There is no singular definition of a "woman in technology." Throughout my experiences at KPMG—and especially in my work with the KPMG Women in Technology Community—I've seen first-hand that the skills, contributions, and career pathways vary greatly from one tech professional to the next. While career paths are often diverse, consistent among the success stories are women who have had not only talent and drive but the opportunities and support needed to bring those talents and passions to the field.
Take my story, for example. Like many of my colleagues, the tech life found me. At that time, approximately three and a half years ago, I was leading KPMG's corporate marketing team across the country, with more than 15 years of experience in marketing and communications and an anticipated marketing and communications career path mapped out. When I was then asked to consider changing direction and take on the role of Managing Director of Digital, it was a tough choice. The prospect of building out a new digital area for the firm made me apprehensive, especially given that I would be going into the role without the deep technical experience I thought I'd need to excel. At the same time, I was curious about the bold new territories I'd be exploring and recognized that diving into this tech role could be an opportunity to learn and grow.
Three years later, I'm confident I made the right choice. Yes, there was a learning curve, and, true, it did take some time to shake off the "imposter syndrome" that comes with every bold career move. I grew a greater appreciation for the transferrable skills that served me well in my new role, and, fortunately, I had access to mentors, a great network, and internal resources that continue to support my journey to this day. Thanks to this good fortune, I've had the opportunity to take KPMG's digital presence and capabilities to the next level and led a passionate team in digitally transforming our brand, building market-leading digital solutions, and augmenting capabilities across the firm.
I'm so proud to see my peers achieve similar success in their own tech-oriented careers. Michelle Cannon, for example, is a valued member of KPMG's Tax Transformation and Intelligent Delivery & Innovation teams, whose affinity for learning new technologies and digital skills has benefitted her clients and colleagues. "I try to pick at least two new areas of technology that I want to dive into each year and dedicate time to learning in those areas," Michelle told me. "I usually try to tie my learning to something that I am currently working on or put in some overtime to start a pet project that incorporates the skills I am learning so that I can get hands-on experience as I grow my knowledge."
Today, Michelle applies her passion for self-learning to building technology solutions that improve the efficiency of our client's tax functions and enhance KPMG's internal processes. Beyond developing a new internal tool used by colleagues across the country, she has worked on a multi-disciplinary team to build a solution requiring the explanation of complex tax concepts to developers with no tax experience. These rewarding endeavours are driven by a growth mindset and the ability to work in an environment where personal growth is valued.
Michelle and I are alike in that she, too, is extremely thankful for the mentors that have lined her path. We also share a belief that good things happen when we step out of our comfort zones, especially when it means entering foreign digital territories.
"Don't be afraid to take a non-traditional career path," she says. "In moving into my current role, I gave up some of the more traditional tax advisory experience that one would otherwise get in an accounting firm. While this is not the traditional path, I don't regret it for a second, as I am able to contribute through my current role in a way that would have taken much longer to achieve otherwise."
Then there are the women for whom tech has always been second nature—or, for Ravy Por, a second language entirely. As Executive Director and Leader of KPMG's Lighthouse Quebec, Ravy's exposure to coding, mathematics, and advanced analytics started from a childhood desire to make sense of a (then) foreign world.
"My family came to Canada as refugees to escape genocide," she says. "In elementary school, I only spoke Cambodian and didn't speak English and French until I was seven. What I did do was learn math as a second language, because math is universal. It helped me understand things around me and feel less alone."
A coder since she was nine years old, Ravy went on to study mathematics and data science. Today, she uses her skills to wield advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, cloud solutions, and any number of innovations to help clients in their own "analytical evolution." For Ravy, a tech career has been a way to build on a life-long passion and to improve the lives (and livelihoods) of others.
"We didn't have money growing up, so I saw how learning to code and embracing science and technology could open doors," she says. "That's the approach I bring to my job now: helping people achieve more and receive better experiences through tech and analytics."
Ravy shares her values with a diverse team at the Lighthouse hub in Quebec. And like Michelle and me, she continues to advise other women at the firm on their own career journeys, counselling them to keep learning and connecting with like-minded professionals.
"It's really important to go through this journey with people who share your background and experiences," she says. "Especially as women, since not long ago I didn't see a lot of diversity in these positions."
These stories are only a handful of those I've had the pleasure of learning about through my work at KPMG. Through initiatives like the KPMG Women in Technology Community and Women Talk Tech podcast, which features even more stories about diverse KPMG women in tech, I'm encouraged to see that the opportunities for women in technology are as diverse as the talented individuals who pursue them.