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13 December, 2022

#26 Portait d'une femme dans le secteur financier: Wayra Andrea Villarroel Zambrana

“It always seems impossible until is done – Nelson Mandela” this words of wisdom have driven me for the past 14 years and still do.

Can you explain your role shortly?

I am a Data Analytics Translator at BNP Paribas Fortis. I make the bridge between business front office and data scientists. Simply explained I translate the business needs into projects that could use Artificial Intelligence to make the life of clients easier.

What brought you to finance?

When I was little, while other kids dreamed about becoming astronauts I wanted to work for a bank. I remember as if it was yesterday that would join my mother to her appointments at the bank and thinking “one day I will be like this elegant lady, I will be working for bank”.  Today, I find myself accomplishing that aspiration, working as Data Analytics Translator for one the largest banks in Europe, BNP Paribas Fortis (BNPPF).

I grew up in Cochabamba, a city in Bolivia. I have always been curious about meeting people from other countries, I strongly believe that people from different origins can learn a lot from each other.  Since I started my studies at university I dreamed about being able to work in a multicultural environment and that moment I made my goal to do my Master studies abroad.

And so I did, after 1.5 years after finishing my career as Industrial Engineer and working as consultant in Bolivia, I found myself jumping on a plane towards an adventure in Belgium as a Scholarship student at Solvay for a Master in Microfinance. Thanks to the Master I met interesting colleagues & friends from around the world and have even done an internship in Indonesia.

After my studies, I went back to the consulting business and ending up working at the Data Department of BNP Paribas Fortis, an amazing experience that helped me to develop my soft & hard skills, not to mention the chance to discover the power data as a valuable asset for company’s successes. After 3.5 years of consulting, in March 2022 I decided to embark myself into a new adventure working in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) field as an internal employee of BNP Paribas Fortis.

As my husband would say ”it was not luck but rather your effort on creating the opportunity for yourself”. Hence leveraging  on my networking with colleagues and speaking up about my interest of evolving into a new challenge, I was given the opportunity to work internally as Data Analytics Translator for the Center of Expertise of Analytics & AI, helping my team to deploy projects across the bank leveraging of AI capabilities. AND by the way being able to speak English, French and even Spanish at work, hopefully Dutch will come in the future ;)

What is something you learned recently on gender equality?

I was expecting when I joined as internal that our bank would be committed to gender equality. I’m happy to report this is indeed the case. When I started as an internal, we were only 3 ladies (me included) on a team of 15 people. There has been a positive evolution in the number of recruitments of women in my team. Most of the new people are women. I’m also happy about the ethnic diversity in our team: we now have a team of 16 people of which 8 different nationalities.

If you could give any advice to your younger self or young women starting their career, what would that be?

My advice would be (actually my mom’s): “Wawa que no llora no mama” which means ” baby who does not cry does not eat”, if you do not go for the opportunity then the opportunity is not going to knock on your door, you  have to work for it, create the set up  and  speak loud of what it is that you  want. If you can picture it, you can make it happen and remember that “It always seems impossible until is done” and NEVER underestimate the “great power of  relationships”.

Life is full of challenges that seem impossible to tackle at the beginning, but if  you “just do it”, one day without realizing it you will find yourself  at the other side of the road with that goal accomplished, thinking about how hard  it looked at the start but you have made it!


Interviewed by: Anna Maria Francken 

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