Lady Boss #2: Lauren Bates
Updated: Feb 3, 2020
Lauren has a BASc in Applied Mathematics and Engineering from Queen's University, with a strong focus on design. She loves baking, being outdoors, dog parenting, and fly fishing. Lauren started her tech career in software development but now happily resides in product management, designing and launching products in mobile gaming, enterprise governance, and fintech.
What has been your biggest professional accomplishment?
I lead the design and development of a mobile fintech app, taking it from an internal beta with roughly ten users to public launch one year later. It earned several Apple App Store features.
What life accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am the proudest of myself for being financially independent of both my parents and not needing anyone to support myself. My mom gave up a lot for my brother and I to have a good education and be successful. She always taught us that financial independence was freedom. The other life accomplishment I'm pretty proud of is being asked to make truffles as wedding favours for my BFF Emily's ;) wedding. Knowing I made something tasty enough to be served at her wedding was quite the honour.
What makes you feel most proud to be in STEM?
Having a career in STEM is just me being me, doing what I like to do, and proving anyone who ever doubted me wrong, as a female interested in math and science.
Provide an example of when you made a mistake and used it to better yourself.
A couple of companies ago, I was in a place where I had been promoted twice as I grew in my career. When it was time for me to make the next step, I was passed up for promotion. I had worked really hard for that position, and I was the go-to at the company for anything product or data, I REALLY deserved it. I never stood up for myself and asked why, because I was too afraid of authority. I assumed because our leaders were older and much more experienced than I, that they were correct and I shouldn't question them. I now realize this is something that really held me back. I think this happens a lot to women in male-dominated industries and that sucks. Always question authority. The worst case scenario is you are wrong and you'll learn from it.
Provide an example of when you doubted yourself and your abilities but were able to push through and succeed.
Moving from startup land to a mid-size company gave me major imposter syndrome. I earned a ton of great experience in the startups I had worked at, especially being the only product person. But that was exactly what worried me about being at a larger company; I would now be just one of many product managers. I wondered whether I had been doing things right, following the right tech trends, or generally just good enough. I quickly learned that everyone is always still learning, and while I've learned some things from my colleagues here, I've also brought knowledge and added value from my own unique experiences, especially from startups.
I recently spoke on a panel about imposter syndrome, and during my preparation, talked to a friend with a really good metaphor for imposter syndrome. When you were a little kid, was there monster in your dark closet (or under your bed)? I had one. I was so scared of it, I'd never look in the closet, and the longer I stared at the closet, the more afraid I was and the less I slept. But once my mom opened the door and turned on the closet light, it was clear the monster never existed. That's what imposter syndrome is, just like the closet monster. It's really not there; you ARE actually awesome. And the trick to tackle imposter syndrome is to shine light on it. For me, whenever I feel the monster starting to materialize, I run through a list of my awesome accomplishments in my head, so I remind myself why I am awesome, and I'm NOT an imposter.
Have you ever felt that being a woman in a technical field has held you back in your career?
Sadly I wish I could say no, but that's not true. I have watched male colleagues with similar or less experience receive praise and promotions while I worked my butt off just to be acknowledged. It only fuels my fire though and is one of the reasons I am involved in various diversity and STEM initiatives at work and the community.
Who is your role model?
I don't have a single role model, but my DIY role model would be some mix of Sheryl Sandberg, Julia Child, my Mum, and Michelle Obama ;)
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice based on what you know now, what would it be? and when?
Stop worrying about what other people think of you. IT DOES NOT MATTER. Legit just love yourself, that's cheesy, and you don't want to listen to it, but it's actually the most important lesson to learn. I think I would benefit most from this in high school. I always excelled academically, but I was so stressed about being cool or fitting in that I don't have great memories of high school.
How did you perceive STEM careers in high school compared to what you know now?
Despite being top 2% of my high school class, my female guidance counselor thought I was better suited to be a meteorologist, aka a weather lady. Really? Come on! I wanted to wear a lab coat and send stuff into space! I have since learned that not all STEM careers require lab coats, in fact, a lot of them let you wear jeans to work ;) Tech is where I've found my home, but STEM can take you many places.
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Ever since my dad used a planisphere to anoint glow in the dark stars to my ceiling in actual constellations, I knew I wanted to be some sort of scientist. Astronaut, physicist, astrophysicist, chemist, engineer, anything. I wanted to be like Jodie Foster in Contact.
Now, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Wait a minute. Am I not grown up already? I have to say Jodie Foster then. Just kidding, in the last few years, I've come to realize it's not about what you want to be when you grow up. It's "what" you want to be doing right now, and embracing change as you grow and the "what" no longer suits you.
What are some of your future career aspirations?
A BIG goal of mine is to build something that focuses on the female perspective. Tech has been a very fast-moving industry, and no doubt we have benefited greatly from it, but women are still outnumbered in the tech industry. Think about the impact that has made on the ideas which lead to startups which lead to actual tech out there in the world. What would happen if there was a balanced perspective? Where would we be today?
What are some of your future personal goals?
My dream is to be my own boss. I know that sounds like a career goal, but I want to own my entire life and know that when I wake up in the morning, I'm in charge and following my dreams.
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