Marily Nika (PhD Computer Science, 2015) is an AI Product Manager at Google London and supports the development of speech technologies used all over the world. She is an advocate for women in tech and has given numerous TEDx talks receiving international recognition.
Why did you choose to study at Imperial?
"Imperial is an outstanding institution that is very well known all over the globe for its academic excellence, so its reputation preceded it in my home country, Greece. When I was back home researching graduate courses, I came across Imperial's MSc in Computing Science course which offers state-of-the-art courses that cover a wide range of subjects within the discipline, starting from the basics building all the way to the most complex notions. I knew that this course would give me the right foundations of CS and that I would be able to use these skills in any industry. Once the MSc degree was over, I decided that I wasn't done with Imperial - I had to stay longer! So I decided to pursue a PhD in Computing Science, in an interdisciplinary topic that was really interesting to me: the intersection between Social Networks and Epidemiology."
Tell us about your time at Imperial
"I still remember a very specific day -it was when the QS World University Rankings released their annual rankings, and Imperial College London was ranked as the top 5th University in the entire world (it must have been around 2007?). The entire campus was filled with huge balloons in the shape of the number "5" and all cafeterias would charge £5 for anything you wanted to eat. I believe there was even a band playing celebratory music all day long. I can't imagine of anything more memorable than this experience, especially when you're a young student that has a ton of work to do, what's more, motivating than knowing you're in an excellent institution? Other than that, Imperial was full of fun activities for the students, faculty was really supportive, and of course, the location of the South Kensington campus is outstanding - surrounded by museums, next to Hyde Park and great restaurants. I truly enjoyed my time there, and I wish I could turn back time and relive my student years again!"
Can you tell us what you've done since Graduation?
"Since Graduation, I've joined Google London's AI team, that develops Speech technologies for users all over the world. I got to learn all about product management, linguistics, machine learning, and how to deploy models on a very large scale. At the same time, I focused on a topic that's close to my heart: supporting the women in the tech community. I dream of a future where there is no diversity gap in tech. I founded the London Geekettes and also an EdTech startup for this purpose, in London. These initiatives led to me giving a total of three TEDx talks receiving international recognition — including the Woman of the Year 2018 Award as well as the Women in Science and Engineering Influence Award in 2015."
How has what you learnt at Imperial helped you in your career so far?
"At Imperial, I learned to navigate ambiguity without being afraid. I learned what it means to go to the library and find 10 books, and have analytical and critical thinking to understand what's
important to read and what is not. I learned to develop new skills quickly, and apply them to whatever it is I am working on. I also learned how to seek out help and leverage the resources that are around me, when I needed direction. I've used these skills almost on a daily basis at any job I've had after graduation."
What would be your advice for current students?
"My advice is: Hope is not a strategy! Don't just hope for things to come to you, go after them! This means you shouldn't be afraid to try new things:- don't be afraid to apply to a dream job that you think 'there's no way they'll get me'. - don't be afraid to create your own opportunities when you aren't fully satisfied with what you do, get out there and create acommunity! - don't be afraid to try out new programming languages, even if that means exiting your comfort zone - don't be afraid to quit a job in order to kick-off your own startup - don't be afraid to talk about your awesome work and take credit for your achievements, be amazing at what you do, and own it!"