Ashlyn Bernier

Top 40 Under 40 2014

Photography Curtis Comeau

Age: 30

Job Title: Manager, Venture Mentoring Service, University of Alberta

Why She’s Top 40: Her work with VMS is helping Edmonton entrepreneurs to launch into the global market. She’s also helping to raise the city’s profile by creating  a community of innovators.

How I  Relax: “I spend my time with my family. My parents live on a very quiet piece of land a few hours away. There’s not a whole lot going on, so I like to get out there on a weekend.”

If Ashlyn Bernier hadn’t switched academic gears three years ago, she would likely be examining tissue samples through a microscope and documenting the effects of a particular protein on breast cancer. Groundbreaking? Perhaps. Exciting? Not according to Bernier.

“I would have been working alone, locked up in a lab on miniscule tasks and focused on one small part of the world,” says Bernier who, after finishing her PhD in Medical Science, decided to enter the Master of Business Administration program at the University of Alberta. “I thank my lucky stars I decided to get an MBA, or I wouldn’t have been very happy otherwise.”

Today, she’s living a more dynamic life as manager of the Venture Mentoring Service at the U of A, an initiative modeled after a similar program developed by MIT in Boston. Unlike other entrepreneurial services that tend to focus strictly on ventures, Bernier’s program relies on local mentors to develop young individuals to think and behave like entrepreneurs. With help from colleagues, Bernier has so far managed to round up 29 mentors to offer advice.

“Entrepreneurship has all of a sudden become a very sexy thing that people are interested in,” she says. “That was part of the reason for this program and other programs on campus. We saw that students were interested in entrepreneurship as a viable career option.”

Although Bernier isn’t an entrepreneur herself, she’s certainly familiar with the community in town. This past year, she sat on the executive board for TEDxEdmonton as a project manager and she volunteers with the U of A’s Start Up U Week.

Bernier’s recent experience has changed her perspective. “Before I became exposed to all this, I always thought ‘entrepreneur’ was a job title people gave themselves when they were unemployed. But now I’m inspired everyday by the amazing things students and alumni are building in the community.”

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