Katherine Connolly

Software Engineer at Neo Financial

Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Environment, Sustainability and Society, and International Development Studies, 2012

It is really exciting to be writing code that will ultimately create a fully functional bank.

Katherine Connolly admits that going from a liberal arts education at King’s to writing code for a brand-new digital bank is, well, an unusual path.

“And it’s even weirder when you see what happens in between the two,” she laughs.

Indeed, it is.

Kate’s first stop after graduating happened with a walk across the Quad. She worked in King’s Registrar’s Office helping with recruitment and student advising for a couple of years. That led to a gig as a Residence Don before she decided to try another university. Kate graduated from King’s Environment, Sustainability and Society (ESS) program and enrolled at the University of Calgary’s Master’s program in Public Policy.

“Being so passionate about environmental issues I thought it would be valuable to study it in Alberta at the centre of the debate.”

With a second degree under her belt Kate headed off to the Czech Republic where she spent a year working at a hostel. It was a bit of a detour, but Kate got back on the path when she came back to Canada. She applied, she figures, for a hundred and fifty jobs, finally landing a position as Special Assistant to Ontario’s then-Premier Kathleen Wynne.

“She is the hardest worker I have ever met. Working beside her was life changing,” says Kate.

Kate’s job was to, among other tasks, manage the Premier’s schedule.

“I started thinking how much easier the job would be if I could write a computer program to help with the scheduling and organization. So, I started teaching myself how to code.”

Now Kate will be the first to tell you that at that point in her life she was anything but a techie.

“I was an arts student through and through. But the skills I got from the Foundation Year Program (FYP)—the independence, knowing how to learn, and the self determination—I could apply them to something totally different.”

When the Wynne Government lost the next election, Kate lost her job. But that interest in computer coding stayed with her.

“I signed up for a ten week learn-to-code boot camp with Lighthouse Labs. That was the hardest thing I have ever done. I initially dropped out but then I figured out how to do it, just like I had learned how to write my papers at King’s.”

Kate then applied to work for Lighthouse Labs. She says, “Having taken the boot camp and my experience from working at the Registrar’s Office at King’s advising and recruiting made me an ideal candidate.”

She got the job but within months job offers from other companies started to pour in. She ultimately chose to work for a start-up called Neo Financial, a brand new digital alternative to banking in Canada.

“They brought me on as one of their first developers. We are building everything from scratch so it is really exciting to be writing code that will ultimately create a fully functional bank.”

Kate knows that her career path has been anything but conventional and is certain that it will continue down the same “weird” path that started at King’s.

“Tech touches every part of our lives now, which is what I love most about this industry. I am still passionate about public service and the environment and I know there is a future where I can combine those passions with tech in a new and interesting way.”

Posted: March 2020