Career Profile: Tina Nalbandian – Senior Developer, Data Science
We recently sat down with Tina Nalbandian, a Senior Developer on our Business Intelligence & Data engineering team, to discuss what a career in data science at Bell looks like.
Tina was one of only 2 women in her computer science program in school, and is now a leader in Data Science working to encourage more women to join what she calls a “very creative” field.
Was technology something you were always interested in growing up?
I don’t come from a technical background at all, but I’ve always had an inherent interest in problem solving. For example, when I was younger, I’d take apart Lego sets and puzzles and try to put them back together without looking at the instructions. I chose a technical program in school because I knew it would enhance employment opportunities in the future. It was a wise choice!
Were you aware of the gender gap in computer science and engineering programs when you first entered the field?
I definitely noticed it once I entered the classroom. There were more men than women in both branches of study at my school, and in my technical program, there were only 2 female students out of a class of 20. We were actually the first 2 women to ever enroll in that program.
My female classmate and myself definitely had an extra drive to prove that we could do everything as well as the guys in our class. We encouraged each other a lot. That perseverance and resilience definitely contributed to my success, both in school and in my professional career.
How does someone becomes a data scientist?
My journey was pretty straightforward. I went to school in computer science. There were 2 branches to choose from in my Cegep – data management and industrial programming. I began studying the industrial aspect of the field, but have ended up working in data management.
I actually started my career at Bell as a call centre agent 15 years ago, but I spent my spare time trying figure out how to improve our systems and applications. That got me noticed by the Reporting team, who later approached me when a position opened up on their team. In that role, I used the knowledge I had gained from my education to build code to improve our processes. Coding has been an active part of the evolution of my career ever since.
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment in your career so far?
A few years ago, I got to work on a big project that required me to speak with many people and levels within the company – something I hadn’t been exposed to before. That really took me out of my comfort zone, but was a major turning point in my career. I became much more confident in my abilities and it gave me a lot more visibility. It was a different experience, but I’m glad I made that transition.
How do you keep your skills current when technology is constantly evolving?
The wonderful thing about Bell is that we get the opportunity to ramp up our knowledge with courses that are relevant to our field. This is vital – it allows us to stay up to date with the latest and best that is available today. We’re also encourage to attend forums and workshops as well, giving us the chance to hear about industry best practices and to network with our peers.
You’re a single mom. How do you manage to make it all work?
It’s tough. A couple years back, I made a choice to allow for a better work/life balance when my daughter said to me “Mommy, you’re on the computer? Again?” Now, whatever time I have with her is reserved strictly for her. If there’s work to be done, the laptop only gets turned on after she’s gone to sleep.
I’ve also established routines that I’ve found helpful, like preparing meals while she’s with her father so I can enjoy my time with her without distraction when she comes back.
Who has been a key influence in your career?
I’ve been very lucky to have very supportive leaders throughout my career at Bell. One leader in particular became my mentor and was instrumental in helping me set goals and provide tools and strategies to get to that place. My colleague Rupinder Dhillon is also a huge ally for me. As another woman in tech, we try to get together and chat as often as we can. It’s always good to sit down with someone who understands you and the specific challenges you face.
What advice would you give women and girls who want to go in tech and engineering fields?
I’d say go for it! It’s a very interesting field that will always allow you to keep learning and growing. You can transfer technology and engineering knowledge to so many different applications and areas. I see it as a creative field too – I think the natural inclination towards creativity that many women have brings an outside-the-box layer of innovation to the work we do.
Are you interested in a career at Bell, where we encourage and celebrate innovation? To learn more about our available opportunities, visit Bell.ca/careers.