The focus on building a diverse workforce continues to be an increasingly important initiative across organizations today. Studies have shown that widening talent pools to be more gender-inclusive has many positive impacts, including creating space for an open and collaborative working environment, different perspectives fueling new ideas and better innovation, and boosting company performance and profitability. 

Despite decades of research confirming that companies are more successful and profitable with women in leadership, gender gap rates exist. When women are excluded from the conversation, companies miss the opportunity to increase efficiency, creativity and gain traction in untapped markets. We know that women can provide a more balanced view of technology-related issues and are better able to represent their consumer needs. This has motivated technology companies to place a greater focus on hiring more women to their teams and valuing them as a significant competitive advantage. 

At Financeit, there is a persistent effort to hire employees that represent our current global landscape. Despite the war for tech talent, we try to tap into a more diverse talent pool and actively seek to recruit women for our technology roles; thus, increasing our likelihood of great innovation. In the past, we’ve partnered with various coding schools, such as Girls Who Code and Rail Girls Toronto to increase women’s representation in technology. We support their mission to empower women in technology careers through opportunities that help them grow their skills and professional development. We’ve also had developers help as mentors with Ladies Learning to Code to improve young professionals coding skills. Lastly, over the last year, Sarvi Ahmadi, Director of Product Management, represented Financeit at Women of MENA in Technology’s virtual global career fair. This organization is dedicated to celebrating and empowering Middle Eastern and North African women in technology. MENA’s mission holds true to Financeit’s values of providing equitable opportunities and tools for women to grow their careers. 

We recognize the need for strong collaboration at Financeit and encourage all employees to act on new ideas. Everyone has equitable access to grow and are supported by leadership to pursue their goals. Our commitment to providing a diverse and innovative work environment for employees stays true to our values of #excellence and #personality. 

To gain more insight into Financeit’s Tech Team, we interviewed Kate Wren, our User Experience Research Manager, and Sarvi Ahmadi, our Director of Product Management- Centah. 

Interviewee: Kate Wren 

Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?

I am a UX Research Manager and I work cross-functionally across all lines of business. Essentially, I investigate users and their requirements to help inform the product design process. To develop strong products that satisfy users’ needs, we need to understand the motivations, expectations, workflows, and contexts in which our customers work every day.  User research is not about asking users what they want and then building it… it’s developing a deep understanding of how they work, and then designing and recommending solutions that will make their jobs easier, and improve their lives. 

My primary role is to help the product team prioritize and discover new roadmap items which is informed by conducting research with our customers. The methodology used depends on what we are trying to learn but may include interviews, surveys, user testing, workflow diagramming and journey mapping.

My day to day can change depending on what’s thrown at me. I serve both the Financeit and Centah LOB’s, which allows me to interact with different products and customer bases. While the majority of my work can be conducted remotely, I can gather much richer data by going out into the field and observing our users in their own environments. 

How has Financeit/Centah helped you succeed in your role? 

I think overall, it was Financeit hiring me in a research role when my previous positions were on the design side. I worried that I would miss design, but I had so much support from leadership, who gave me the flexibility to explore my own path. As a result, I felt more confident in my decision to take on the UX research role and haven’t looked back. 

And when the workload began to expand, leadership recognized that I needed more support (even though I was too proud to ask for it) and encouraged me to move into a management role.  Feeling “pushed” is neither easy nor fun, but embracing the transition can bring growth, creativity and learning. Sometimes, feeling uncomfortable is the key to success and development, and Financeit’s leadership has helped me see that.

Why do you think it’s important for more women to join the technology industry?

In general, women are great communicators and have a strong ability to multitask, which is an asset in any profession. Also, we know that women have been more socialized to nurture and utilize their emotional intelligence. Although these are great qualities for both women and men to possess, I think when women join male-dominated professions like tech, it allows for diversity of thought and approach. By exercising excellent interpersonal communication and collaboration skills, you’ll set yourself apart from other professionals and help gain traction within your organization. 

What aspect of technology most excites you?

There is never a shortage of new things to learn. Despite the fact that I work on the same product every day, our users are so varied, and you can speak with 10 different users and hear 10 completely different stories! This is particularly true in the Centah line of business which is ever changing. Our product constantly evolves which keeps my work interesting.

