Justin Walker, GCC’s Chief Operating Officer talks about how his love for filmmaking led him into the humanitarian space, why the team needs to stay laser focused, and why he gets up at 4 am in the morning.
How did you get involved with GCC?
I have been with GCC from the very beginning. My brother Eli worked as a cheetah keeper in Namibia where he met Matt Lindenberg (GCC’s Founder), who was doing his masters there. Matt started talking to my brother about this film project he was working on called Rhino Man. My brother suggested that he talk to me as I am in film production. We set up a crowd-funding account and raised more than 12,000 dollars to get it off the ground. We have actually done a couple more Kickstarter campaigns since and raised even more money that has given us an influx of capital over the years to complete Rhino Man which will bring awareness to the work of the rangers.
Did you always want to work in the humanitarian space?
I studied film as an undergraduate and during those years I went to the Middle East to do a mini-documentary in Cairo. I ended up staying for two years and working in the humanitarian space. I was blown away by that world. I continued my studies through distance learning and returned to the US for exams. So I have a degree in business management with a specialty in non-profit. I was fascinated by how we can use business to make the world a better place.
You also work for Friendly Human; can you tell us about this?
Friendly Human really lives up to its name with values to be friendly and
human. We make around 1500 videos per year. Content is key. Some of our projects have 40 videos each, so lots of content. We specialize in authentic human storytelling to show the value of what our clients do.
What is the link between Friendly Human and GCC?
Friendly Human got involved with Rhino Man, so I have been working on the documentary from the beginning. Matt was studying for his Masters in Michigan and when he graduated, he didn’t know where to go, so he came to work for us making films at the same time as working on Rhino Man. He was with us for three and a half years and produced the most videos of all our producers. We have been working together ever since.
What is your role there?
I am Friendly Human’s Chief Operating Officer. The company was started 10 years ago by my great friend Daniel. I was already in the non-profit space, starting my own non-profit when I was 21 years old, and working to provide clean water in Haiti, and Peru. I stayed in touch with Daniel over the years and several years after the recession in the United States hit, he offered me a job. I work on processes and bringing the right people together to make strong and effective teams. We make videos for big US brands, and are almost finished with Rhino Man and I still operate my non-profit. My wife is Peruvian and we go back and forth to our apartment in Lima often. My passion is helping people.
How do you manage to do it all?
I get up early, around 4 am. I have an hour drive to the studio and I use the commute to plan my day in the morning and reflect on the way home on all the different things that are going on in all the different businesses, between GCC, Friendly Human, my non-profit, vidloft.com and another businesses and non-profits I contribute to.
What is your role at GCC?
I am on the board of directors with Matt, Michele, Lee and Josh. I am also acting COO for the specific process-related part of the business. I keep the books, do payroll, compliance contracts, etc. I was recently in Africa to do contracts for the South African Wildlife College and the Africa Foundation as we work to roll out our Future Rangers program in a big way.
What are the biggest challenges facing the organization right now?
I think it is our direction, making sure we stay laser-focused and know which way to run. We have a small team and the more focused we are, the better. It is making sure the team knows what the focus is and how to communicate that. It is the most critical thing. It is a difficult challenge, but the sharper the knife, the more we can cut!
What are you currently working on?
I always think that by providing as much value and building the best team or process to work, we can attract people to the organization. I believe we can build processes and run with them to make change. Right now, everyone is embracing a new communications plan and hopefully, the team will keep adding to it and making it better. We are working really hard to get the Future Rangers program scaled and successful in a digital COVID world, and make sure it is compliant from a data and privacy standpoint, that’s what I am most excited about.
What do you enjoy the most?
I love the unwavering commitment of the people on the team to make an impact. The rangers on the ground are having a big impact, but it is the influence of communication through education that I love. I love the fact that we work well together to make an impact. It gets me up early in the morning and keeps me up working late at night. Ultimately this hard work is contributing to things bigger than myself and we must act now if we are going to save our planet for future generations.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I speak Spanish and love working with my hands and especially repairing cars. I am a Toyota Land cruiser fanatic. I also love traveling, especially with my wife Janin and my son Liam, who is six.
What is your favorite animal?
I love dogs, I always have. But there is one endangered species here in the States that I have a particular affection for, which is the Bobwhite quail. I have the most beautiful childhood memories of raising these birds and reintroducing them into the wild with my father and grandfather.