Katy Archer joined MRA in January 2022 as the Chief Technology Officer and Division Manager of MRA’s Minnesota location. She brings with her 17 years of experience as a driver of change, leading efforts to improve the products and resources for MRA members and employees.
Katy has always been a catalyst for change. She was introduced to technology as an administrative assistant, right out of college. Her desire to learn more provided numerous opportunities for her to work her way up. She was never afraid to take on assignments that no one else wanted, seeing them as learning experiences. Some of those assignments took her outside her comfort zone, but having the will to learn more about the things no one else wanted to take on really paid off.
Not all moves in Katy’s career have been forward moves. Some have been lateral moves that provided opportunities for her to become more well-rounded. For example, one move allowed her to work in the call center for her company, providing exposure to customer experiences. It enhanced her understanding of that area of the company, which allowed her to work on solutions when rejoining the IT team. Those experiences led her to understanding the need for companies to grow technology, but also opened her eyes to how few women work in that area of business.
Katy is a mentor with Technovation in Minnesota, a nonprofit group that fosters interest in technology for girls from fourth grade through high school. Young women learn about opportunities in technology and also work on related projects, such as creating solution-based apps to see firsthand how their efforts can impact the world. “Fifteen percent of CTOs are women. Historically, certain roles are just focused on men, just like some focus on women. For example, traditionally women are secretaries and nurses, and men dominate technology. Those dynamics are changing, and we need to break those barriers.”
Katy feels that introducing girls to this type of innovation early on can help make them more adaptable as the world changes. The COVID-19 pandemic is the perfect example—it brought so many challenges, some of which were solved by technology. Not only did the pandemic promote the use of virtual meetings, she points out that most processes that involved paper prior to the pandemic have become digital. Now the expectation is for everything to be in real time, same day, fast, and easy. Without technology, that is not possible.
Security has also become more important than ever before. For people who were used to a more traditional way of doing things, security issues became a serious threat and struggle. The transition to multi-factor authentication and changing passwords more often is now a normal part of keeping information safe and secure, she explains. “COVID-19 forced us to find more creative ways to do things. There are different expectations for trainings and other business needs and technology can be the vehicle to getting it done. The expectations of going from paper to digital were the wildest. Consumer usage and expectations are so broad right now, which makes it very challenging.”
She encourages companies to always have a strategy. “Having a list of things you want to accomplish and being forward thinking can help you be prepared for shifts. But also be agile and ready to adapt when things don’t go as planned. You never want to be the first person, but you also don’t want to lag. It can be wise to let others find the bugs and be the resource for fixing them.” In addition, she advises that when providing resources to customers, it is also important to know where they fall on that spectrum and be ready to work within those expectations. Although some of the changes made in response to the pandemic appear to be quick fixes, Katy feels that others are here to stay. Hybrid work is one solution that seemed temporary but is now a requirement for many. When the transition first happened, security and compliance loosened up for things like notaries, signatures, and protected documents. IT was called upon to find solutions to make those processes more efficient and secure again. The reality is that those things may not ever be done on paper again.
The digital transformation poses a big challenge. People now expect everything to happen in real time—press a button to submit and the transaction is over. This opens the door to cyber security breaches. Katy cautions on the following:
- Fraudsters continue to get smarter and smarter. Companies need to stay one step ahead of them.
- It is important for companies of any size to protect against cyberattacks. Security needs to be top-of-mind because the risk is there.
- Information sharing is a big concern. This includes everything from passwords to login habits. Procedures and policies related to Internet access, in addition to security training, are critical.
Katy also stresses the importance of staying on top of common scams and phishing efforts. Companies with ongoing training and refresher courses will have better luck staying ahead of scammers. Anti-virus software is also recommended to help provide a barrier against threats. Here are Katy’s top three takeaways and actions toward securing a cyber-safe environment:
- Review your processes, not just your technology. If the processes are not safe, foolproof, or error-proof, it is difficult to protect the system.
- Be careful with what is sent through email. Train people to recognize scams and to ask questions if something seems suspicious. It is important to be aware and cognizant when sending personal and sensitive data.
- Each of us knows our own processes best. If something seems off, strange, or different, raise it up to a co-worker or leader for a second set of eyes. Timely action on a potential issue is key!