March 7, 2017

Career Profile: VP of Bell Media Network

Behind your CTV programs, soccer matches on TSN channels, CraveTV App, the cameras that capture the shows you love, graphic systems, servers and broadcast network is a Network team comprised of Broadcast and TV Engineers all working to ensure your service is spectacular. The woman leading this team is Borika Vucinic, VP of Bell Media Network. A member of Bell’s Diversity Leadership Council, Borika actively mentors other women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields to “pay it forward” so that other women can experience the same opportunities as she has (like launching satellites into space). We sat down with Borika to hear about her career journey, how she’s driving gender parity and, of course, what it was like to launch the Nimiq 6 satellite.

Bell Media: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Borika Vucinic: I immigrated to Canada in 1995 from Bosnia-Herzegovina. I came with my sister (who now also works for Bell on the Mobility team). We received assistance through a United Way agency to prepare our resumes and to apply for jobs. In the beginning it was difficult, everything was new, my English was good, but I struggled with communication. Our counsellor at the United Way suggested we look for volunteer opportunities to get Canadian work experience on our resumes. I applied for a volunteer position at Bell, because my background was in Electrical Engineering, Telecommunications, and they replied right away.

On January 30, 1996, within six months of immigrating to Canada, I started volunteering for Bell Mobility at a position in the Control Centre sorting out a cell-site database. It allowed me to get my foot in the door. After finishing the job, I was offered a contract position and within a few months I landed a full-time job as a Technician at Bell Mobility’s Switch Office. Since the beginning of my career at Bell, I’ve moved around from Mobility to Bell TV and now Bell Media, but I’ve always stayed within the Network team. Everything that has happened to me and my family in Canada is connected to Bell. Canada gave me a livelihood and citizenship and Bell gave me an opportunity to create a living and to be acknowledged as a professional in my field.

Bell Media: Tell us about what you do and your role at Bell.

BV: I am the Vice President of Network for Bell Media. The Network team is made up of various roles and encompasses many different aspects. It’s not just the wires, fibre, IP networks, and servers. Network is also the core, access, platforms, software, hardware and the applications. My team is comprised of the individuals behind the cameras, studios, master control, etc. They are the team that ensures that everything we put on air, TV, or radio is the content that customers want and that it’s delivered in the highest quality.

Bell Media: IT and Network tend to be male dominated industries. Being a female in a male dominated industry what actions do you take to help drive gender parity?

I feel hugely responsible to pay forward the opportunities that I’ve been given. This means ensuring that there are women successors in place and that there’s more gender parity within the Network team. I’m now a member of the Diversity Leadership Council at Bell. I’m very excited to be a member of the council and I look forward to driving change through the initiatives that we lead. We organize events on a quarterly basis that make women in leadership roles more accessible to other women in the organization by driving conversations about career progression, offering a helping hand, offering career advice, and providing a little confidence boost when necessary.

I’m also a strong proponent of STEM based education and assisting women, who come into technical roles grow, from one role to another. I mentor a dozen women and men in various technical roles across Bell. It really starts with those in leadership roles encouraging women by saying, “Yes, you can be a leader. We encourage and support you.”

Bell Media: You led the team responsible for designing the Nimiq 6 satellite with Telesat and Space System Loral. Can you speak about that experience?

BV: This was absolutely the highlight of my career. In 2008, we started designing and building a new Nimiq 6 satellite which was needed to carry hundreds of channels to our Bell TV customers. We designed a satellite that would cover Canada, had great performance, as well as great uplink and downlink capacities so that we could provide the best quality and tremendous bandwidth to our customers. This satellite was a compilation of so many years of hard work by my team at Bell TV, RF Engineering and our partners Telesat, Space System Loral, and the International Launch Services.

On many occasions, we went down to California to see the satellite being built, which were all amazing experiences. For context, on Earth our antenna dishes are quite large (9.1 – 12 meters in diameter), but on the satellite the antenna dish is only 1.2 meters in diameter and its geostationary orbit is 36,000 kilometers away. To make the signal hit the antenna dish so precisely is quite unbelievable.

During the launch in May 2012, we had the opportunity to have a live feed for our Bell TV employees in Toronto from the launch pad in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. In Kazakhstan, we were positioned about five kilometres away from the launch pad. At first you see the bright light, then you hear the rocket launching, the earth shakes and it’s unbelievable. After the launch was successful I screamed out with joy. Nimiq 6 is predicted to have enough batteries and fuel to last until at least 2048. It has a solar battery system, so that most of the energy it utilizes comes from the sun.

Bell Media: You were recently involved in a Women at Bell event where you took place in a panel discussion about the, “Keys to Success.” What was your motivation in being a part of the panel?

BV: I want to “pay it forward”. I really believe that we as women, especially women in technical roles, need to share our career journeys and encourage other women to confidently and freely go about pursuing their careers. Women that I meet at these panel discussions are smart, capable, and contribute greatly to the goals of this company. Sometimes it’s their own self-esteem or confidence that pulls them back, but I use these panels to encourage people to feel good about themselves and to pursue their career goals.

Bell Media: How will you be celebrating International Women’s Day?

BV: I will be co-hosting an informal conversation at our Agincourt offices on career progression and diversity. I continue to support and celebrate International Women’s Day because I feel we need to recognize and remember all the women who haven’t had the same opportunities we’ve had. They may not have food on their table, they may live or have lived in a war-torn country, or they may even have to think about saving their lives and the lives of their family members. I want to recognize those women. By making changes in our world we can help and inspire women from all walks of life.

Bell Media: Who is your role model and why?

BV: Professionally I have had many role models including and many leaders who have supported me throughout the years.

My dad is my ultimate role model. He and my mom worked really hard to put food on the table and to build us a home. Most importantly, he taught me about integrity, authenticity, and about being who you are in life and at work.

Bell Media: What is the best advice you’ve ever received from a mentor?

BV: Every day try to be the best version of yourself and deliver your best. Find a way to highlight your strengths and work on your challenges.

Bell Media: What advice would you give to a young woman who wants to work in your field?

BV: Come in! Honestly. You don’t necessarily have to have an IT or Network related degree. If you come with good leadership skills and a willingness to learn then you can do anything! You have to start from somewhere. I started as a technician and progressed from there.

Bell Media: How do you maintain your inspiration or spark?

I love to learn. My favourite time is training, courses, reading, and learning about new technologies and features and then figuring out how to apply these in your work.

I’m also inspired by the people around me who are making things happen. When I hear about these great people making a difference it makes me smile. A great example was this year’s Super Bowl, which we carried on all our CTV and TSN stations. We had 100 people in a room and everything was just clicking. That spark is going to fuel me for the next couple of months because it was amazing.

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