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Melissa Valdez

Technical Consultant, Watson AI
IBM Canada
Photo de Melissa Mathers
Photo de Melissa Mathers
Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway

Melissa Valdez is a Technical Consultant of Watson AI for IBM Canada.

About me

I was born/grew up in: Windsor, Ontario

I now live in: Toronto, Ontario

I completed my training/education at: University of Windsor (BSc 2015), York University (MSc 2017)

What I do at work

Right now, most of my work focuses on building "Virtual Assistants" using a technology called Watson Assistant. Virtual Assistants are sophisticated chatbots. Chatbots are software programs that “talk” to humans by copying human conversation.  By asking, and answering questions, they can perform tasks and assist customers. Watson Assistant is a Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithm, a type of Artificial Intelligence (AI). It is my job to customize the AI for a specific uses. An example of this is the program that provides advice to university students on various personal and academic questions they may have.  

My days are never the same. I have a home base at a Toronto IBM office, but about half the time I'm on site at one of our clients' offices for consulting work. Consultants can travel up to 80% of the time - 4 of 5 days a week! When I'm at IBM I work on “training” Watson so it can understand a user's input and respond appropriately. To do this I give examples of the types of questions people might ask and examples of the type(s) of answers that would make sense to a human.

My career path is

When I was in high school, I didn't know what I wanted to do! I studied physics because it was my favourite subject. Volunteering when I was a student at university helped me expand my network. Someone I met as a volunteer was my connection to IBM and helped me get the job I have today. When I was doing research, I craved more in-person interaction. When I was working in outreach and education, I found myself wanting to do work that was more technical. Kind of like Goldilocks, I found my "just right" career in consulting. Now I get to use my technical skills and my people skills equally.

I am motivated by

I love that I get to learn new things every single day. IBM is really a big company and there are so many intelligent people working here from all corners of the globe. Consulting is a business focused on people - so there is a big emphasis on learning new skills and professional development. There are many courses, online resources, and working groups, you can join to learn new skills. That definitely keeps things interesting! Plus, no two projects are the same! We are always pushing to develop new and unique customer experiences. I personally enjoy it because it's a perfect mix of technical work and interaction with clients.

How I affect peoples’ lives

The virtual assistants we are building aim to help make peoples' lives easier. Our clients are all large companies, and the virtual assistants we build simplify interactions for potentially millions of customers, and sometimes thousands of their employees, too.

Outside of work I

I try to focus on creative hobbies outside of work because I spend so much time on the computer during the day. I practice dip pen calligraphy, and I like to go to the gym or join a yoga class to keep my body moving.

My advice to others

Jump into coding as early as you can - it's just like learning any language so the longer you practise the better you'll be! Other than that, volunteer for causes you care about to keep you engaged and meeting new people.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Art
  • Computer Science
  • Foreign Languages
  • History
  • Math
  • Science
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Brought people together
  • Liked helping people
  • Organized activities for my friends
  • Played on a sports team
  • Was motivated by success
  • Wanted to be in charge
  • Engaged in volunteer activities
  • Liked reading
  • Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades
  • Wasn’t sure what I wanted to do
  • Learned best by doing

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