Hearing his coworkers gush about him, you would think ClearEstate’s Chief Technology Officer was born for the role.
Pascal Brisset, a Silicon Valley veteran and former Senior Vice-President with the San José-based TapClicks, says vanity is not his strong suit. Digital experiences and learning how to create more empathetic fintech, however, are very much his wheelhouse.
Pascal’s journey began in Montreal where he earned his BA in software engineering from McGill University (2008) before moving on to his first serious gig with Ayuda Media Systems, a Microsoft shop where theory finally became practice.
“As soon as I had the opportunity to dive in,” he recalled, “I totally fell in love with code and the whole software engineering process.”
At Ayuda, Pascal described being surrounded by some of the best and brightest, learning on the job and absorbing all he could. It also marks a pivotal moment in the arc of his career as it was when he discovered his passion for user interface (UI) and user experience (UX), both omnipresent considerations as the ClearEstate takes shape.
The importance of timing is the thread that binds the many moments that led Brisset to ClearEstate. For starters, while still at Ayuda, he recalled how the web era was just starting to come into its own with everything moving from locally-installed CD software to online downloads.
“I saw how, as functionality was becoming commoditized, that what mattered was the experience you gave to users and the psychology behind it — why you're building things, why you position certain things in a page; there's a lot of psychology behind it. And I realized that we can have machines running our machines, but at the end of the day, the end user is a person.”
Fast forward five years and Pascal is in California, where he joined TapClicks as a senior software engineer.
“If you’re an actor and you want to make it big, you go to LA. For tech, it’s Silicon Valley. This is the Hollywood equivalent for a software engineer,” he joked.
He attributes much of his professional growth to his time with TapClicks. Before long, he was managing engineers and ultimately rose to VP of Engineering. Even in his downtime, Brisset was making the most of his time in California, organizing hackathons, networking, and soaking in the innovative energy that surrounded him.
As TapClicks grew, there came the need to outsource for talent. And as coincidence would have it, Montreal is a great place for finding diverse, multilingual talent. Working back home during the pandemic, Brisset took stock of the moment and considered his next move.
“It came to a point where I had to either build something of my own or join something very promising. I’m always on the lookout for new opportunities, but ClearEstate stood out.”
Once again, it came down to timing.
“The most important thing I learned in Silicon Valley is that even with the best product, if you don't have the right connections, if you don't know the right people, then it's a lottery. So many amazing products go unseen and unknown, just because the timing is wrong.”
With ClearEstate, Pascal knew the timing was right: a generational wealth transfer held up by obsolete tech, while a pandemic has created the need for personalized online alternatives to in-person experiences. Then of course there were the votes of confidence from major Canadian institutional investors.
“All the pieces came together. At the time, I was looking for more a more fulfilling challenge and I asked myself, ‘Am I really doing all I can to help the world?’”
Driven by a desire to make a difference — and at the behest of his friend and one-time neighbour, ClearEstate CPO Alexandre Gauthier — the choice was clear.
“In the estate settlement business, you're helping people experiencing grief,” Pascal added. “They feel lost, have no idea what to do, and are being made to pay exorbitant fees for services that should be automated. This presents a uniquely complicated challenge; simply put, it’s never been done before.”
And while his days in Silicon Valley are well behind him, the lessons he learned along the way continue to inform his perspective. It’s all in the timing, and the tasteful execution of great ideas.
“It's important to understand that many different types of people will be experiencing an important hardship, supported by this platform. In building empathetic software, and perhaps in navigating life in general, it helps to know your variables, and to optimize for them. It is an exercise in humility.”
You can reach Pascal Brisset at firstname.lastname@example.org