Starting a new career path in any industry can be a daunting task, but the cannabis space is especially unique. Fortunately, the job market within cannabis is booming, with over 428,000 full-time equivalent jobs created already—and that number is only expected to climb.
Bryan Olson knows a thing or two about what it takes to succeed in the nascent cannabis industry. As the Chief People & Administrative Officer at Columbia Care, one of the nation’s biggest multi-state operators, he is in charge of a vast team spanning the country. With such an impressive knowledge base, Olson was appointed Professor of Professional Development at Cannabis Community College, leading the “Cultivating Your Career” course.
Discover what a day in the life of a cannabis C-suite executive looks like, what advice he has for people joining the space, and how his career came to be in this Q&A interview.
How did you get into the cannabis space?
I had been interested in the industry for years before joining it, so I was intrigued when a former colleague recommended me for the position of Chief Human Capital Officer at one of the nation’s largest cannabis companies. I joined the company (Columbia Care) in 2017.
There was a considerable amount of stigma about joining the industry back then, which resulted in a 7-month interview process. The primary reason it took so long was the time that I needed time to decide whether I was truly interested in making the leap to cannabis. Ultimately, I won the job and accepted it. That decision has worked out very well.
You’re the Chief People & Administrative Officer at Columbia Care. What does a typical day look like for you?
There really is not a typical day for me. I lead or oversee a number of functions, including Human Resources, Security, Corporate Compliance, and Corporate Affairs. I have an incredibly talented group of leaders on my team, and I can rely on them to be amazing at what they do. They very effectively take care of most of the issues that come up, so when a matter makes its way to me it tends to be a particularly complicated problem that needs to be solved.
In addition, earlier this year Columbia Care announced that we had entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Cresco Labs. As a result, a considerable portion of my time is spent working with the integration planning teams in advance of the closing of the deal.
Why did you decide to join the faculty at CCC?
I’ve always tried to put myself in a position to work with the best and most talented people and that’s just what I’ve found at CCC. I’m thrilled to be a part of the team and I look forward to sharing my experience to help others effectively navigate their cannabis careers.
I’m also excited about the new platform, as well as the online community aspects of the website where I plan to be an active contributor. I look forward to engaging with others in the cannabis space, as well as those who are exploring the possibility of joining the industry.
What can students expect to gain from your course?
The course provides students with practical tips, examples, and specifics to give them a leg up and a level of confidence as they prepare to enter the cannabis industry. Major topic areas of the course include:
- What to expect in the cannabis industry
- What cannabis companies are looking for
- How to successfully plan and execute your career move
- What traps to avoid
- How to successfully transition to a new job in cannabis
What advice do you have for newcomers to cannabis?
First, do enough research to figure out what the job is that you want to do. You can’t expect companies or recruiters to figure it out for you. I’ve had a surprising number of conversations over the years with people who are very interested in joining the cannabis industry, but who expect me to figure out what the right role for them would be. That approach doesn’t tend to result in them getting a job. You need to figure out what you want to do before you apply for a job in the cannabis space.
Second, join the industry with your eyes wide open. The cannabis industry is certainly a dynamic and exciting one, which is often fun and rewarding. However, pretty much all of our jobs are indeed . . . jobs. They require effort, focus, commitment, and expertise. The most important thing is to go into it knowing that you will face challenges like none you have seen before in your career. You can expect your job in cannabis to be meaningful, fun, exciting, stressful, challenging, and rewarding, all at the same time.