Meet Ruth: Code for Canada’s Director of Delivery

Ruth Birman

Ruth Birman

August 12, 2021

Ruth 1

Meet Ruth, Code for Canada’s new Director of Delivery.

Ruth began her career in market research at the age of 15 as an interviewer testing various products, services, and marketing campaigns. Fascinated with telecommunications and technology, she pivoted to customer service at Rogers and after pushing for several process improvements and enhancements for internal software became a business analyst. This kicked off a career in both business process optimization and user experience design working for clients like TD, RBC as well as projects like Project Literacy and The Giving Tower. From there she moved into broader product strategy working on software that solved supply chain issues for some of the world's biggest brands and ultimately building product and design teams.

Clearly your path to tech was unique and non-linear - tell us about it!

My passion has always been around product and design. I’m a lifelong Canadian, born and raised in Toronto, but my path was never easy. Coming from a turbulent household, I wasn’t able to stay in my home as a teenager and worked hard to push myself forward and find opportunities that didn’t ordinarily exist for folks like me. I wanted to break the cycle.

I started working in product testing and market research, but I really wanted to explore the human-computer connection and how people interact with different objects around them. I pivoted my career to user experience design and soon moved into working on the overall strategy behind products — I wanted to understand why certain products exist, what needs they can serve, and mainly, why they delighted me so much!

What brought you to Code for Canada?

The first time I arrived at Code for Canada felt like magical timing; I’d left behind the private sector to find new opportunities. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next, but I knew I wanted to do something more meaningful.

It just so happened that someone I met at a meetup reached out about Code for Canada. As I learned more about the organization, the projects and the people, I realized I had finally found the type of impactful work I was looking for.

I saw the chance to put my skills and experience into building and supporting projects that could help the country that's been so good to me. I’ve been lucky to have access to support through some extremely challenging times. Government services helped make sure I was safe, make sure I was healthy, and make sure I was fed and I want to give back to help other residents.

What is your vision for Code for Canada as Director of Delivery? What are you looking forward to working on?

Perhaps it's because I'm a past user experience designer and product person at heart, but I'm always thinking about what value does our product deliver. Transitioning to a more digital way of working is difficult and requires a lot of change management. It's one thing to do the thing, it's another to not only do the thing but also bring everybody along for the ride. It’s a huge challenge to make that really effective, repeatable and scalable. We’re asking a lot from our partners and we have to think about how we can deliver even more value. I think the one thing that we can try to do better in any partnership is to figure out a better way of building lifelong capacity.

Right now, I’m focusing on the learnings that we've had from some of our past projects and figuring out what we need to tackle from there. I'm really looking forward to seeing how we can grow relationships between C4C and our respective partners while learning from them and helping them achieve their goals.

What advice do you have for those thinking of starting a career in civic tech or digital government?

If you're finding yourself deeply unfulfilled in your career don't wait too long. It took me a long time to make this switch and find my purpose. Part of it was just being scared and wondering, “how am I going to do this, how do I start to effect change? “

There’s lots of different paths into this work. You never know what random connection will be your entry into a career in civic tech or digital government. Don’t be afraid to just go out and make some connections. Start going to meetups, start talking to people, or get involved in the community and work on projects.

Let’s end on a fun fact! What’s something you like to do in your spare time?

I am fascinated with virtual reality, simulation and its connection with neuroscience. As a user experience designer, I spent some time exploring the space and ended up in a rabbit hole on how the human brain responds to stimuli in a VR headset. The brain is just so cool! That was unexpected, but actually, one of the most fascinating hobbies I ever had a chance to pick up.