Written by Katya Irwin
Just over a year ago, Cecilia Ratke packed up her car in North Carolina and headed in the direction of the Canadian border. Fresh out of college, the world was full of possibilities. Her plan? To hit the road, do some hiking and see where the journey would lead.
A few weeks later, she rolled into Penticton, where her parents had recently settled to be closer to family. She was also on the hunt for a job. While her degree is in Art History, she had also studied physics and math, and had a basic knowledge of coding. Turns out, it was the perfect recipe for a job with Big Bear Software as a Quality Assurance Analyst and Junior Web Developer.
The new role was a learning experience, but there’s no doubt Cecilia thrives on an intellectual challenge.
“I’m always interested in learning. I was one of those weird kids who liked school,” she jokes.
Today, Cecilia is one of the first faces you see through the windows in the morning, quietly glued to her screen testing software, writing guides or talking virtually with clients.
“In my job, I have a lot of freedom to learn new things and try things out. The testing itself, you have to get into the mind of whoever the user is. It takes thought and creativity trying to figure out all the loopholes,” she explains.
At 23, she may also be the youngest at Cowork. She appreciates the routine of being in a buzzy workplace, surrounded by people – “and all the plants.”
“I work so much better when I’m in an environment where other people are working,” she says. “It keeps me on track.”
When not at work, Cecilia might be seen playing a piano. Or hiking the hills around Penticton. Or experimenting with new baking recipes.
“I really enjoy baking – not decorating cakes – I hate decorating cakes. Baking, it’s like a scientific procedure and there’s some ingredients you can’t change because it will mess up the whole composition. I mainly like trying to make new things, combine flavours.”
And let’s not forget her newly discovered hobby.
“I’m really enjoying gardening. I’m terrible with houseplants because I always kill them. I name them and everything. They’re my babies, so it’s terribly upsetting. But this past summer, I’ve been learning from my grandmother, growing outdoors instead. We grew a bunch of vegetables and herbs and it was really satisfying to see them thrive.”
As for her piano playing, Cecilia is a classically trained pianist, lately working on expanding her repertoire.
“I’m keeping up on classical but trying to learn how to write and improvise,” she says, confessing it may be a while before she performs for crowds. “I’m super perfectionist so I run into a problem where I keep feeling it’s still not ready. I do think that it would be fun, eventually, to play for people.”
Cecilia grew up in Hickory, N.C., a small town in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. It’s an area with great hiking nearby. She moved to Georgia to attend the liberal arts college, Berry College. After that, she knew she was ready to move on from her hometown.
“It used to be the furniture-making capital of the world, but it isn’t anymore,” she says. “It’s close to the size of Penticton, but without being squeezed between the lakes and mountains so it’s more spread out. Here in Penticton, it’s fun to have this whole tourism industry because that didn’t exist in a manufacturing ghost town-type place. I do miss the landscape of tall trees and brick buildings though.”
What do you love most about Penticton?
“Probably the lakes. I like that I can walk and look at a lake – they’re really beautiful. It’s not that I didn’t grow up near beautiful places but the fact that everything is within walking distances, it’s pretty amazing. I can walk to the beach on my lunch break.”
Come see me about …
“Art history, baking, music and testing software.”
Something you might not know about me
“I’m a classically trained pianist.”
“Chocolate. I have a big sweet tooth.”
Playing piano, gardening, art and hiking – “I hope to do more of it.”
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