Meet the Judges: Kathryn Bulko

Kathryn Bulko is the manager of client relationships for IT in a newly formed business enablement and client services division at the City of Toronto. In her role, she delivers on the IT needs of citizen-facing departments such as shelter, support and housing administration, and employment and social services. In her 20 years with the City, Bulko has witnessed its amalgamation and the power of technology in delivering citizen services. “I love learning about not just the IT, but looking at how IT can really be an enabler to the business, serve the taxpayers, the citizens of Toronto,” said Bulko.

Career précis

After studying mechanical engineering and business at Durham College in Oshawa, Ont., the Toronto native began her career at T. Eaton Co., once the country’s largest department store retailer, at a time when the business used Wang systems and manual spreadsheets in what she called a very “unsophisticated” manner. “They had no computers at all at the time,” recalls Bulko. “It was my role to introduce technology to them. It was wonderful.” By the time she left T. Eaton a decade later, Bulko had fully automated the advertising and marketing departments. Bulko then made a shift from the private to public sector, joining the City of Toronto where she would spend the next 20 years in various roles in IT procurement as well as a two-year project management position heading the City’s Y2K rollout.

Early Leadership Exposure

Bulko admires the “magnanimous” leader in Ray Luft, a statistician and economist formerly of T. Eaton, who encouraged her to constantly learn new things on the job, such as taking Fridays to experiment with new software. “He always told me to make as many mistakes as I like but don’t make the same ones twice,” said Bulko. Luft’s fair yet non-aggressive style of leadership resounds well with Bulko. “He was a born leader,” she said. “He’s the one who sits on my shoulder everyday.”

Leadership Philosophy

Bulko believes in empowering others and nurturing them into successful individuals. “It’s important to give them the tools and freedom to be the best they can be, to let them try new things, to let them not be afraid of failing,” she said. That’s not all. She also believes in equal parts laughter and work. “You have to remember to laugh,” said Bulko.

Nominate someone you know for ComputerWorld Canada’s IT Leadership Awards today. The deadline for nominations is Aug. 11.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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