NSERC Chair for
Women in Science & Engineering

Katie Barker

"Be curious about the different industries throughout ag"

Relationship Manager

Farm Credit Canada

What is your job and what most excites you about what you do?

My job on a surface level is to review loan applications and decide whether to approve them based on a financial analysis. On a deeper level my job is about getting to know producers, learning what they love about their business and helping them achieve the dreams and visions they have for their operation. What excites me most about what I do is when I get to see someone’s dreams take fruition and know that I had a small (or sometimes large) part to play in it. What also excites me is that being a Relationship Manager, I also stay connected with existing customers throughout the year, regardless of if there is a business need. Staying connected gives me the opportunity to learn so much more about them and their operation and sometimes it gives me the opportunity to celebrate special moments with them or to be there when they are going through a tougher times. It is something special to know that in some small way you can make a difference in someone’s day.

How diverse is your workplace, or your field of work as a whole? What do you think should be done to support greater diversity and create more inclusive practices in your workplace and in the Agriculture field?

Farm Credit Canada, nationwide, is a diverse workplace. Working in more rural offices such as Steinbach and Morden, culturally it is not very diverse, which is due to the demographic of the living in the rural prairies. Gender equality is quite strong in the offices I work in and across FCC. In my experience FCC puts a lot of emphasis on equal opportunities. I think that to support greater diversity, opportunities in the agriculture field needs to be promoted more at a high school level. I grew up in the city and when I told teachers and classmates that I was going to university to study agriculture the reactions were always of surprise and fascination because it never occurred to them that this field of study would even be an option. I don’t think a lot of people know how diverse the study of agriculture can be – whether you are into chemistry, or biology, mechanics, engineering, finance – all of these have a place in the agriculture industry but young people, particularly in cities need to be exposed to these opportunities to improve the diversity of the agricultural field.

What advice would you give to young women interested in a career in your field?

The advice I would give to young women interested in a career in Ag Finance would be to be curious about the different industries throughout ag. The feedback I get when dealing with producers is how hard it is to deal with someone who doesn’t understand their world. Each industry has different operating cycles, different challenges and opportunities. Understanding what these are can have a huge impact on the relationships and trust that you get to build with the people you work with. Take opportunities to work on a farm, go on tours of different operations, ask lots of questions! There is nothing farmers like more than to tell you the story of their operation and to share with you their knowledge of their industry. When I started out I was hesitant to ask questions because didn’t want people to know when I was uncertain or not understanding. People can see through this and nothing has made building relationships easier than being honest about what experience and knowledge you do have and having the confidence and curiosity to seek out the knowledge that you don’t.

What are some of your interests outside of work?

My interests outside of work mostly revolve around doing things I enjoy and at the same finding ways to challenge myself and encourage self-development. I really enjoy hiking and going for walks with my dog. I have recently started to focus on my personal fitness and have joined a women’s fitness group. At home I spend time reading, watching TV or baking. I also like crafting – I recently learned how to crochet and that has become one of my favorite things to do when it is too cold to go outside in the winter! I try to find ways to get involved in the community when I can. Last winter I fostered two puppies (separately but back to back) for a local animal rescue, which was both fun and incredibly challenging!

What are you most hoping you will learn from your mentee? What learning goals do you have for this experience?

I am excited to hear about the experiences my mentee has had as a young woman studying agriculture and in exploring a career in this field. Everyone has their own journey with different challenges and opportunities, so I am hoping to learn about these and see how they differ from the experience(s) I’ve had. I hope that the insight that I can provide from my journey provides a different perspective to my mentee. I have mentored two summers in a row with our internal summer students and I am so amazed at the new things I can learn just from seeing something from another’s perspective. I have been working in this field for 3.5 years and am pretty fresh out of university myself so I am excited to meet new people and I feel like this is an excellent opportunity to grow myself as a professional women in Ag.