Minding the [digital] gender gap : A conversation with Vic Chan
CDS can only deliver better, more accessible, and more inclusive public services if we harness diverse thoughts, experiences, and skills. We strive to make CDS more reflective of the people that we serve, and to create an environment where different perspectives and experiences are valued.
Join us as we chat with Victoria Chan, CDS website team lead. Vic shares some lessons learned, her experience as a BIPOC woman in tech, and the benefit of investing in your employees’ career development.
1. Can you tell us about your background?
Vic: “I have a background in journalism. After finishing my masters at Toronto Metropolitan University, I spent a few years freelance writing while working as an assistant at a hotel. My day job involved working with legacy systems that were challenging to use, and I became fascinated with how digital services like Airbnb were transforming traditional industries like hospitality. I knew nothing about technology, but wanted to explore its disruptive potential. So I left.
After that, I did a nine-week bootcamp in web development at Juno College. I quickly realized I didn’t have the chops to become a full-time developer, but the experience gave me the confidence to reach out to CDS for opportunities.
Since then, I’ve been working here for almost 4 years (distributed from Toronto). I started out as a storyteller and am now leading a multidisciplinary team in the redesign of the CDS website. “
2. What does a typical day look like for you?
Vic: “The website team is currently focused on doing a full redesign of the CDS website, so a typical day for me involves any type of work that helps us plan, connect, collaborate, and deliver. That could be anything from facilitating a group brainstorm session to finding training opportunities that support someone’s professional development.
I’ve bought into the idea that some of us are most productive in the morning, so I try to tackle key tasks and problem-solving when I start work. I typically have meetings throughout the day and try to take advantage of afternoons for creative work, like ideation. When I’m overwhelmed or procrastinating, something that’s helped maintain structure and flow is the two-minute rule — if something takes less than two minutes, you should just do it right away. “
3. Can you speak on your experience as a BIPOC woman in a male dominated industry?
Vic: “Early in my career, I absorbed the mentality that if someone takes a big piece of the pie, that leaves less for everyone else. That has changed. Whether it was journalism, hospitality, or civic tech, I’ve had the privilege of learning from female mentors, including women of colour, who showed me the ropes, helped me navigate work dynamics, and advocated for my ideas to be heard.
It’s easy to underestimate the impact that a learning culture can have on leveling the playing field for people with intersecting identities. From experiencing its value firsthand, I try to integrate mentorship and coaching into my role as a manager and collaborator because at some point, someone did the same for me.
I believe investing in employee development, whether through knowledge sharing, open feedback or creating opportunities to up-skill, are ways to put into practice an organization’s commitment to equity. And if it’s something that can’t be made an organizational priority for whatever reason, that doesn’t mean we (those that hold more power, privilege, and resources in the workplace) can’t carve out our own space to practice mentorship and coaching at an individual level.”
4. Can you share a highlight from your time at CDS?
Vic: “Learning to embrace creative tension. We have a huge mission to support the Government of Canada on the digital front to serve people better. My role is to ensure the CDS website helps users find what they need quickly, so I work closely with people from different disciplines and build solutions from multiple perspectives.
My colleagues bring a level of passion and expertise that I find humbling, energizing, and sometimes frustrating, but necessary for change. I’ve come to accept that disagreement, conflict, and discomfort are not always bad things, but fundamental parts of the creative process. “
5. What about some of the challenges?
Vic: “The website team is a small one, made up of four people — a content designer, interaction designer, developer, and me (team lead). Our biggest challenge is finding the right balance between our limited capacity, maintaining the website, and creating an experience that helps people get to where they need to go. We’ve learned to be resourceful and make small steps to eventually achieve big changes.
For example, last year we released the first iteration of a site-wide search bar. While our team wanted to improve the feature, we didn’t have capacity to do large-scale usability testing and analysis (it didn’t help that I was away on language training). So the team started with small steps, testing internally with colleagues to get quick feedback and improve the search bar’s usability, paving the way for research with external folks down the line. Our content designer Charlotte, and our developer Omar, even wrote separate blogs about building for learning and iteration with our web search bar and the steps to building a website search bar. “
Empowering the next generation
Vic, and many like her, continuously work to push through systemic barriers, while leading and showing up as their authentic selves. By sharing stories and experiences like Vic’s we hope to empower a new generation of young girls and non-binary folk to explore careers and education in STEM related fields.
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