Lynne Robson

March 1, 2024

Blazing a digital trail: a Red River Métis woman's journey in the tech industry

Red River Métis Citizen Lynne Robson is a web developer, artisan, and entrepreneur who has worked in the tech industry for over 25 years.

When the Internet began to take off, Lynne Robson knew she was going to be in for the ride of her life. The Red River Métis web developer has spent the last 25 years establishing herself as an entrepreneur. Her thriving web development business, Crazy Chameleon Web Development, focuses on building and designing websites, creating branding packages, logos, and more to ensure the ever-changing needs of her clients are being met with her services.

Robson first began exploring her interest in the world of computers at a young age.

"It goes back to when I was in high school. I was always interested in computers and computers were new. When I say new, they were new in a way unlike today where your phone holds more information and more data than the computer I worked on when I was young," she said. "I thought computers were cool. I thought they were kind of fun, and I started learning how to do programming."

Following her graduation from high school, Robson intended to become a programmer for "mom and pop" businesses.

"In those days there was no 'online,' and the only way that you could have an accounting program or any of that kind of thing on your computer was to have it programmed," the entrepreneur recalled.

In 1987, the web developer began navigating her post-secondary education. Shortly after she saw one of the biggest changes in the tech industry to date.

"I went to Red River (Polytech) and I was going to be this great, fantastic, wonderful programmer, and (then) this little startup company (Microsoft) from Redmond, Washington introduced Windows 3.0 about halfway into my program," she recalled. "(This) made me obsolete overnight. 'That was it,' I said. 'That's it, no more tech for me.' (I) turned around, walked away, and never looked back. Or so I thought."

"I say that if you're going to do it, do it big. Regardless of what industry you want to get into, there is somebody in the MMF who has already done it, so ask questions. Get involved with your Locals. Become part of the community and ask questions and somebody will point you in the right direction." - Lynne Robson, Red River Métis web developer and entrepreneur

In 1996, Robson and her husband moved to White Rock, B.C. to pursue work opportunities. During that time, she learned her neighbour worked for Microsoft, further sparking her interest in the growing world of the Internet.

"(My neighbour) brought me home some software and I never looked back. I started working as a subcontractor for Microsoft, the company that put me out of business in the first place, and here I am, almost 30 years later," she said.

As the Internet continued to evolve, more and more challenges began to emerge.

"Going into the industry was sort of the 'wild, wild west.' When we started, nobody was doing what we were doing, the Internet was new," Robson said. "As a business owner, it was back to that concept that the only way you got it done was to hire somebody to do it. There were very few people who built websites because none of that (website-building software) existed at this point. So, I was working with proprietary software through Microsoft, and I was selling built templates."

Subcontracting through Microsoft led Robson to work with a wide range of clientele, allowing for global reach from the comforts of her own home.

Robson began working as a contractor for Microsoft in 1996.

"I was one of maybe 25 or 30 people in the world, not (just) using the software, but developing for the software. I had clients in South America, South Korea, and in Australia. I had clients worldwide. It was a completely different world than it is today when it comes to web development," she said.

Robson remembers her early days at Microsoft fondly, specifically the connections she made with other women who were starting their careers in the tech world.

"I was lucky to meet them, and we created an industry together. We created an entire industry together. And then things changed. The template business changed. The template industry changed; the Internet changed," said Robson.

In the early 2000s, the Red River Métis entrepreneur saw the Internet landscape shift drastically with what was known as the "Internet 2.0."

"Things became interactive. That's where blogs became something where people could sort of connect with blogging and the beginnings of YouTube, and the beginnings of social media," Robson said. "I like to think in some way, shape, or form, the amazing women that were paving the way 30 years ago are the reason why we have the stuff that we do today."

Navigating the tech world did not come without its challenges. According to Robson, it still surprises people within her industry that she knows how to code.

"There's always a thing that when we talk about web development (that) our website developers were men and the website designers were women, because women designed pretty things and men were smart enough to code," she said. "A lot of that hasn't changed. This perception still exists in some cases, but some of the best web designers and web developers I know are women."

Robson describes the tech world as a male-dominated industry, which continues to be that way because of outdated stereotypes which have led to pay discrepancies, less representation in larger markets, and fewer women participating in the field.

"If you go and take a look at who owns the big web development companies in Winnipeg and Canada, it's mostly men. All the little companies tend to be owned by women," she said.

Robson appreciates the variety of programs that are offered through the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF), specifically from affiliates Infinity Women Secretariat (IWS) and the Louis Riel Capital Corporation (LRCC), and their role in teaching Citizens how to navigate entrepreneurship and the workforce.

"If we're talking from the perspective of the Manitoba Métis Federation and Métis Citizens, there are some awesome programs. Get involved with LRCC. Get involved with the IWS, because they're great when it comes to helping women, businesses, and pointing you in the right direction. They have some great networking opportunities," she said.

The entrepreneur has participated in many programs offered through IWS, including a Jelly Academy course and various networking events. That has led her to work with other Red River Métis entrepreneurs and IWS.

Robson has participated in many programs offered through IWS, including a Jelly Academy course.

"I've always preferred working with women, and most of my clients, not all my clients, have been women," she said. "I like the idea of what's going on now with the MMF and working with small Internet businesses. There are so many great businesses out there that need websites, and so many of them are MMF Citizens, and I think everybody needs that opportunity to build those connections."

In addition to connecting with the MMF, Robson encourages young Red River Métis women entrepreneurs to find mentors who will assist them in their dreams of entrepreneurship and ask them hard-hitting questions.

"I say that if you're going to do it, do it big. Regardless of what industry you want to get into, there is somebody in the MMF who has already done it, so ask questions," she said. "Get involved with your Locals. Become part of the community and ask questions and somebody will point you in the right direction."

Robson feels a great sense of pride in the hard work she has poured into her career and the position she holds in the tech world today.

"I started my business as a web developer in 1996 and I'm still here, and I think that's my biggest accomplishment," she said. "I've been able to persevere and change with the times and change as the industry has changed. I've been able to change with it, and I do it on my own terms."


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