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Faculty Rockstar: Orren Johnson

Written by Anju Kakkar

Orren Johnson
Professor | Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technology (FAST)

Humber has a strong commitment and strategic plan in equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in its practices, including research. The institution endorses the BlackNorth initiative, which was created by The Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism to combat anti-Black systemic racism in Corporate Canada, and the Dimensions: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Canadian Charter. In recognition of Black History Month, it gives us immense pride to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of Humber’s diverse faculty; we thank Orren Johnson, professor and mentor, for his tenacity, endurance and leadership. He has infused a love of learning by applying vast real-life experiences in technology, research and innovation.

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Orren Johnson began his journey with Humber in 2018 as a partial load professor at FAST, delivering courses on Big Data. Orren brings to the arena over three decades of industry engagement and experience. He completed a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Applied Economics from the University of East London, UK, in 1982. His induction to ‘Database Technology’ began in 1983 when Orren found himself diverted to the world of IT, a passion and career that paved the way to Canada in 1989. Transitioning as an independent consultant and later as an entrepreneur, Orren’s firm Hyper Technologies Inc. was awarded the Microsoft Partner of the Year in 2011; he was contributory in providing employment opportunity to as many as 15 Humber graduates, which is how he got entwined with Humber College. He was asked to join Humber as an Advisory Board Member to help set strategic educational goals. Orren is also a Certified Blockchain Expert as well as Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals.

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Orren has been instrumental in promoting equity and diversity in research, motivating students to get involved in an all-inclusive culture of teamwork and technical craftsmanship while coordinating and leading Capstone Projects at Humber. We asked Orren about his observations: “A project-based learning environment is crucial for students to develop real-life skills. My experiences stemming from industry and client interaction, understanding the customer’s psychology, and the market’s technological needs and demands greatly help guide students to get deeply engaged, which eventually results in developing a working prototype that benefits all parties involved. Capstone projects have the opportunity to transition to a larger research project creating a more fulfilling and expansive environment. From my vantage point, all students want to do is get involved, they realize the potentiality of gaining real experience, they can add it to their resume, stating they did more than just learn big data; they were involved in impacting real change.”

“All experience is good experience.” – Orren Johnson

Humber greatly encourages the benefits of embedding research-based learning into the curriculum, and the support and enthusiasm of researchers, like Orren, help us achieve that goal. Have a look at one of the NSERC research projects that Orren has led; and he is in the process of getting involved with another upcoming project, awaiting grant approval:

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The Occupancy Monitoring System: IoT Sensors and Gateways resulting in a Delivery Platform
Embedded Sense Inc. and Humber have created a more granular view of the sensor data being collected, with the ability to create a time-based random forest model for predictive capability on occupancy of areas. This solution will enable businesses and organizations to proactively plan and arrange occupancy consumption. The solution is a combination of IoT and Workspace Monitoring System (WMS). This cost-effective system consists of interrelated cycles between embedded sensors, communications and cloud-based IoT analysis dashboard.
The customer is very happy, to the extent that they hired a few Humber students. A great relationship with the industry partner was founded.

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This is what Orren had to say about his involvement with Humber’s research community:

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“Humber Research & Innovation were extremely helpful and instrumental in navigating the initial setup of the grant application process. They continued to support throughout the research project and were always ready to help. I had no idea what to do when it comes to NSERC and wouldn’t have been able to proceed without their assistance. It was an enjoyable experience all-in-all, and the industry partner was very satisfied with the outcome, thanks to the collaborative effort from Humber Research and Humber Faculty.”

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We thank Orren for his valuable contributions and look forward to collaborating on a future research project. Humber’s vision to reflect the diversity and intersectionality of the communities that the College serves is met through these collaborative efforts with our faculty members, like Orren, who further promote a culture of belongingness and inclusiveness.

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In the meantime, get to know Orren a little better; here are 4 things you didn’t know about him, in his words:

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1. When I’m not at work, I am at home.

2. A book that most influenced me is ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ by Walter Rodney. Recognizing I can develop myself once I understand what the real world is like. Breaking down the persona behind the wall we are so often confronted with: If you hit the wall, it exists; if you steer clear and miss the wall, it doesn’t exist!

3. A website I visit most often is LinkedIn and occasionally Twitter. I prefer to read newspapers.

4. Coffee or Tea: Neither. Water with Lemon.

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Read a short and profound excerpt from our in-depth conversation with Orren on the musings of lessons learnt from life and research; indeed, wise words from a Humber Researcher Rockstar:

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“Demystifying relationships between humans and understanding why those relationships exist, so one can navigate them to make ourselves comfortable as well as the people around us more comfortable. A hard lesson we learn is that life doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We have been taught to be an individual, everything that we think of or try to do is from an individual need and want. Suppose we recognize that in pursuit of our individual needs, which can only be established through engagement with a wider audience, we are helping each other out simultaneously.
In that case, that very pursuit becomes even more meaningful.”

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