Deborah Service entered the technology field by accident. She remembers always hating computers. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., she never imagined a future in technology. During college, she worked at a real estate company transferring paper records to digital. She recalls often crashing the system and quickly becoming friends with tech support because of it. Much to her surprise, she had an intuitive understanding of digital systems and upon graduation was hired by the very same company.
Service’s career proves that being a technologist is more than being a developer or a coder. She started in technical support, where she learned to troubleshoot, problem solve, build solutions, wire a computer room, and understand network components. She continued her technology career at the Federal Reserve Bank, Thomson Reuters and Time Warner, before starting her own company. Three years ago, she joined Scotiabank as Vice-President, Service Management, Global Technology Services.
As a Black woman, at times, Service feels that being a senior leader in technology is like being a unicorn.
“Although we are seeing more Black women in tech at entry levels, there are opportunities to improve representation at senior levels,” she said. “The challenge some women face is the preconceptions of a technologist – you must be an engineer or coder, the hours are crazy, it’s prohibitive for young women starting a family – which may lead them to shy away from the field. Challenge those preconceptions and if you want to build career in technology, you can.”
Service hopes that more Black women see technology as an exciting career opportunity.
“This is why Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) programs are so important to support Black professionals in the workplace,” she adds. But getting that first job opportunity is key, and that’s why campus recruitment and events like the Black Tech Professionals Summit are so important to attract top talent. Service participated in the Summit late last year in Toronto and says Scotiabank, a large financial institution with many opportunities, is doing a lot to support Black tech professionals.
The Bank offers several educational DE&I programs to help understand Black culture, as well as supporting community partnerships such as the Scotiabank Black Student Scholarship at The Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and the DMZ Black Innovation Fellowship at Toronto Metropolitan University. Scotiabank also signed the BlackNorth pledge, a commitment to increase the representation of Black employees in senior leader roles to 3.5% and the Black student workforce to 5% or more.
Service is happy to see that the Bank is on the right path.
“Scotiabank has created an inclusive environment, where senior management listen and are committed to continuous improvement,” she said. As a mentor and volunteer, she hopes that sharing her experiences will help to encourage more women to explore a career in technology.
“Seeing others like you excelling in technology gives you a sense of belonging, camaraderie,” said Service. “The sky is the limit.”