What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve never actually been offered any professional advice. But what I have learned over 25 years in design is to just take action and get things done. Don’t sit around and wait. If you see something that you can improve, jump on it. At times you may ruffle some feathers, but if you approach your work with integrity and passion, and show that you are driven and care about the company’s success, in the end, your actions will be appreciated.  You should also recognize that some people don’t want to be leaders, and that’s OK. The older I get, the more I realize that while employment perks are great, what’s more important is to have balance in your life, being happy to go to work each day, and having a job that fulfills you. 

What advice would you give to younger women interested in UX Research?

If you are interested in getting into UX research, I would highly recommend that you develop an understanding of product design. I see a lot of individuals who are in the academic research field applying for UX research roles, but this is not the same as product research which requires you to work with designers, developers and product managers on mainly digital products. You must take the proper steps to qualify yourself.

Second, UX has exploded in the last decade, which has resulted in many schools offering “fast tracks” to UX which unfortunately, do not provide a well-rounded education.  To set yourself apart, try to gain experience by doing free projects for established professionals. This will allow you to practice solving real-world problems,  and also grow your professional network. 

Interviewee: Sarvi Ahmadi

Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?

I am the Director of Product Management for Centah. I lead the product team for our Centah portfolio, set the product vision and strategy for Centah, and oversee the execution of workflow, lead generation, and manage theSaas product, as well as our Home Improvement Market Place. I work regularly with internal and external stakeholders to evaluate and establish priorities based on client/user needs, market trends and business objectives. 

My favourite part of my job is helping my team with their growth, development and removing barriers for them at work so they can thrive in their role, collaborate with their team and build amazing products!   

How has Financeit helped you succeed in your role? 

I’d say autonomy, as I’ve been given a lot of freedom by our head of product and CTO, Paul Sehr to navigate my role, and I think this is a testament to the culture our CTO has built in his organization. Secondly, our transparent culture has allowed me to bring my authentic self to work, where I can express my opinions constructively. Everyone at the company has the ability to provide insight, even in junior roles. This is because of the culture our leaders have established from day one. Lastly, having the chance to work with intelligent people every day has been amazing. Our CTO has been one of the best mentors I’ve had. My peers in our tech leadership team are a group of driven, passionate and smart leaders who I learn from every day. 

Why do you think it’s important for more women to join the tech industry?

There are still a lot of untapped opportunities, especially within the Canadian market, and women can play a crucial role in developing those opportunities. Also, to build the best product and user experiences, we need to have a strong diversity of thought at the table, especially when it comes to product strategy and execution. We cannot exclude half the population from this; this also makes business sense! Women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing decisions. As a result, we need to try new ways of attracting women to tech roles. 

What aspect of technology most excites you?

I think anything is possible, and opportunities are endless, which makes tech so exciting. In Canada, so many great products are emerging, and the market is growing exponentially. Also, on a daily basis, I’m using different parts of my brain, and I’m constantly learning new things. Days are never the same, allowing me to delve into different aspects of my job. 

What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?

There are two quotes that I read years ago that are always top of mind for me and helped me a lot of my career especially as a woman in a male dominated industry:

“It takes a while to develop a voice, but once you have it, you damn sure better use it on the stuff that matters.”

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve helped build at Financeit? 

Overall, I am very proud of everything my team and I have accomplished at Centah over the last two years. One of the things I’m most proud of is launching a new lead creation and management platform called HomePro Marketplace. It is a full-service digital lead generation and CRM platform. I’m thrilled with the success of our product and all the incredible feedback we’ve received from clients. I’ve also enjoyed working with clients over project strategy and seeing their growth as a testament to the success of Centah lead generation applications and lead management tools.

More than anything, I am incredibly proud of the team I’ve built and helping them grow every day. The culture in my team is an extension of our incredible culture at Financeit Centah. 

What advice would you give to younger women interested in technology?

Be bold and ask for what you want. Ask everyone, including men, to help in your journey. Trust me, they want to support you, but sometimes they don’t know how. Second, don’t get intimidated because you hear a lot of technical terminologies; understanding comes with experience. Third, your perspective matters and even though you might be the minority in most forums, your voice is essential! 

Every barrier we as women remove helps our daughters to be able to dream bigger. Bring other women along and share your journey when you get to the top.

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