Successful inventor and author seeks to teach in Canada
At the start of the 2008-09 National Football League (NFL) season, defensive co-ordinators had the ability to designate a player to wear a “live” helmet equipped with a Motorola transmitter.
Featured in the May 21, 1992 edition of Share as a creative rising star, St. John Paul II Catholic Secondary School (formerly Blessed Pope John Paul II) and University of Toronto graduate, Brigitte Bastaldo-Tsampalis, played a significant role in designing the in-helmet radio for NFL defences who previously relied on hand signals from sideline coaches.
That was the last major technological project the former Scarborough resident worked on before ending a seven-year relationship with Motorola, which recruited her while she was completing her undergraduate studies in Canada.
“At the time, Motorola was among the Top 10 Fortune 500 companies and they were leaders in the mobile industry in terms of design of mobile phones,” said Bastaldo-Tsampalis, a married mother of two children. “I just packed up and left to go to their Illinois headquarters, not knowing anyone there. It was however worth the risk to be part of something that was cutting edge.”
Expecting to be among the team building phones, Bastaldo-Tsampalis was in for a surprise.
“I landed on a team that was creating solutions for the United States government,” she said. “That was interesting because we were creating technologies like text messaging, image recognition and GPS location that the world would soon take for granted. These products, that I coded and tested, were not part of the consumer market at the time.”
Looking for a new challenge, Bastaldo-Tsampalis left Motorola in 2007 and moved to New Jersey to explore art. She authored and illustrated a children’s book, The Busy Bee and the Lazy Lion, which was released a few months later.
“That was an exciting experience because, at the time, there wasn’t really a fusion between science and art,” she said. “You really had to choose between the two and I felt I hadn’t had a chance to explore that side of my interest.”
Always willing to take risks, Bastaldo-Tsampalis also launched a social networking website geared towards retailing and gifting luxury brands and designer products.
“I launched that start-up at a time when it was not cool to do that,” she said. “Everyone kept asking me why I didn’t want to be paid. It was an environment that was unbounded by the traditional kind of set-ups that people have today.”
OurNewLiving.com lasted 27 months.
“It failed for one major reason which was that I ran out of money,” said the Canadian Internet Registration Authority voting member.
Unfazed, Bastaldo-Tsampalis pursued an MBA at the University of Liverpool in 2011.
“My company’s failure was the reason for me doing that MBA,” she said. “My dissertation had to do with how people bought stuff online. I knew that the online shopping world was approaching, but there wasn’t enough research out there for people to understand how to decide what to buy when they shop online.”
In September 2012, Bastaldo-Tsampalis joined Verizon Wireless as an inventor and mobile demand generation consultant. A year later, she was part of a team planning and managing the launch of new products, including design, development and product prototype trials.
In the two roles, she conceptualized and designed 12 of the 15 patented new products she has filed in the United States. They include a method for generating a 3D object for visualizing multivariate data and an annotation for signage.
“What I am doing at Verizon is combining my academic knowledge, technical skills and the creative work I have been doing in the past,” said Bastaldo-Tsampalis who is a consumer Internet of Things (IoT) product manager. “I come up with the idea of how we can do things differently, create technology, design it and see if we can make a business out of it. That is where the fusion of innovation and my science background have come together in an environment that embraces it.”
Bastaldo-Tsampalis’ creativity was evident at a very young age.
“As far back as when I was seven, I was tampering with objects,” she said. “I didn’t really take them apart. I tried to put them together and build new things. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I would be using that creative talent all the way through to now.”
At age 15 while in high school, she won the Scarborough and Metro Separate School Boards science fairs first prize for researching what makes people yawn.
“People yawn all the time, but there wasn’t any research done with it,” said Bastaldo-Tsampalis who has a Master’s Certificate in project management from George Washington University and an Innovation & Entrepreneurship certificate from Stanford University. “I thought I could do the research and make a contribution to the world. Through my inquisitivity, I learned not only how to execute a research paper, but also there are so many streams of science that there was to discover.
“Before applying to U of T to do my undergrad, I really thought long and hard about pursuing psychology which was the field I was admitted to. But one year in, I realized that as much as I could understand human behaviour, I really couldn’t build something. That’s what led me to computer science.”
The former Raritan Valley Community College adjunct professor – who left Canada 16 years ago – plans to return home.
“My dream is to take this journey I am on and bring it back to Canada,” she said. “I would love the journey that I am on to end with me being home proliferating all that knowledge and experience I have gained. I would love to teach. My career path is an interesting story to share because a lot of what I was doing wasn’t the obvious path, but it came together. I want to help others take a chance and follow through on the things that intrigue them.”
She said her Pope John Paul II high school teachers laid the foundation for her success.
“It was a school filled with really talented teachers and they made me feel prepared for university,” she said. “Going there also helped me see a cross-section of Scarborough. Before that, I was sheltered as I lived in a fairly comfortable location in Scarborough. It was a good place for me to understand the diversity.”
The daughter of Trinidad & Tobago immigrants, Bastaldo-Tsampalis and her three siblings – they were all born in Canada – have made their parents very proud.
Twin sister, Gina Bastaldo, is a founding member of the Canadian Association of Neurophysiological Monitoring; Dana Bastaldo is a senior consultant at Monitor Deloitte and Brandon Bastaldo is a digital content administrator.