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Student Spotlight: Nolan Nordwall A Hundred Tiny Attempts

There is often awkward silence when we meet someone new, but that didn’t happen when I met Nolan Nordwall.

Perhaps it’s his unique character, his friendliness, or his sense of humour that makes him easy to approach and talk to. 

I can still remember the day I received an email from Shaleeta, Publications Manager at Link, asking me to take on, in her words, “fun photo-journalism” to feature a student executive. Every time I get asked to do photoshoots of someone, it’s always of a talented individual, and Nolan was no exception. During the photoshoot with Nolan, I discovered how intriguing he is. So, when Link magazine asked me if I would like to interview him, I jumped at the chance. It paid off: Nolan’s story assured my thought that he has much more to offer than just his handsome photos. 

Nolan has always loved technology, from exploring his dad’s electronics to using computers at numerous jobs. With advice from his brother-in-law (who had completed and recommended to him the Computer Systems Technology (CST) program at BCIT) and the passion for learning about the limitless possibilities available in the software world, Nolan is currently a student in the CST program and plans to pursue software development as a career. “With enough time and a little grit,” he reflects, “you can create anything you can think of on a computer. It’s really special.” 

Beyond academics, Nolan is the Chair of the School of Computing and Academic Studies. He represents the school in council and board meetings, and his portfolio involves managing a $10-million annual budget to best benefit students. Aside from those responsibilities, he helps organize events like this year’s Hackathon and conducts regular Set Rep meetings among CST students, listening and helping them overcome challenges they face at BCIT. 

Outside of school life and all his responsibilities, Nolan makes time for his hobbies. He has played Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) for 11 years. He even got inspired by his character class from D&D, adding “Software Sorcerer” as a job title to his resume. He also has a dream to one day create music, video games, and fantasy books of his own, as he’s a huge fan of those, too. Along with those interests, he enjoys listening to audiobooks and podcasts and watching anime. 

As someone still struggling to get enough sleep after becoming a BCIT student, I needed Nolan’s secret sauce for handling all those overwhelming workloads and challenging, stressful deadlines. Nolan revealed that time management, perseverance, and positive self-belief are essential keys to success, not only at BCIT but anywhere. 

For those who know little about him, it’s easy to assume that he has no struggles. He has a sunshine smile and positive vibes. Even so, his life isn’t the bed of roses we imagine it is. Just like anyone else, he has encountered ups and downs. What he learned from them is how much power he has in shaping his life. For him personally, that can mean making, as he recounts, “a hundred tiny attempts” to become the person he wants to be. 

“I understand myself better than anybody,” he says, remembering what he had gone through and overcome. “I knew that things were bleak. I did and fought in whatever way I could to keep growing. I would also say that I’m proud of who I am today, as a result of all the years of work I did before.” 

This outlook has helped him overcome challenges and reminded him that he is and will always be strong, and it even shows how perfectly he embodies a motto I cherish: “Live life to the fullest.” He motivates himself to improve little by little every day while enjoying the journey. 

Through this conversation with Nolan, I realized that no one becomes excellent without having gone through difficulties. While it might seem like an endless journey, we will only realize the sweetness of rewards after going through all the different tastes, especially bitterness. I learned from Nolan the importance of viewing setbacks as a part of life, accepting and learning from any failure with an open mind, admitting we need help when we do and reaching out for it, staying empathetic and humble, and learning from others. As a result, we can grow and get through any difficulties we encounter. 

Today, Nolan continues to pursue his long-term goals, such as founding a software consulting startup. He is currently working on a business plan with Entrepreneurship to achieve that. In addition, he works hard to solidify his place in the industry, a challenge many CST students face. “Tech is in high demand,” he shares, “but entry-level positions and internships are super competitive.” 

Now, as I write this, days after our conversation, I realize there’s still an unresolved mystery: It is unbelievable that Nolan, even with his awesome traits, hasn’t been mentioned (yet) on BCIT Crushes, the Facebook group where BCIT students anonymously declare their secret love. If I could give Nolan any advice, it might be to take more breaks from his BCITSA duties and present his handsome face to people around campus.