Meet our COO - Jacob Waddell
Hello…I guess that is how you start one of these things. This is my first blog. Yes, I know what year it is and I know I’m late to the game, but every journey begins with a single step and all that. So I thought I would do a little introduction, go over my credentials and try to somehow explain how my mind works. Hopefully this will shed some light on who or what I am and give some background to my future blogs.
First thing, I was born. Very important step on the journey really. Then, like most animals, I tried to learn and understand the world around me. My parents were in the military, but not because they wanted to fight in wars, because they wanted a better life and it was the best option for them. Due to this, a sense of order and discipline was part of my upbringing and this sticks with me to this day. So I tried to find order in the world because it had to be there…right? I grew to question everything and to see both sides of most arguments. I came to the conclusion that nothing makes sense but science. So I decided I would do science.
I studied the basics, as you do in your first years of college, and decided to pursue Materials Science and Engineering. Materials Science looks at how materials behave at a molecular level and how this affects their macro level properties. This can allow you to engineer materials for specific properties and purposes. In my mind, this had to be the most base level of matter and would have clear answers. I specialized in polymers because this was the new dynamic material and they seemed to be the future. I discovered this incredible family of materials and how it could be dynamically changed. A key characteristic of most polymers, or plastics, is that they are supposed to be durable and can last for hundreds, even thousands, of years without breaking down. Then I realized we have been making millions of tons of plastic a year, for decades, and each year we continue to make more. We’ve been using it to replace everything because it is light and more importantly… cheap. The economy developed for single use items using plastic because consumers would spend more money and thus, companies would make more money. Plastics can be recycled, but we don’t because it is cheaper and easier to just make more. So, literally and figuratively, it is just building up. Don’t get me wrong, plastics have been instrumental in advancements in critical areas like the medical industry and they have their place, but not in the way we use them on a daily basis.
I went on to grad school at Georgia Tech, in hopes of continuing in research and to further my pursuit of sense and order. Here is what I found: in most cases research takes forever to turn into real applications, academia can be a frustrating pursuit where status can seem more important than science, and as much as we think we know, it could all be skewed data.
I left grad school with a masters and went into a testing lab to get work experience, a little jaded but still pursuing some sense of it all. It was fun, I broke a bunch of stuff (for scientific purposes) and worked with some good people. I performed dozens of different tests with very expensive equipment and even built some testing equipment, per ASTM standards of course. But work wasn’t answering that question that nagged me – why are things the way they are? The thing that really stuck with me from this time were the people – they were different from me. I loved the conversations and it occured to me that maybe by understanding people I could get closer to some reason. This led to me dropping everything, buying a one way ticket to Ireland and wandering through Europe for six months.
That trip changed me. Well I guess everything I had gone through before and after it changed me, but this seemed like a significant change. I went alone, I found people, I returned alone. I learned both to trust my ability to persevere on my own and how incredible strangers could be. I felt such incredible love, affection and understanding from people I knew would be in my life for such a brief time. I spoke with people from different worlds and different lives. I learned how much I took for granted, wasn’t actually granted but more a cultural norm. One of my favorite people from this time was a woman I worked with in Belgium. She was from Iran and we would spend hours talking about the differences between our cultures and the conceptions of each others society. This didn’t get me closer to an answer of how the world makes sense, but to the understanding that most of it doesn’t. We build worlds with rules so we can feel comfortable, not because the rules are based on reason. The majority of people are trying to survive and overcome whatever their circumstances are. If they are lucky, they are pursuing happiness, but most are pursuing things that they are told to pursue that do not lead to happiness.
I came back and tried to focus on happiness and furthering my understanding of the world. I pursued art in the form of music. It touched my soul and allowed me to express the ideas flowing through my head. But pursuing music as a career, though it was fun, killed my passion for the art. So, I went back to engineering. I started working at a plant, making fuel tanks for boats. It was fun problem solving work, the kind that always made engineering a passion of mine. Again, my favorite part of it were the people I worked with. From there, I moved to a bigger company in the automotive industry. This is where I got my greatest understanding of “corporate life”. I was good at my job, so I got more responsibility and a promotion. I interacted regularly with people from Japan and loved getting to understand the culture. I started working 50-60 hours a week, dealing with stifling bureaucracy and living in a constant state of stress and panic. I looked around me at my co-workers and superiors, and unfortunately saw that this was pretty standard. On top of that, I was in the automotive industry. My feelings with the industry were mixed at best, because of the effect of automobiles on the environment and that most of my work only helped to further the finances and careers of some far off corporate overlords. I learned a great deal from this time, but also learned it was not leading me to happiness.
I began searching for a way to use my skills and abilities to do something positive in the world, that I could be proud of. Hoping that this could lead me to a happier place. I researched environmental work on mitigating the impact of plastics and finally came upon a forgotten about plant that had material properties that was utilized for hundreds of years, but had been neglected for the last 80 – hemp. This plant had a wide range of applications including paper, textiles and building material. Its material properties were greater than, or equal to, competitive alternatives that had the advantage of being studied through the great scientific developments of the last half century, while hemp was illegal. As a Material Scientist, I was overwhelmed with the possibilities for applications and as an environmentalist, excited about the possible environmental impact of this reintroduced legalized plant.
So I quit my job in the automotive industry and tried to make my way into the hemp industry. I started working on hemp based building materials, and through a few connections, ended up coming in contact with Keegan Fioravanti. One August afternoon in East Nashville, we discussed hemp, life and business. At the end of it all, we discussed working together. From there, I was introduced to Kayla and Haleigh Fioravanti. We all discussed the future of Ology Essentials. My impression was of a team that had very unique abilities and the same passion for hemp, but focused on CBD. This was really my first introduction to CBD, other than some basic research and general knowledge of the growing industry. Through our discussions, I saw how I could use my abilities to complement theirs and how we could build a well-balanced company with the right goals for the future. Before long, I became the Chief Operations Officer of Ology Essentials.
This is a brief summary of how I ended up where I am, and a glimpse of who I am. I work hard here at Ology to try to facilitate creating great products, in a happy environment and to promote the growth of our company and the industry as a whole. All while working on myself to become happier and to make as much sense of life as is possible. I could go into how I believe hemp could help the world, but there will be other blog posts for that. Thank you for reading.
I guess for the record: MS in Material Science and Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, MBA from Tennessee Technological University, BS in Material Science and Engineering from the University of Florida. I’ve been to 27 countries and met hundreds of amazing people along the way.