It is fun to turn the culture around – bringing cutting-edge technologies to the business.
Research - that is Anastasia Varava’s comfort zone. Yet it's the most challenging part of her job. She first came to Sweden from Ukraine in 2014 to study at KTH. But when she graduated with a Ph.D. in computer science 5 years later, she didn't feel she was ready to leave the academic sphere. So, she stayed on and worked as an AI researcher at KTH for two more years before she landed her job here at SEB as a Data Scientist.
Since she started, she has been a key component in bridging the gap between academia and business. What do we mean by that? Well, Anastasia explains:
"We collaborate with academia to drive change in the bank, making it more data- and AI-driven. That is the most exciting part of the job since it hasn't been done before. Change is a large interest in our organization, and it is nice to be able to use my network and competence from my academic background in the business."
At SEB, we are in a unique position. We are in between high-end technology and business, and according to Anastasia, it is a thrilling thought – to drive change.
“In our team, we bring machine learning into the business and create a community around it. I think it is exciting that people are interested in this topic and want to learn more, and it has a lot to do with us succeeding. We are dealing with many challenges, but when things work, people become more open – which is obviously beneficial.”
And the winning ingredient to success? Bridging the gap between business and the research world, Anastasia says.
"Currently, we collaborate with the academic world on different levels. We constantly attract students to our team to develop machine learning and AI methods to solve complex problems. Today, many Master's and Ph.D. students are working with us and contributing with their research knowledge. Ph.D. students work part-time with the university and part-time with us, creating state-of-the-art solutions for our business problems. Furthermore, we are currently coordinating the NLP track of WARA Media & Language, a research arena funded by WASP which is – by far – the largest Swedish research initiative that spans the largest technical universities in the country. The goal is to bring this awesome research community closer to business and benefit from the talent involved. I am happy to be one of the representatives driving all these efforts at SEB."
According to Anastasia, many people think banks are stuck in the old tradition and are afraid of change – but SEB is nothing like that. We always think about how to further develop the products and services for our customers. There is also an open environment for trying new things, and Anastasia feels that she can express her ideas, especially in her team, which she truly enjoys working alongside and within. However, greatness does not come without some challenges, which Anastasia thinks has to do with the lack of experience working with data in the past.
"We have some technical challenges since it wasn’t a long time ago we started working with data at the bank. Some of our systems have been designed in the past and are not up-to-date with today's standards. So, we are trying to improve our processes and make the bank even more tech-friendly than it already is. It is also quite fun and challenging at the same time to present our work to a broad audience, enabling people with different backgrounds to work with modern technologies."
To satisfy our customers and a constantly changing market, we need to deliver IT solutions beyond the ordinary. That’s why it’s truly an inspiration to have Anastasia with us, making the bank more modern by working with research – to develop our products and services. Are you up for a challenge and want to change the definition of what a bank should be? We have many exciting career paths just like Anastasia’s.