Skip to main content

Karen Stewart

Chief Information Officer (CIO)
City of Maple Ridge
Karen Stewart
Karen Stewart

Karen Stewart is the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the City of Maple Ridge.

About me

I was born/grew up in:  Regina, Saskatchewan

I now live in:  Langley, British Columbia

I completed my training/education at: British Columbia Institute of Technology, Bachelor of Technology, Geomatics

What I do at work

I manage the Information Technology (IT) team for the City of Maple Ridge. In this position, I am responsible for directing all Information Technology functions in the organization. I do this within the framework set by the corporate and Council strategic plans. I provide leadership, insight and strategic direction to the IT team. I support the City’s strategic direction and processes through technology.

 

I am a thought leader and innovator. This means that I bring in new ideas and ways of doing things. I use technology to improve communication, operations and decision-making. My goal is to improve the services provided by the City of Maple Ridge. This is done through the efficient use of information and geographic technologies, data and connected workflows. All this has to be carried out using the available budget.  To do this I also provide advice and direction to staff throughout the city. I do this by making sure the Information Technology team and other business areas are in regular contact.

In my work, I use skills related to information technology  and geographic information systems (GIS). I also use skills related to the management of people, resources and services. I use a variety of tools to review current processes and recommend technology upgrades. I also provide advice on planned initiatives to make sure the City gets the best from its technology assets.

 

I make decisions every day. My main tasks include recommending, developing and implementing approved information systems. I also lead the development of policies and strategies to support the City’s current and future business information and data needs.  I am also responsible for directing the analysis and development of information systems requirements. To do this I have to keep up to date with technical innovations, and develop short, mid and long-term information services plans. When necessary, I also recommend hardware and software changes and upgrades.  I work with the IT team and all of the City’s departments to review technology applications and business practices. The goal is to help city staff, the public and businesses improve what they do by making better use of the technology tools we have available.

 

A background in STEM helps me solve problems. These skills provide me with the knowledge, skills and ability to see the big picture. My STEM skills help me think logically about a problem and at the same time be creative in my solutions. I always start by asking “why”. I focus on the business process and required outcomes first. Then I investigate technology solutions that will provide the needed changes. Mostly, I have fun!

My career path is

I did not expect to get into this field when I was in high school.  When I was in high school, I wanted to become a marine biologist. Instead, I started out in the Arts (Graphics and Communication) and then moved into Geomatics. I was fascinated by the analytical capabilities of the technology.  I graduated from BCIT with a Bachelor of Technology Geomatics Degree.

Instead of an apprenticeship or internship I completed a practicum.  My career started out in utilities with BC Gas.  Then I moved into local government and then to the private sector.  I came back to local government as the Senior Manager of Geomatics for the City of Abbotsford. Now, I am the CIO (Chief Information Officer) for the City of Maple Ridge, which I am absolutely thrilled about!

 

My career has had a few twists and turns. I did not think about the fact that the industry I chose was male dominated when I started out.  It proved to have some challenges. However, I have always been determined to succeed.  I did not let the fact that I was one of very few women in this industry hold me back. As CIO for the City of Maple Ridge, I hope to inspire many young people to thrive on innovation, solve issues using technology, while keeping people, processes, data and the big picture in mind.  Keep it holistic!

I am motivated by

I love solving problems and innovating! I find it fascinating to look at the trends in Information Technology and how new innovations can be used to solve problems. I enjoy solving problems, creating efficiency using technology and helping people make data-driven decisions. This career is right for me because I am a creative thinker – a technical artist and problem solver. My career enables all of this. Technology can help us solve problems and create better ways of doing things. It can also help connect people and workflows. To do this,  people, processes and business outcomes have to be considered holistically (i.e., as a group of interconnected parts).

 

Working in local government and making an impact in the community is personally rewarding to me. In 2019 I won the ASAP Award for Innovation at the City of Abbotsford. In 2012 I received a Service Award from URISA for my dedication and faithful service to URISA. In 2011 I received an award of appreciation for sitting on the board of directors for URISA. In 2005 our URISA BC Chapter won an outstanding chapter award.  In 2004 I received an excellence in leadership award from URISA BC.  I have also presented at various conferences, trade shows and meetings to advance the use of GIS and technology, including at Women in Public Works and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities events.

How I affect people’s lives

A career in Technology/GIS/Geomatics gives you the tools to help solve issues in your own community. These issues can relate to such things a health, zoning, services, greenways, crime, trash, traffic, and more. It allows you to bring data, technology, people and processes together to improve a community need.

To be effective solving community needs there has to be collaboration across government agencies, citizen communities and businesses. GIS is a technology that improves this entire process.  With the use of GIS, goals become actionable, real-world initiatives that create safe, well-run, livable, healthy, prosperous and sustainable communities.  I believe there is nothing we can’t solve using technology as long as we can manage the people, data and processes required to implement the solution.

Outside of work I

I love to travel and see how people work, live and play in other countries. It is great to meet and experience how the local people live.  I like to take jewelry that I made (handmade in Canada) and give it to a local to say ‘thanks’ for the kindness they show.  Over the course of my career, I have volunteered for numerous trade associations (e.g., URISA, URISA BC, MISA BC, GITA, PWABC) as well as Toastmasters.  I also belonged to a semi-professional acting troupe that raised money for different charities.  We raised over $200K during a span of 14 years of volunteering.  I love hiking, walking, cycling and weather permitting - snorkeling.  I have also been known to do some welding and silversmithing from time to time.

