Alumni Spotlight is a series of interviews conducted with members of the Dalhousie Alumni Association.
Nickname: My rugby buddies called me “the Robe.”
Class of ‘98
BA and MBA (Saint Mary’s University, 2003)
Current role: Owner/operator, PODS Halifax, a moving and storage business
Dalhousie Gazette: You have both worked for a large company and been an entrepreneur. What do you find different about the two experiences and what do you like about being an entrepreneur?
Rob O’Brien: When you are an entrepreneur, you have control over your own destiny and there is a rewarding feeling that goes with that. Opening PODS has been an amazing experience. It’s a product that people love and thankfully they love to talk about it and tell their friends. I can’t believe how quickly it has taken off. And, I get to do everything from drive a forklift to work out financial models, from buying ads for radio or television to replacing a hydraulic hose. It keeps me learning and keeps me interested.
You don’t get that at a large company where your duties are pretty narrow and you do the same types of tasks everyday. While large corporations provide a good income, security and a pension, you rarely get freedom to do what you want and you don’t necessarily see the rewards for your hard work. Its low-risk/low-reward while being an entrepreneur is high-risk/high-reward.
DG: Why did you decide to attend Dalhousie?
RB: When I was a kid I played summer hockey at the Dal arena. I loved going to campus and seeing the buildings with ivy on then. It seemed like such an important place and I wanted to go there. I felt very privileged to get in (and with my marks in high school I was lucky to get in).
DG: Where did you live while you were at Dal?
RO:I lived in many places but the most memorable was a house with some friends at 1683 Edward Street.
DG: Where could you be found most often on campus while you were at Dal?
RO: In the first few years the Green Room, and the political science lounge in the A&A building in later years.
DG: Favourite place to study while at Dal?
RO: Was deep in the library, away from the distractions.
DG: What was your biggest distraction while you were at Dal?
RO: Girls and beer.
DG: What were your favourite cafeteria foods?
RO: I didn’t do much cafeteria dining, but I loved the samosas from a corner store on Coburg Road.
DG: What is your favourite Dal memory?
RO: My actual favourite memories may get me in trouble, so I will say another great memory is seeing all the great bands that came to campus like Great Big Sea, Our Lady Peace, I Mother Earth, Sloan, Blue Rodeo and Spirit of the West.
DG: How did your Dal experience prepare you for your current role?
RO: My Dal experience helped me learn how to think analytically and write clearly. It’s a really important skill for business, especially in large organizations.
DG: What do you see as the best thing about being a Dal alum?
RO: I definitely get a lot of mail from Dal…
DG: Do you have any words of wisdom for current Dal students—something you wish you had known when you were a student?
RO: Don’t worry, it all works out in the end.