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Kelsey Rodricks

Product Leader

Wave Financial Inc.

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If you decide to pursue a future in STEM, you too can live and work on the cutting edge of discovery and inspire the next generation. There's nothing more exciting than that!

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WHAT DO YOU DO?

I’m a product leader that specializes in software development.

 

I create and communicate a compelling vision of the future and foster alignment by inviting others in the organization to take part. I define business outcomes based on our shared vision.

 

I identify and play to the organization’s strengths, weaknesses and unique competitive advantages and collaborate cross-functionally (e.g. with risk, compliance, finance, marketing, etc.) to develop innovative strategies that achieve the business outcomes.

 

To set the team up for success as it scales, I articulate core product principles, like “think big but start small”, “ship to learn” and “design from first principles”. [Credit to Paul Adams, SVP of Product at Intercom.]

 

I facilitate high-level prioritization decisions by focusing on customer value, usability and feasibility -- in short, serving customers in ways that meet the needs of the business.

 

I achieve high performance by developing high performance in others. I work in an empowered triad of product, design and engineering to co-create software in an environment in which every team member has a deep sense of responsibility to the team and ownership of the product.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?

I started my career in 2010 at one of the “Big Five” banks on Bay St. (Canada’s equivalent of Wall St.). During my five years working in banking, I observed a massive transformation in financial services. However, in comparison to other areas that were being transformed by technology (e.g. mobile, cloud computing), I observed an under-innovation in FinTech. The complexity in building regulated products was the single greatest constraint.

 

I left finance for technology in 2015, determined to help transform the industry. Since then, I’ve contributed to accelerated industry growth by designing building blocks to enable others to launch new services in a fast, flexible and compliant way. This reduction in complexity has resulted in an explosion of innovation -- mainly, software companies with embedded financial services.

 

Ultimately, my inner sense of commitment, passion and excitement for my work is what continues to drive me. FinTech is changing how people borrow, save, invest and manage their money. Knowing that I’m increasing financial inclusion enables me to live and work with a deep sense of purpose.

HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?

One of the biggest learnings for me as a leader was that keeping relationships strictly professional and protecting myself from the vulnerability of getting close to the people I work with was undercutting high achievement and limiting my capacity for individual and team empowerment.

 

In order for my teammates to feel supported by me, I needed to be open to high quality, trusting and caring relationships. I had to learn to lead from my own internal authority and share my own strengths, weaknesses, hopes and fears in order to build mutual trust.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"

It’s undeniable that technology has ethnic, racial and gender diversity problems. If you observe the FAAGM group of companies (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Alphabet’s Google), less than one in two employees is a person of colour and more than four in five employees is a man. The numbers are even more stark amongst technical workers, like product managers, designers and engineers.

 

I’m bi-racial so growing up in a society tainted with racism presented an unusual challenge. I struggled to develop a positive self identity and a sense of belonging. What I didn’t realize as a young girl was that not fitting squarely into a community was also teaching me to navigate my racial identities situationally which made me more empathetic, adaptable, creative and open-minded.

 

I also knew at a young age that there was a legacy of underrepresentation of women and non-binary people in STEM. My mother (she/her; now a Ph.D. - ChE) completed her Bachelor of Applied Science in Chemical Engineering at the University of Waterloo in 1985. At that time, less than one in six of her classmates were women. During her five years in undergrad, only one of her instructors was a woman. Despite that, she persevered and I will too.

 

What’s important to understand is that striving to increase diversity in STEM is not a platitude or a buzz phrase — it’s a good business decision for companies and it’s key to innovation.

 

According to a 2016 Harvard Business Review article, titled “Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter,” including people from diverse backgrounds helps keep team members’ biases in check and makes them question their assumptions more. Businesses with more culturally diverse leadership teams are proven to be more likely to develop new products than those with homogenous leadership. Similarly, companies with more women are more likely to introduce radical new innovations into the market.

 

In short, when you apply for a job in STEM, remember that being a woman or non-binary person and/or a person of colour isn’t a detriment, it’s an advantage. Your contribution is uniquely valuable because it will make your team smarter and your organization more successful. Demand diversity, create inclusion.

WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?

Working in STEM is inherently playful because innovation requires curiosity!

 

You must be curious to identify problems that are worth solving. You must be curious to think deeply and rationally about complex problems and develop solutions. You must be curious about others and genuinely interested in their perspectives to work collaboratively.

 

In short, STEM encourages us to ask more questions, ultimately promoting more meaningful connections and more creative outcomes.

BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?

A natural aptitude for math and science is not required for a career in STEM. What ties all STEM fields together is an interest in discovery. Think about how and where you like to spend your time. For example, do you like to build things or do you like to deconstruct them? Are you interested in the human body, the ocean or in far away galaxies?

 

In 1963, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to go to space, proving that women have the same capabilities as men to endure the rigorous conditions of space flight.

 

In 1967, British graduate student Jocelyn Bell Burnell became the first person to detect pulsars (highly magnetized rotating compact stars that emit electromagnetic radiation). Her supervisor won the Nobel Prize for this discovery but she was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize for Fundamental Physics in 2018. She donated the prize money (C$3M) to a scholarship for women, visible minorities, and refugees entering a graduate physics program.

 

In 1969, American geochemist Lois Jones led the first all-women research team to Antarctica. At that time, the U.S. Navy prohibited women from participating in Antarctic voyages but yielded under the condition that if unsuccessful, women would never be allowed back. By exceeding expectations, Jones and her team cemented future opportunities for women interested in expeditions.

 

In 2014, after graduating at the top of her class, Dr. Nadine Caron became the first woman of First Nations descent in Canada to become a General Surgeon. Now an associate professor at the University of Northern British Columbia, Dr. Caron advocates for increased visibility, encourages the enrollment of Indigenous students, and helps create safe spaces where history and heritage are respected.

 

If you decide to pursue a future in STEM, you too can live and work on the cutting edge of discovery and inspire the next generation of girls and non-binary children. There's nothing more exciting than that!

INSPIRATION

“Knock me down nine times but I get up ten!” Cardi B