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A career in cyber security

uczjsdd7 January 2021

Dr Ardavan Alamir has a PhD in Physics and now works in cyber-security at G-Research. We caught up with Ardavan to hear about his role and career journey so far.

Tell us about your job.

I work as a Tech Lead Cyber Data Scientist at G-Research, a fintech organisation. Cyber security is very important for the business. The cyber function collects a huge volume and diversity of data, big data. So my role is to help the cyber analyst sift through the data quicker with the help of data science. One particular area of focus is the use of anomaly detection to find unusual signs of activity that we could be indicative of a cyber attack.

How did you move from academia to here?

I finished my PhD and I was looking for a PostDoc. The search didn’t go well. Then a friend who works in Big Data and data analytics strongly encouraged me to switch to Machine Learning. I studied the famous Andrew Ng course on Coursera. It was brilliant. Then I started to apply and I found my first job in an Education Tech company.

What was the recruitment process like?

Interviews have 2 main focuses: technical and behaviour. For a data scientist role, a lot of the interviews will revolve around Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Probability/Statistics, SQL queries and Computer Science Data Structures/Algorithms. So you need to make sure you learn the key topics of these fields. You have a lot of sample interview questions online. Great resources are glassdoor, leetcode.com and interviewquery.com. The behaviour part is about finding out about you as a potential colleague.

What does a normal working day look like for you?

I start my day with a team meeting at 9am. In the morning I try to do some personal learning that will be useful for my work. Then I work on a current project. I also have regular meetings with my fellow team members to discuss progress with current projects.

What are the best bits?

Getting to do cutting edge research and getting paid much more than in academia!

What are the biggest challenges?

he worst bits in the corporate world, especially in bigger corporations, is the politics. You have Game of Thrones all the time, especially for employees at manager level or above. When you stay in a technical role, it shouldn’t concern you too much though you will witness it.

Is a PhD essential for your role?

No, but what the PhD helped me with is the ability to do effective research in a new area, see a project through its end, and computational and analytical skills.

What top tips would you pass on to researchers interested in this type of work?

Definitely do some online courses on Machine Learning, Stats and Algorithms/Data Structures. These are the 3 key areas where most companies will interview candidates. I would even say that acquiring knowledge in these three areas is more important than doing personal projects. And definitely have passion !