Challenging the Stereotypes in Technology with Emily Baxter

Emily Baxter graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The University of Manitoba. She loves making things and a creative field where she could work with mixed media seemed like the natural choice. She studied ceramics, photography, and video production and was very interested in animation. After graduation, she realized that a job in animation wasn’t really a feasible career option. She worked in a few different industries, ranging from finance to non-profits, and she found that she always ended up being the “tech” person.

“I would always end up helping people with their computers or learning the software,” Emily says.

The company she was working at was migrating to a new software and they needed someone to migrate the data and learn the operating system. When they asked if any of the current employees would be interested in taking on that role, Emily jumped at the opportunity.

“They didn’t think anyone would want to and I was like, no let me do this!” she says.

As she learned the software and got involved with the technology, she realized that the “tech part” was what she really loved and wanted to do full-time. She started exploring opportunities in STEM and found iQmetrix, one of the largest Point of Sale (POS) and retail management software providers in North America.

She now works there as a product owner, a role similar to a business analyst. Emily is currently working with a team of six developers on a new project. It’s her responsibility to prioritize work in the backlog, figure out what the project’s requirements are and get it all done on time.

Emily says her previous jobs were usually focused on one specific piece of a project. One of things she loves most about this job is being able to see how the puzzle pieces fit together to make the product come to life.

“If I know how it all fits together, I can make a better piece,” she says, “I love that about it.”

And, there are plenty of puzzles and games at iQmetrix’s office. A giant Jenga sits in the middle of the sunny atrium. They play board games and Super Smash Bros. on the television during lunch. They even have a beer keg in the common area for employees. It looks like a fun workplace – a fact that surprises many visitors.

iQmetrix often invites high school students and youth groups to tour the office and gives presentations at schools. Many kids are surprised to see the positive workplace culture and learn about the diverse career options in technology. Emily says many people have a preconception that the only career in tech is that of a developer.

“It scares off people and they think it’s one or nothing,” Emily says.

Careers in technology can be in the field of Graphic Design, Marketing, Project Management and much more. A job in User Experience means that you figure out how users interact with your product. Quality Assurance (QA) is when you try to figure out if your product is doing what it’s supposed to do. You also try to figure out if there are any shortcomings in the product.

“QA is actually really fun because you’re basically thinking how can I break this?” Emily says. “What if I throw random information at it?”

They also associate a developer with the ‘gamer stereotype’ – someone in their basement eating Cheetos and coding like it’s their first language.

Emily is a self-proclaimed nerd who’s introverted and into Star Trek and Sci-fi.  She says there are a lot of people in the office like her but there are also a lot of people who aren’t. She works with some very social, extroverted people who come from diverse backgrounds like Education, Film and Zoology.

Most people also don’t realize how social a career in technology can be. Before our interview, Emily spent her morning mapping out requirements for a project and updating her team. They’ve planned a welcome lunch for a new team member. They also have a ‘stand-up’ at the end of day where each team member talks about what they’re working on, what they’re struggling with and what they plan to do the next day.

iQmetrix is trying to reach a younger audience so they can address those stereotypes when they start forming. Their employees take on ambassador roles and do talks at high schools, host office tours, and offer scholarships for students. They recently had West Broadway Youth Outreach visit their office. The kids did an exercise where they got to develop instructions for something, build it and document it. The process helped them really see what the product development cycle is like.

At one of the school talks, one student asked them to pause when they reached the presentation slide that listed all the job they could have in technology. The student wanted to photograph it to show their parents that a career in tech is a real career.

“I think everyone expects that slide to be one thing and say developer,” Emily says. “Seeing this whole list of different careers you can have really gets to the students.”