This article is part of the Bright Leaders of Calgary series, which features prominent corporate leaders and their insights on the local business community and vision for the future.
Calgary is a digitally connected city, home to bright minds driving solutions to global challenges.
In an increasingly connected world, digital transformation is quickly becoming the largest driver of new solutions and technology investments among Calgary businesses. What’s driving this innovation is an ambitious skilled talent base, with Calgary companies projected to lead the $20 billion investment in digital transformation in Alberta by 2024.
Perceptions of Calgary as a city of innovation and opportunity are improving, and this is attracting top talent to our city from across Canada and around the world. In 2022, Calgary welcomed over 42,000 migrants, a record-breaking 445 per cent increase in year-over-year population growth from net migration.
Behind the bright minds helping solve global challenges in Calgary are catalyst organizations like ATB Financial and community leaders, like Jennifer Koo.
As Vice President of Insight, Experience and Product at ATB Financial, she’s a data-driven champion of strategic business solutions for her clients and community, and has seen Calgary emerge as a leader in digital transformation and innovation.
We caught up with Jennifer for her insights on leadership and opportunities within Calgary’s future-focused economy.
How have you seen Calgary embrace digital transformation (DX)?
Calgary’s entire ecosystem has embraced digital transformation and that’s why we’re positioned to lead the way. We are seeing investment from all levels of government, community organizations and higher education institutions through to the accelerators, business hubs and the private sector.
Calgary also has such a strong foundation to leap from, with our history as a leader in the energy and telecom industries. Both sectors have embraced and invested in technology and data for decades, so investments in machine learning, automation and robotics are naturally the next step to build from Calgary’s sound foundation.
What are your insights and observations of Calgary’s talent pool?
I have the privilege to also play a role as an educator and teach user experience (UX) and product development across the city, so I feel like I have a ground floor view of talent. What I continue to see – when reflecting on Calgary as a city, business environment, and talent pool – is a theme of rapid growth.
Calgary is a breeding ground for talented unicorns. We have so many people with different expertise and backgrounds driven to reskill or upskill right now. Many people are choosing to learn new skills and really dive to embrace digital transformation within their career, which I think makes Calgarians even more marketable.
I had a student approach me the other day with a background in financial services but interest in starting a new career in the tech industry. They were concerned about the career shift because they didn’t have a design background. In my opinion, this is exactly what makes for unicorns, where new skills and experience intersect.
At the core of it, I am excited to see Calgary as a continuously learning city.
How have you seen Calgary change over the last few years?
Calgary has experienced rapid growth, from people moving here and choosing Calgary as a place to live and build a life and equally as a destination for businesses.
What’s so exciting about this is how Calgary is an epicenter for new ideas and new perspectives. I think this makes us stronger and better, but also more interesting as a city.
What’s your vision for Calgary – where do you see the city in the next five to 10 years?
Collectively, we all have big plans for Calgary. I see us achieving a prosperous future together. Calgary will remain a city that people want to live in, want to build a life in, businesses want to move here and open up shop.
In the next five to ten years Calgary will experience a cultural explosion that reflects who we have become, while still rooted in our heritage. We will see diversification continue through both our pillar industries and talent pool. We will continue to create a thriving business environment.
For me – as a mother and a Calgarian, my vision for Calgary is one of possibility.
International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 and throughout the month. What does this time of reflection and celebration mean to you as a successful woman leader?
International Women’s Day is meaningful to me for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it’s important to me to see Women’s History Month being celebrated globally as it means we are at a place in society where we can elevate the conversation of equity.
Secondly, I have a strong sense of optimism for Calgary and I feel that collectively we are leaning into discussions to make our city more inclusive. Because of this, I feel as though I live in a place where I can live my best life, show up as I am, and add value in a professional setting.
Finally, a more personal reason that International Women’s Day is so special to me is because it’s the day my son was born. March 8 is a day that I celebrate both globally and personally. My son’s birthday provides me with a constant reminder of the importance of raising the next generation (both girls and boys) to fight for what’s right which includes a mindset that believes in making the world a better, more equitable place.
As we celebrate International Women’s Month, what advice do you have for the leaders of tomorrow?
Rather than advice, I would share what I’ve learned as I reflect back on the last 20 years.
- I can’t be anyone else but me. I don’t know how to be anybody else but me, so I’ve learned to have confidence that my unique set of strengths, experiences and personality traits are unique to me, and enable me to have value in the work that I do.
- Be curious: Unlearn, learn and apply learnings every single day.
- There’s power in intentionality. Intentionality is one of my favourite words, and I believe it’s the pathway to success. Intentionality is where you put your energy and your passion. If you add your authentic self, your every-day learnings, and you bring as many people with you on your journey as possible... for me, that has led to success.
The Team Calgary corporate partnership program engages our community’s visionary thought leaders to influence Calgary’s economic growth and create long-term prosperity and opportunities for all Calgarians.
Together, we advance the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy, as the path to make Calgary the place where bright minds and big ideas come together with an unmatched spirit to help solve global challenges.