My Technology Career – Lifelong Learning and Growth

We sometimes forget how quickly technology has changed our lives. While this process is, if anything, accelerating, what I learned over my career in Canada’s largest financial institution is that it’s always a process that starts with meeting needs and joining them to possibilities – not unlike the art of politics.

In the old days – not as long ago as you might think – tellers had to calculate interest on your savings account using tables on sheets of paper, and write it into your passbook by hand. Early in my career, I started working on posting machines in a branch. The first programs were on punch cards (I still have samples of them today)!

Then I worked on branch automation, converting customer paper records to mainframe databases, posting cheques in batches and printing statements. I trained the first data entry clerks in head office on online payments system to replace the telex payment system. I led the design, development and implementation of banking machines, point-of-sale debit and credit card systems, internet banking, the SWIFT, INTERAC and PLUS networks – always based on the needs of our customers and our staff.

It’s hard to imagine, but none of the speedy and convenient financial transactions we take for granted today would be possible if we were still dealing with the limitations of paper-based systems being handled at the branch level.

When I became Chief Information Security Officer, my role was to protect all these systems, and to set the strategic direction globally for information security, working with other banks and companies like Microsoft, IBM, Cisco and others. And yes, it’s true, I became used to sleeping with two Blackberries in case there was an emergency somewhere in our network around the world!

Just as we have to do in society as a whole, I had to make sure that as they evolved, all these technological changes were integrated seamlessly and efficiently, with minimal inconvenience to our customers and staff. The volume of transactions has increased more than one hundred-fold and technology jobs have multiplied from the original 200 to more than 3,000 in my old organization alone.

This has created all kinds of new jobs and services, including the manufacturing of new products such as retail devices, banking machines and pin pads; the launch of banking machine services, operational services such as online help, payments settlement and balancing and interbank services.

We have become used to the idea that we can move, spend and access money from anywhere, immediately. Supporting this convenience requires a vast and largely invisible infrastructure that must be managed with the strictest rigour and competence.

I’d like to bring some of this experience, rooted in the values I have lived by in my years of volunteer and community work, to bear on the operations of our federal government. Shouldn’t our government be able to offer the same openness, transparence and excellent quality of service that Canadians take for granted from their financial institutions? This is one of the areas where I think my contribution could make a big difference.

NWLC Newsletter!

Diana was featured in the National Women’s Liberal Commission Newsletter!

Here’s Rona Maynard’s write-up on Diana.

“People from all over the world bring their hopes to Toronto Centre, among the most diverse ridings in Canada. Diana Burke has lived that story. She’s proof that an immigrant from Jamaica can start in an entry-level job at the age of 16, right out of high school—and soar to senior management at this country’s biggest bank.She’s the best kind of visionary—one you can trust. Remember when online banking was so new, some people felt kind of nervous? Diana was on the case…looking ahead to the next innovation. One of the first women recruits into RBC’s Technology group, Diana worked to build the automatic banking machine network and the point-of-sale networks that we take for granted today. She negotiated international and interbank agreements while managing multi-million-dollar contracts and suppliers. Millions of customers are sleeping in comfort, knowing their money is safe, thanks to the global technology system that Diana led and oversaw. Her expertise contributes to Canada’s reputation for financial stability and integrity. Imagine her insight working for you! Continue reading

Why I stand with Justin Trudeau

During the recent leadership race, there were many options to choose from. The Liberal party is blessed with an abundance of talented and passionate people who are dedicated to public service and we had a great field. For me, the clear choice in that race was Justin Trudeau, as it was for many.

Three things stand out to me from Justin Trudeau’s leadership campaign that made him my choice and the reason I decided to seek the nomination in Toronto-Centre where I have lived since 1979.

First, his campaign theme of “Hope and Hard Work”. For an immigrant who came here from Jamaica with hope and hard work, and little else, the theme resonated, and it continues to. I worked very hard for years to rise through the ranks of Canada’s largest bank and will work harder still on behalf of the people of Toronto Centre.

The second part of his campaign that struck me was his patience with policy. Although some criticized his lack of details on policy, I believe this showed patience and leadership. Justin Trudeau knows that the Liberal Party has many great policy ideas that come from hard working members in every riding and that a policy heavy campaign would send the wrong message. He is out there now touring the country, listening to Canadians and Liberal members, and our platform in 2015 will come from those conversations and the Liberal Party policy process.

Lastly, his dedication to transparency and openness in everything he does. Disclosure of all his income sources, disclosure more recently of his marijuana use, his insistence that all Liberal caucus members will post their expenses online, and his unwavering commitment to open nominations.

I am loyal to my leader, Justin Trudeau. I am loyal to the principles of hope and hard work. I am loyal to Liberal members, Canadians, and residents of Toronto-Centre who will help us craft a platform for the coming by-election and general election of 2015. I am loyal to the principles of transparency and openness Justin Trudeau and I share.