When I first met Janice de Jong, she was opening the cage at the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society to show me a tiny tabby cat.

As the cat, now called Eloise, crawled into my arms and started purring, we grinned at each other. We both may have teared up as the stray kitty declared me her new owner by curling up and falling asleep on my lap.

Two days later at Communitech’s Rev accelerator launch, I was trying to leave the event early to go home and feed Eloise. I ran into de Jong on the way out.

Eloise has settled into her new environment.

Eloise has settled into her new environment.

She recognized me as the woman who had taken home a timid cat. She asked how Eloise was doing, and I asked her why she was at the Rev launch.

Turns out de Jong is a trend analyst at BlackBerry. I wasn’t quite sure what that was. I decided I needed to learn more about the woman who spends her days at BlackBerry, and her free time helping find new homes for abandoned cats.

De Jong grew up in Ottawa, and studied industrial design and psychology at Carleton University. From a young age, she was passionate about colour and design.

She wanted to learn why people gravitated towards certain colours, and how colours are used to sell specific products. In other words, how does design change an object’s use?

She also wondered if she could turn her passion into a job.

“I wanted to understand how to make something better that people use everyday,” she said.

After finishing her degree in 2007, she stumbled a bit in her search for the right job. It was through a friend that she discovered a trend-forecasting role at BlackBerry.

In 2008, the heyday of coloured phones, de Jong started at the smartphone company, helping BlackBerry understand how people will want their phones to look in the future. (Side note: I rocked a pastel pink Motorola Razr in 2008. People were jealous.)

Since then, her job has evolved. Today, de Jong is a trend analyst who helps designers and engineers anticipate how the future will change and how a product can be designed to keep up.

“Trends are more than colour,” de Jong said. “You are responding to how people are changing, and their motivation.”

De Jong spends most of her days thinking about the strategic plan behind BlackBerry designs.

“What is the experience of our products in the future? It’s really exciting.”

De Jong has settled in Waterloo Region. She moved here seven years ago and she is slowly restoring an old house in downtown Kitchener. She loves the proximity to both Toronto and Lake Huron.

She was looking for a way to get involved in the community, when a mother cat and four young kittens showed up at her front door.  Since she already had an older and slightly grumpy male cat, de Jong took the family of cats to the humane society. A staff member there convinced de Jong to take the cats back home and foster them until they were ready to be adopted.

By the time the cats were ready to go back to the humane society, de Jong had already decided to keep the mother cat and one of the kittens.

“I knew I couldn’t foster any more cats in my house, though,” she said.

So in January 2014, she became a cat-adoption co-ordinator. She now volunteers about two hours a week at the humane society, matching cats with families for a forever home.

What surprised de Jong was how her day job and volunteer job impact each other.

“You need to assess what a person wanted when they come in for a cat,” she said. “What’s their lifestyle like? What’s their house like? And then you need to find a cat that will fit. It’s a design process.”

It’s rewarding for de Jong when a match is successful and a cat has chosen its new owner. She has also learned a lot from the humane society that she now uses at BlackBerry.

“Volunteering helps me be more empathetic and aware of the different type of people in the world,” de Jong said. “Being a designer is all about understanding people . . . You talk to a lot of people in the humane society and you see the differences, and also what makes us the same.”


If you now feel like wandering down to the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society at 250 Riverbend Dr. in Kitchener to visit the cats and dogs available for adoption, be warned — I popped in for a visit and ended up with a cat that has taken over my house and my heart. I see and hear that… This Saturday, May 2 is a Kitten Shower at the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society. Stop by between noon and 2 p.m. to meet some of the adoptable kittens, and enjoy snacks and beverages… Thursday, April 30, is the first Ember.js meetup. Join the group at Bidvine Inc. at 188 Joseph St., Kitchener, if you want to learn more about the open-source JavaScript web application framework. The evening starts at 7 p.m… There are a variety of Jane’s Walk events happening this weekend. Jane’s Walk is a group of walks that get people out and about in their community to encourage conversations and share an experience in a local neighbourhood. Nine different walks occur over the weekend, beginning at 5 p.m., Friday, May 1. The walks are all free to join, and the weather looks terrific to spend some time outside.