At Propra, Software Developer Cathleen Ghenne is working to empower property managers with innovative tools designed to help them get the job done. We spoke with her about her career as a trailblazing developer in the PropTech space.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background.
A: I’ve always been into computers and I developed my first website when I was 13. In highschool, I created a lot of small websites and projects. I was even part of the Computer Club.
I went on to study what Canada would call a Bachelor’s in Computer Science. After graduation, I worked for a few years in Belgium for a hospital in the public sector. I left that position because I thought “I’m young and I’ve never travelled.” So instead of just taking a holiday, I packed my bags and bought a one way ticket to London, UK, from my home country of Belgium to learn English and see what could happen.
I was in London for six years. I started out working for a tiny web agency with just three people. After that, I joined my first startup. Since then I’ve been working only in startups, which doesn’t surprise me because I’ve always had a great sense of adventure. What could be more professionally adventurous than building a company from the ground up! In that environment, I felt like I was finally able to code as fast as I wanted to.
Then I moved to Canada, which was very easy being bilingual and having worked in tech. I spent three years in Toronto, but by the time my immigration was approved, the housing market had boomed. Suddenly, it wasn’t affordable there anymore. It was really important to me to avoid renting and instead own property, so that’s why I moved to Calgary.
Q: What attracted you to Propra?
A: Working for Propra gave me the chance to embrace my heritage while also providing me the opportunity to be part of something exciting happening in my new city.
My dad’s an architect, so I’ve always been around properties. But there’s also a saying in Belgium. We say that we have a “brick in our stomachs” because owning your own property there is extremely common – around 72% of Belgians are homeowners. It’s something that’s an important part of the culture, and I’ve noticed that Canadians are also really invested in the topic. The housing market is always in the news here, and even more so now with the pandemic having such an impact on the housing market.
When I moved to Calgary, I bought a property and decided it was time to stop traveling all over the world and set down roots. Working at Propra also makes me feel more connected to my new city because what we're doing has a real impact on Calgarians and their homes. Even if you're renting, Propra gives tenants the opportunity to gain more visibility and involvement in property changes so they feel more at home.
Propra is a small company, but we’re growing so fast. Another one of my motivations for joining Propra was to create more jobs where I live and have an impact. 11 months ago I was the second employee. Now we’re at 20!
Q: What does a typical day-to-day look like for you?
A: The environment at Propra is very collaborative, which I enjoy. Whenever we code, we ask the people on our team to share their work to Github, so that the other people on the team can give it a second set of eyes. That’s typically where I start my day!
It takes a dynamic team with varying perspectives collaborating together each day to innovate industry-changing software. For instance, this morning, I brought up a really broad topic on something I think could create a big change in terms of our front-end architecture and code at Propra. I started by conducting my own research before asking the team what they thought about it, and will return to the team with some polished concepts. Through this collaborative team dynamic, what starts out as a simple thought or idea can be quickly refined into a new module or feature that will add more value and drive more impact for our customers.
Q: What inspires you about your job as a developer for Propra?
A: To me, it’s really motivating to work for a company that is trying to grow as quickly as possible. I’m also really inspired by the people I work with. Lately, I’ve spent a lot of my time recruiting for our engineering team, talking with potential candidates, and doing technical interviews. The process of sourcing the right people to help us build the Propra adventure is really inspiring. As someone who loves to travel and explore, I love that I get to meet all kinds of people who are excited about what we’re doing in PropTech and want to help us grow.
The moments I’ve shared with the Propra team are some of the major highlights of my career. In December, Propra was awarded $5K for the People's Choice in the UPStart Venture Challenge hosted by Queen’s Venture Network and Smith Centre for Business Venturing. Our two co-founders were doing their pitch with the laptop in front of them, and what no one else could see was that the rest of the company was on the other side of the table cheering for them.
Q: What unique offerings does Propra add to the property management space?
A: There are a lot of companies that have tried to do something in our space. The difference between Propra and our competitors is that we offer an end-to-end solution. Yes, that means a lot of work for us, but it also makes everything easier for the user.
Without Propra, a property management company would have to rely on 3 or 4 different types of software to run different parts of their business. By using Propra, they use just one, saving them time and money.
We’re always looking for ways to enhance the user experience. For example, I’m really excited about our upcoming accounting system for property financials. It’s not just one feature, it’s something that gets integrated into everything else that we do. Say a property manager is doing a move-out inspection on Propra and retains a few hundred dollars for some damages – that action will then trigger something in their accounting books.
While it may not be the most exciting feature, it’s so important and gives us such an advantage. We really do have a shot at changing how PropTech is done in Canada, maybe globally too.
Seeking a new professional challenge? Our team is always growing as we build groundbreaking technology in the property management industry! View our open roles to learn more about software developer jobs on our engineering team.