My advice to others

I would say go for it!  There is so much opportunity in this field. If you love problem-solving, technology, making the world a better place and creating sustainability then a career in Geomatics/GIS/Information Technology could be for you.  To be successful you should make sure to get an advanced diploma or degree in Geomatics/GIS.  Having your Applied Science Technologist (AScT) designation is helpful for career placement.  I also have a Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP) designation, which I believe is valuable to have in this field. Belonging to various trade associations and getting involved is helpful to grow your network.  People love to help people and you never know when you may need a mentor. Always start with why? Do not take anything personal. Learn from your mistakes. Be compassionate. Have integrity. Be trustworthy and support your team. Always focus on continuous improvement.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Art
  • Computer Science
  • Drama
  • Foods & Nutrition
  • Foreign Languages
  • Geography
  • Home Economics/Family Studies
  • Industrial Arts/Shop Programs
  • Literature and English Language Arts
  • Math
  • Music
  • Physical Education
  • Technology
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Brought people together
  • Liked helping people
  • Organized activities for my friends
  • Enjoyed working with my hands
  • Was motivated by success
  • Engaged in volunteer activities
  • Liked reading
  • Felt at home in the outside, natural environment
  • Was really creative
  • Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do
  • Liked to design or build things
  • Engaged in activities such as fishing and berry picking

Partners

Advancing Women in Engineering and Technology

Let's Talk Science would like to thank the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC (ASTTBC) for connecting us with the individual profiled above.

Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC (ASTTBC) is leading the Advancing Women in Engineering and Technology Project, a Sector Labour Market Partnership project, funded through the Canada-BC Workforce Development Agreement. The project’s goal is to increase the participation of women in the engineering, geoscience, technology and technician occupations through the implementation of diversity and inclusion strategies to recruit, retain and support career development of women to lead a system level cultural shift within these professions.

ASTTBC Technology ProfessionalsFunding provided by the Government of Canada through the Canada-British Columbia Workforce Development Agreement

Explore Career Profiles

  • Ryan Mitchell headshot

    Ryan Mitchell

    Hatchery Supervisor

    My job is to supervise the daily workflow at our salmon hatchery.
  • Steve Lawrence headshot with trees in the background

    Steve Lawrence

    Sales Manager

    As sales manager for Eos Positioning in Canada, I work with the Sales Reps, Marketing and Production.
  • Nathan Kostiuk headshot

    Nathan Kostiuk

    Western Regional Coordinator

    Nathan coordinates the work of the Let’s Talk Science volunteer sites from Manitoba to British Columbia.
  • Moustafa Eldeeb onsite at Seaspan Shipyard’s North Vancouver, BC facility.

    Mustafa Eldeeb

    Project Manager, Navy Programs

    I am responsible for ensuring the various project teams are performing well and following to the approved budget and schedule set for each project.
  • Justin Kole tenant un caniche dans ses bras.

    Justin M. R. Kole

    Operations Advisor

    I track and organize upcoming customer deliveries and provide customer education on the technology in Tesla automobiles.
  • Viviana Ramirez-Luna dehors en hiver

    Viviana Ramirez-Luna (she/her)

    Environmental Entrepreneur

    I founded (and run) a consulting company to help businesses, communities, and organizations reduce the waste they produce
  • Ilias Hader

    Ilias Hader (he/him)

    Artificial Intelligence Consultant & Team Leader

    I help companies take advantage of AI technologies and I manage a team to build an automated food production system for long space missions. 
  • Steve Fletcher

    Steve Fletcher

    Managing Director

    I am the Managing Director of the Automotive Recyclers of Canada.
  • Amanda McCallum

    Amanda McCallum

    Geologist, Communication Specialist, Business Owner

    I'm a prospecting geologist, a science communication specialist and business owner.
  • Bryan Rolph

    Bryan Rolph

    Sales Manager

    I lead a team of technical sales professionals that help deliver on the best technology solutions for our customers.
  • Dawn Pratt avec ses filles au Centre spatial de Houston

    Dawn Pratt

    STEM Consultant

    I develop programs and STEM content and advise on the development of STEM programs.
  • Ashley Noseworthy avec l'océan derrière elle

    Ashley Noseworthy

    CEO/Founder of Edgewise Environmental

    I own and operate an environmental consultancy that helps companies reduce their underwater noise pollution.
  • Edwin Makkinga

    Edwin Makkinga

    Manager, Climate Policy

    In my job I consider the risks and opportunities from climate-related public policy and how Enbridge can be part of the solution to the climate crisis.
  • Steven Ryan derrière un bureau debout avec son ordinateur portable

    Steven Ryan

    Creative Director

    Steven Ryan is a creative director with a design and marketing communications firm.
  • Vivek Chauhan

    Vivek Chauhan

    Program Advisor, Renewable Generation

    Vivek is an electrical engineer who works for Ontario Power Generation.
  • Patty Simpson

    Patty Simpson (she/her)

    Environmental Coordinator

    As the head of the Environment Department at a uranium mine, it is my responsibility to make sure that the mine does not pollute the surrounding environment.
  • Luc Houle à la maison

    Luc Houle (he/him)

    Founder of Johnny Footwear

    I create, manufacture and market biodegradable sneakers that grow into trees.
  • Wendy Keyzer au travail

    Wendy Keyzer

    Manager, Strategy and Business Development Operations

    I support activities like proposal development and strategic projects to expand our innovation efforts at Seaspan Shipyards.
  • Sukhleen Chahal

    Sukhleen Chahal

    Proposal Specialist

    I write contract change proposals for work to be done that was not part of the original work plan.
  • Michelle Franze dans un petit avion.

    Michelle Franze (she/her)

    Manager of Communications, Partnerships and Community Relations

    I provide internal and external communications for the BC Salmon Farmers Association.