe, whatever your impression of it may be.

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This morning we went to the beach for a swim. It is October 22, and I have been back ‘on island’ for ten weeks. This is my first swim at the beach. Ten weeks, seventy days, first swim. On the first day at school, which was the second day back, I was given a computer that would not keep a charge. It went downhill from there. Three weeks later I had a functioning computer. That put me three weeks down at the beginning of the year. I have just this week been healthy again after being the sickest I have been in a decade. I lost three weeks over that one. Although only two days out of class, I had zero voice for another three and two weeks around that sickness where I could barely function. That is six weeks out of the ten that I was damaged goods. The fact that I got to the break with most things done is testimony to the Lord’s good grace, not my competence.

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In Grade 11 I got the novel for the quarter and three weeks’ worth of background to dramatic form covered (Life of Pi, Poetics, Oedipus Rex). In Grade 12 I got the novel and the drama study done for the quarter (A Tale of Two Cities, Hamlet). In addition I got the Community Service elective launched, taught two workshops and retooled my class websites. Report cards were submitted yesterday. At home I wrote a ten page, a twenty page, and a thirty page essay for the two Master’s courses that will finish off this degree, and launched a cell group in our home on Thursday nights. We researched and bought a newer vehicle – a Hyundai Tucson – and I started the IB Examiner course that I hope will teach me how to better prepare my students for the IB essays that they have to write.

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I continue to get up at five every morning, and get an exercise routine finished before breakfast. Pam and I take the time to read a portion of the Bible and pray at the start of each day. In the evening we like to sit out on the porch for our supper and reflect on how God has been to us. It is a full and productive life, but there has been zero time for relaxation. I spend my weekends and evenings either marking student work or writing essays for my Masters. I haven’t been snorkeling, which I love, and aside from this morning, haven’t even swum.

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I know there will come a time when all this transitional stuff will be over. I will have mastered the IB English curriculum, my class websites will be built, the Master’s course will be done, and so will the IB Examiner’s course as well. I will be able to get to the beach and swim every evening, and read a book just for the joy of doing so. But frankly, that day is likely at least six months to a year away. In the meantime, I continue to work away at what the Lord has placed in front of me, knowing that He knows my frame, and my inmost need. He must know that right now I need to work. I hope that, for this week at least, He knows that I need to relax.

A rainbow baby is the understanding that the beauty of the rainbow does not negate the ravage of the storm. When a rainbow appears it doesn’t mean that the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with it’s aftermath.  What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds.

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Vern Epp, beloved husband, father, and papa, passed away on Wednesday, October 19, 2016 at the age of 60 years, surrounded by his family at home. He displayed incredible strength with his battle against cancer.

Vern was born in Swift Current, SK to Paul & Lillian Epp. He grew up in Saskatoon as the baby of the family with 3 older brothers; Larry, Gerald & Tim. He later moved to Calgary where he met Holly, his soul mate, best friend and business partner. They married in August of 1980 and later welcomed their two children, Stacey & Gregory to the family. Vern was devoted to his family, dedicating time, love and support to everything they did. He was a mentor, coach, and friend to everyone around him.

Vern was incredibly social and loved to be with people. He had many passions including traveling, cooking, wine, coffee, sports, driving, reading and time with his family – especially Sunday night dinners.

Besides his loving wife Holly, Vern is survived by his daughter Stacey (Michael) Reinhart; his son Gregory (Elizabeth) Epp; grandchildren, Russell, Gavin, Layla, and Georgia; his brothers, Larry (Denise), Gerald (Donna), and Tim (Linda) and their families.

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Really are these the same kids that finished the 2015-16 school year just two months ago?

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This has been a long summer of travel but it is always so good to be back in Ontario and have the chance to hang out with family and friends. Steve’s time was pretty limited as he needed to get back to school but I stayed on for an extra couple of weeks to look after business. We are so grateful for Randy and Sylvia  who always make us feel so welcome and at home in their granny suite; a place where family can always drop by for a visit. Time was tight but we did get in some nice meals and even a few games of Rook before Randy and Sylvia headed out west, leaving Max and I to house sit.

Not all of your “family” are necessarily blood relatives. Some are friends who we  are proud to know, people we admire, love and respect; people who make our lives better simply by being in it. Al and Shelley hosted a completely lovely BBQ Sunday afternoon and we thoroughly enjoyed catching up with them as well as Kevin and Colleen and Dave and Catherine and their families. It even morphed into a little bit of Canadiana because we were invited to join coach Dave and the entire Marchand family to watch Lana compete at the Rio Olympics.

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By heading out early in the morning, we managed to have a wonderful breakfast with other very special friends in “The Glen”.

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We got all the stuff done that needs to be looked at each year in terms of finances, back to school shopping and the condo and even applied for my OAS. I had a day to talk projects with the TWR team and some opportunities for good conversations with WLA friends and long time friends. Great summer all around but seven weeks is a long time to live out of suitcases and I was happy to be heading back to our little island.