Alumni profile - Konstantinos Bozas
I have now been working at Amazon for eight months... I am helping sellers actively find deficiencies in their products and then helping them to re-advertise their products in our marketplace... employees of Amazon are constantly encouraged to explore different opportunities within the company. Seeing as Amazon is so big, there is the option to move between different departments and job roles.
Why did you study your PhD in Electronic Engineering (Machine Learning and Computer Vision) at Queen Mary? My background is in computer science and informatics and I did my masters before coming to Queen Mary in Machine Learning and Computer Vision, which I found very interesting, so I decided I wanted to pursue this further. Also this area of Electronic Engineering encompasses Artificial Intelligence (AI) which is very fascinating; back when I first started my studies AI was intriguing as it represented something new and relatively unknown and unexplored, but it had become even more compelling when I was applying for my PhD as more developments had been made. Therefore, I thought my PhD would be a good opportunity to develop in this field and to conduct my own research as well.
What aspects of your degree did you find most enjoyable? What modules did you like learning about and was there anything that surprised you in your studies? As a whole my time at Queen Mary was enjoyable for several reasons. Firstly, was because of the space provided to study; we had a good lab with our own big desks which is important as the space you’re in has an impact on the quality of your work. Secondly, colleagues and students from my lab and the other labs I experienced during my studies were very friendly. I felt supported and welcomed from the very start of my studies and this continued all the way through.
Why did you choose to study at Queen Mary in particular? I knew that I wanted to study abroad and London was one of my top city choices so the location of Queen Mary was very important for me. However, I also chose Queen Mary as it is a high-ranking university and part of the Russel Group. Overall, I was pleased with my choice and my supervisor was really positive as well which helped me to make the most of my studies at Queen Mary.
How has your PhD enriched your life and why would you encourage others to study a PhD at Queen Mary? My PhD helped me to start a career in Data Science and taught me how to approach complex problems in a structured way. It was worth the effort and dedication I put in as you get many valuable lessons throughout the process. For those reasons, I would encourage someone that is considering starting a PhD to do so. Moreover, Queen Mary is a great university that can provide good support and hosts experts in many interesting research areas.
As an international student, how did you find the experience of living and studying in London? When I came to London to study for my PhD, it was my very first time in London. I didn’t find it too hard to adapt as I expected the culture and weather to be different to what I was used to. Of course, I had to adapt to a different lifestyle and so will other international students coming to London for the first time, but overall I found London to be a really beautiful city.
Considering how multicultural London and Queen Mary is, it wasn’t too difficult to find people from my home country with similar likes and dislikes. It was also nice to mix with people from other cultural backgrounds. Furthermore, London was and still is, at least in my profession, very good in terms of jobs; there are a lot of opportunities to help you progress in your career. I didn’t move back home after my PhD, I am still in London now. When you finish your PhD, usually you have the option to carry on researching and pursue an academic career, or apply science (your studies) to industry instead, which is what I chose to do. I got my first job after graduating quite fast; in terms of branding on your CV, Queen Mary is respected around the world, so my time here definitely helped my career.
Can you describe your career path up to date and touch on your current role as Senior Data Scientist at Amazon? It has been six years since I graduated from Queen Mary and I have worked as a Data Scientist for all of these years. My career has mainly consisted of applying machine learning and computer science to online advertising. When I graduated, I worked for a start-up company called Affectv, where we were trying to optimise online campaigns for advertisers, so basically trying to find the right opportunities for them to show their ads.
Then I moved to a Scandinavian company called Schibsted Media Group as a Senior Data Scientist. Even though Schibsted is relatively unknown outside Scandinavia, it operates some of the most popular marketplace sites across the world. In Scandinavia they have their own newspapers and marketplace and again I was working on audience targeting here. If an advertiser wanted to advertise in our marketplace, they were able to specify their desired audiences and I worked on the technology powering how we placed these adverts.
I have now been working at Amazon for eight months, working again in an advertising capacity helping people sell their products. I am helping sellers actively find deficiencies in their products and then helping them to re-advertise their products in our marketplace.
What is it like working for such a globally renowned company? How does it feel to be part of a company that is used frequently by such a large percentage of the world? It is very exciting to work for such a big company that is very well known. More or less everyone uses Amazon one way or another and there are a lot of different technologies and services at Amazon, not just online shopping. For instance Alexa, the language understanding technology behind Amazon Echo.
Amazon itself is a big source of knowledge when you look at the people who work there – many of the people are at the very top of their field so you can learn from them. There is also a big difference working in a start-up, like I did previously, compared to working in a big company in terms of the impact. It feels good when you accomplish something at a big company which you know will affect millions of people.
In terms of your future at Amazon, are there any other areas that you’d like to branch out into? At the moment I am still quite new as I haven’t spent a full year at Amazon but employees of Amazon are constantly encouraged to explore different opportunities within the company. Seeing as Amazon is so big, there is the option to move between different departments and job roles. I think it is a positive that you are encouraged to take on a new challenge and extend your knowledge skills because if you do a job repeatedly for quite some time then you can become complacent.
How do you get round the obstacle of communicating complex, technical ideas to a variety of different audiences? My time at Queen Mary gave me extensive teaching experience as part of my PhD and teaching complex, technical ideas is actually quite a big part of my current job when communicating my findings and algorithms. It is a skill that you acquire over time, quite often you can explain the overall process or end result, but there is no need to go into lots of details or use lots of complex jargon. It is important to know your audience a bit before you attempt to explain anything to them so that you can judge how much detail to go into.
How did you find juggling teaching and being a student whilst doing your PhD at Queen Mary? When you study for your PhD, it is different to your undergraduate or your postgraduate masters where you learn different modules; instead, your PhD is more independent research based, so I actually found the teaching side quite enjoyable as it broke up the research side.
Is there any advice you would give to current students or recent graduates considering their career options? Current students, from a Data Science perspective, it is good to follow the latest developments in terms of the science itself and the profession. Also make the most of resources online and try to be structured with your time when you study. If you can, try to gain some work experience, or produce something that shows you have experience in Data Science outside of your formal studies.
For recent graduates looking for a job now, network as much as possible and attend different events where you will be exposed to different people and where you can grow professional circles. Also spend time preparing for interviews, especially if you know you will have to demonstrate something technical as part of the interview process.
Has the ongoing pandemic had a direct impact on your work? The pandemic has definitely had an impact on the work we do at Amazon as many teams are currently working from home. Personally my team and I haven’t been affected too much as all the work that we do can be done from home virtually. The only part that is missing, obviously, is the human, face to face interaction.
What was so special about your time at Queen Mary? The people I met during my PhD made my experience very special; we were a close group with a very good connection. Whenever anyone graduated, we always celebrated in the Half Moon pub! I also really enjoyed the teaching experience and getting to know students.