Church at Work interview with Greg Batenburg

The office of Frozen Mountain software is located in a large complex close to 152 St. and Highway 10. They occupy one of the wings on the third floor, and as I walked into their office the relaxed yet focussed atmosphere of the place immediately made me comfortable.

In the corner was a Christmas tree and down one of the hallways a stack of presents taller than me was waiting. The office was preparing for the upcoming Christmas party, where the employees and their families come together for some fun, presents, and games. This sense of community is something Greg Batenburg is quite proud of.

“There are regular family events, and plenty of team building events throughout the year, so we try to invest in our employees happiness. A good way to put it is we work to create a sense of community within our business; our company.”

Greg currently works as the VP Business Development & Marketing at Frozen Mountain, but he didn’t start out in the IT industry. He actually started out as a mechanical engineer working for Westport Innovations, and spent 13 years with that company. Westport develops alternative fuel, low-emissions technologies to allow engines to operate on clean-burning fuels such as compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), hydrogen and biofuels such as landfill gas. Initially he worked on engine performance calibration and testing, but rather quickly began to work on the control systems for those engines. This was a big switch from his training and not one he made easily.

“I remember my manager at that time said to me, ‘This is a big decision because it will affect your career path, and controls engineering is not mechanical engineering.’ I naively said, ‘Yes.’ But, I think God was involved in that decision, because that changed my whole career direction.”

This required a shift toward software development and writing the control algorithms

“When I went into control system engineering, that suddenly required writing software. It involved a whole different discipline of engineering, and that’s where I started to develop skills in designing algorithms by using my mechanical engineering skills to understand how an engine works and how I would want to control it.”

This was something he really enjoyed doing, and provided a very real sense of accomplishment as things he designed were put into production, and used by companies.

“That’s the neatest part about engineering, I think. When you see something you designed in use, in practice out there.”

This job also provided him with plenty of opportunities travel, which really helped shape how he sees the world, and other cultures.

“I got to see how other cultures live, and not judge them. There is a lot of negative rhetoric that goes on, that you hear in the media, about how certain ethnic groups and different cultures behave in their traditions and sometimes they are portrayed negatively. But, when you live within them you see that they’re not that much different really. They still have their sense of community, it’s just different than what we are used to in North America.”

After working at Westport for 13 years it felt like it was time for a change. The project he was working on was paused, which provided a great opportunity to evaluate other opportunities. At about this time, Jerod and Anton Venema were building Frozen Mountain and recognised a skill set in Greg that was missing in their organisation.

He started as senior project manager and then moved into business development and marketing. This put Greg in more of a people oriented role than he had previously.

“The business development part of it is all about relationships. Trying to build relationships with potential customers, potential partners more than anything else. I focus more on the partnership side of things. By getting a lay of the land of how the industry is operating, I am able to identify potential partners that we can work with that we have synergy with. I seek opportunities in which  we can work together and mutually benefit.”

The work Greg does now is quite a bit different from the career he had chosen and it requires a very different set of gifts than he thought he had. Looking back however, he can see how God has been working in his life to shape him into a person who is gifted for this work.

“These are skills I’ve been given through my upbringing, that probably God was involved in too. It’s remnant of my parents and their personalities, but these things all happen for a reason.”

His upbringing encouraged him to pay attention to others, and to work hard to understand what they are thinking and experiencing; to really listen and pay attention to the other person he is with. This has led him to work toward building partnerships that help benefit each other, but it is also something that exists in the product Frozen Mountain creates.

“The product we create here is video conferencing software, or software that allows you to add video conferencing to your application. … What video conferencing enables, is bringing people together.”

When we start to talk about how this happens, Greg begins to get excited. He begins to give a number of interesting examples of applications using their software. How a physician is better able to connect remotely in real-time with a patient, or how a counsellor can create virtual support groups for those with mental illness in poorly served areas of the country, or how a non-profit can create virtual space for dialogue between university students from different cultures. Speaking about this last project, Greg noted how this desire to bring people together raises some very interesting questions.

“We spend a lot of time thinking about, ‘How do you build the best user experience for a group of people to learn about each other’s culture, and have the maximum opportunities to interact with the other?’ and ‘How do you create a sense of equality between the groups of people that are in these video conferences?’”

Asking these kinds of questions, and thinking about the best ways to provide a tool to bring people together, reflects the providential work of God. It shows us how God creates and shapes the space for us to work, grow, and develop as human beings.

“The development of our video conferencing software is an enabler; it is an enabler to bring people together to solve some of the world’s problems that exist. Without companies like ours providing solutions like this, we would have fewer opportunities for people to come together in ways that could possibly heal some of the brokenness in the world.”

While this may sound a bit like a marketing line, this was not something Greg had recognised before the interview.

“I never thought about that so much, but I guess we’re creating a product that provides a solution for some of the world’s problems. I just thought we were making software that helps people do cool stuff, but the things they can do with that cool stuff helps solve some real problems.”

Leaving the office I was struck once again by the way God is at work in our world. He is doing amazing things in, around, and through us in ways that few of us can understand. Sometimes it simply takes a moment of reflection, and maybe someone asking us some questions, for us to be able to see it.

Next time you use some kind of video conferencing software, think of Greg and the team at Frozen Mountain and how God is working through them to bring people together to help solve the world’s problems.

Categories: Church At Work