Uncovering Paul Lewis

The former president and general manager of Discovery Canada last spoke to Advantage about how the TV network is leading the charge in making science cool. Below, Paul Lewis, this issue’s guest editor, details his motivations, inspirations, and favourite things beyond Shark Week.

Where did you grow up?
In the east end of London. I immigrated with my family when I was 11 years old.

University attended and degree earned?
Ryerson University, Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism.

Favourite class/subject in university?
Broadcast Journalism. Writing, producing and presenting a newscast seen around campus in just a few hours was incredibly exhilarating, fun, and stressful beyond belief.

What was your first job?
After graduation, my first job in journalism was as copy clerk at CBC National TV News in Toronto. I distributed scripts, photocopied, changed typewriter ribbons, and picked up dry cleaning for reporters and editors.

What was your worst job?
Stock clerk for a department store. I’d need to mop up spilled bottles, vomit, and overflowing toilets, and collapse hundreds of empty cardboard boxes in a single shift.

How did you spend your first paycheck?
A backpacking trip to Europe. I lived to travel . . . and still do.

Name one company you admire:
Apple. I love the simplicity, the creativity, the beauty, and the intuitive design of all their products.

Best advice you ever received?
“Keep your sense of humour. It’s only television.” Trina McQueen, former president of Discovery.

Describe yourself in three words:
Creative, friendly, accessible.

Your biggest pet peeve?
People who quote rules and procedures rather than use common sense.

Proudest professional achievement?
Mentoring talented young people and seeing them achieve their full potential.

Proudest personal achievement?
Writing a movie screenplay. The hardest thing I’ve done in my entire life. Now I have to go get it made!

Favourite day of the workweek?
Thursday. I get together each Thursday morning with my management team and find out what’s going on in each department and help problem-solve.

Blog or website that you follow religiously?
NASA. I’m a space junkie.

What’s better: Facebook or Twitter?
Facebook. I’m lucky to have friends around the world and it’s my best way to stay in touch with them.

How long is your commute?
Twenty minutes to an hour, depending on weather, traffic, and luck.

Favourite sports team?
Just not a team sports fan. If I go to see a game, it’s for the hot dog and peanuts.

Favourite movie?
The most recent Star Trek movie. It finally fulfilled the promise of a 50-year-old franchise.

Favourite book?
The Lord of the Rings. I read the trilogy as a kid and reveled in the fantastical world in created. Who knew it would eventually become a series of movies that even non-nerds would watch and enjoy?

Favourite TV show?
Daily Planet, because creating a daily science magazine show is what first drew me to Discovery. Also, Modern Family with its great characters, great writing, and great situations. So funny and real.

Favourite band and/or album?
I just discovered 2Cellos. A talented duo who mix classical and rock music into the craziest, high energy, insane combination I’ve ever heard.

If you weren’t in your current profession, what profession would you be in?
I’d be a writer, musician, or airplane pilot. Anything that involves travel and creativity.

Your idea of a relaxing weekend?
Working out, going for a massage, having a great meal at a wonderful restaurant, and having a few minutes to stare into space and think creative thoughts.

Favourite place you’ve travelled to?
Japan. The culture and the people are absolutely fascinating—a truly unique blend of cool technology, friendly efficiency, and a fascination with the culture of all things cute.

What’s your personal motto?
Never give up. And keep smiling.

If you could have one super power, what would it be?
To travel in time. I want to go back and witness history in person. And I want to see how this planet turns out and see all the amazing things our science and technology will create.

Would your childhood self be surprised at how you’ve turned out?
Surprised? Shocked! I can’t imagine anyone thinking I’d be running a serious business and making decisions at one of the top television networks in the country.