This week our featured woman in tech is Maya Beri, the VP of Financial Crimes Technology at CIBC.
Maya’s team is accountable for keeping CIBC’s clients and bank data safe and protected. Her team is responsible for building and running technology systems that proactively protect the clients and the bank from money laundering, cyber security attacks, and internal and external threats.
As a little girl, I loved math. My role model was Marie Curie. I loved solving problems, sometimes spending 5–6 hours in a row on some very tough challenges.
Maya’s experience in cyber security, passion for technology, and dedication to problem-solving is exactly why she went to meet and mentor the girls at W. G. Davis Senior Public School on hackathon day.
What was your first impression of the hackathon?
When I entered the room, I immediately felt the energy!
The girls were paired into small teams and were coming up with their own ideas of a problem and the solution. Each team was working together on a web-based program making the code possible and at their fingertips. It was exciting to see and feel the collaboration between the girls and the teacher; there was definitely a lot of excitement and buzz in the room.
For many of the girls, this was their first coding experience and they readily asked more experienced girls for help and advice. It was definitely a fun and collaborative atmosphere promoting learning and curiosity among all the participants.
Why do you think it is important to support girls in schools?
Society, culture, and influences at home may all impact perceptions of STEM.
It is very important to expose girls to role models in STEM, so they can make their own educated decisions about what interests them. During the early and middle school years, young people form an opinion and a bias towards certain fields. I truly believe that introducing girls to STEM subjects early in their education will enhance their chances of pursuing them in high school, university and then in their careers. It’s important that women are represented in STEM careers so that when technology is developed and tested, it is done so with diverse perspective so that it works for everyone. Not including diverse perspectives can lead to technology only working for a sub-set of the population. Secondly, as the workforce changes and technology becomes more and more prominent, it’s important that women are equipped with the skills to be employed in high-demand and high-paying jobs for their own success and financial well-being.
Why are you proud to be a woman in the tech industry?
I love technology, and being a woman in technology is a truly satisfying experience. Women have a different way of thinking, different lived experiences and different approaches to tackling a problem. Working in the technology space requires dedication, attention to detail, and creativity. There are many solutions to the same problem and there is no right or wrong answer. Applying diverse thinking is key to success. The best part of being a woman in the tech industry is the ability to think differently, to apply creativity to solve difficult problems, to think outside the box, and to not be fearful of being wrong! Just create!
What do you think young women need to know to pursue a career in technology?
Removing bias is key. Many young girls are surrounded by unconscious bias around them, whether this bias gets created by the culture at home, community, or through their surroundings. It is important to change our behaviours as a community to promote equal opportunities for girls and boys to take part in activities which may be traditionally labeled as gender specific. We need to promote diversity in the technology industry through role modelling. Programs like Hackergal are excellent mechanisms to introduce young girls to STEM. Increasing visibility of diverse role models in technology and providing information about programs and future career paths early in school is foundational.
If you could travel back in time, what would you tell your younger self? What do you wish you learned in school?
I would tell my younger self to be more confident and not to be blind to misconceptions. I was one of the two girls in math class — being a girl in STEM was rare. I wish more schools placed emphasis on teaching soft skills such as leadership, communication, and self-confidence. I would tell my young self to be proud and encourage other girls to join STEM paths in school.
How has the tech industry changed in the past 5 years? What do you predict will happen in the next 5 to 10 years?
Every industry is becoming heavily tech-dependent. In the financial industry for example, banks are becoming technology companies. There is a lot of focus on digitization and digital transformation. CIBC is leveraging technology to provide our clients with the best experience possible. It is very hard to imagine the past days of banking, using more paper and manual processes. In the next 5–10 years, the industry will become completely digital. Every transaction will be possible to make at the convenience of any location. The tech industry will be dramatically evolving in areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and digital innovation. We will likely see autonomous vehicles driving on the streets, more facial recognition technologies, digital identities, smart TVs and electronics at home. It is definitely an exciting time to be in technology!
What has helped you get to where you are now and what advice would you have for young women who want to set off in a similar direction?
Think of your career as an adventure. Learn as you go. Challenge yourself. Change what you are working on when you stop learning or become too comfortable. Be confident in your abilities. Have a “can do” attitude. And have fun! Everything else will come along.