Bringing diversity in technology to RBC

How Diversity of Experience Benefits Employees and Clients
From the outside, it might be expected that bank employees in technology roles and supporting areas including cloud computing, AI, and cyber security to name a few, have a Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) background. While that is the case for most technologists, many employees on these teams bring their experience and much-needed transferrable skills from other areas including Finance, Economics and the Arts to their roles.

Nene Azu, a Product Manager with Borealis AI in Vancouver, B.C. has a degree in Economics from the University of British Columbia (UBC), and Claire Lee, a Quantitative Technology Services (QTS) Rotational Program Associate has a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and Financial Management from the University of Waterloo. They shared how their educational and professional experience helps them in their technology-focused roles.

Nene Azu — From Economics to Artificial Intelligence

Nene originally planned to earn a Master’s degree in Economics and then work in a central bank. During his time at UBC, Nene worked in retail banking where his interest in banking was piqued and he decided to pursue it. He came to Borealis AI after previous roles in banking and at tech start-ups.

Nene was drawn to Borealis AI because “it straddles the world of working for a stable, established bank but with a start-up mentality”. Borealis has a start-up feel but access to large streams of data and computational resources that provide a tremendous number of opportunities and possibilities.

“In my role, I find compelling problems and translate how machine learning and AI can help solve them. I operate cross functionally; at the intersection of multiple stakeholders from business leaders to software engineers and machine learning scientists.” says Nene. “I get to focus on the big picture and find out what needs to be done to bring it to life. I also apply financial principles to the project and assess the risk with taking different courses of action.”

He also believes that his role allows him to look through the lens of what is possible, to see how models can develop into ideas and it’s very exciting: “You come to work and get to tackle different problems and it’s exciting the awareness that we’re building and to involve as many perspectives as possible.”

Nene’s advice to students is to not limit themselves: “You don’t need to have an end goal in mind. Once you find a specific field of study, approach it with an open mind and ask ‘what else could I do with this degree?’, open yourself up to pivoting and to learning.”

Claire Lee — Technology and Accounting
Claire was a member of the 2022 T&O Amplify Program, an immersive summer innovation program, providing students in the later years of their post-secondary experience the opportunity to put their skills to the test while building a product that could disrupt RBC and beyond. She started her role in QTS in Capital Markets in July 2023. From an early age, she’s always been curious about emerging technologies. When she started at the University of Waterloo, she also developed a strong interest in business – the financial markets, the decision-making process, the strategic alignment—and wanted to bridge that with her interest in technology.

After her third year, Claire applied to the Amplify program due to the opportunity to tackle a business challenge and build a solution from the ground up. Her and her team, DIMI, won the Business Value award for successfully developing a measurable value at scale to the organization while aligning to RBC’s strategic priorities. Claire’s current work with the QTS team sees her preparing and building transaction cost analysis tools.

“Working in QTS means a lot of fast learning for me and it’s been great,” says Claire. “I’ve been able to use many of the skills I developed during my Amplify experience, like cleaning and analyzing data. I’ve also been able to excel at knowing how to communicate effectively with my colleagues and presenting my work and research.”

Claire’s career path might have been slightly different if it weren’t for the pandemic. “I had more time on my hands during COVID and remembered how much I enjoyed computer science during high school, so I started taking more computer science courses at Waterloo and then decided to minor in it.” It was another good reminder for Claire to always remain curious. “As part of my university degree, I had four co-ops and I decided to branch out and try new opportunities. Why stick with the same thing for each co-op when I could try different roles and learn something new each time?”

She also believes that her business background allows her to see the bigger picture when working on a project, to take a step back to ask more questions and get a holistic view of the project and its purpose.

“RBC is really open to bringing employees with different skillsets and experience on board and I think that brings many different perspectives and opinions together, along with more creativity, which can only result in better outcomes for our teams and clients,” she says.

Diversity in technology remains an essential path for organizations to remain relevant with clients and employees. Bringing together divergent opinions and different work experience not only means a more diverse workforce, it also creates an environment where collaboration, learning and solutions thrive.
Amplify benefits participants
Nene Azu

Amplify benefits participants
Claire Lee