Dr Dimitra Gkatzia

I grew up in a small town in the north-west part of mainland Greece, then moved to Athens to study for my undergrad degree in Digital Systems. Living in a big city like Athens as an undergrad is an amazing experience, so many things happen culturally, educationally and technologically and it really helps with shaping an understanding of the grown-up world. At the time, it was popular for people to do a Masters degree abroad, so I came to Scotland to do a Masters in Artificial Intelligence at Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh, without knowing exactly what to expect.

This was the first time I was introduced to AI and was mind-blown. I really wanted to explore and learn more about machine learning and Artificial Intelligence. I was so fortunate to be offered a scholarship by Heriot-Watt and had the chance to work with some amazing professors and researchers that really challenged and shaped the way I think. After a short period as a postdoc, I joined Edinburgh Napier as a full-time academic. 

What would you tell your teenage self?

To embrace your individuality, there is a lot of pressure on teenagers to do certain things, follow certain careers, look a certain way, but people should follow their instincts, interests and talents, work hard, learn from their mistakes and trust the process that things will work out despite difficulties and setbacks. 

Who has been a big/biggest inspiration in your life (doesn’t need to be career focused)?

I’m inspired daily by the strong women around me, my friends, family or colleagues for different reasons, their kindness, their support and work ethic. Professionally, the biggest inspiration have been two very hard-working and intelligent women, my PhD supervisor Helen Hastie (Prof at Edinburgh University and Head of Informatics) and my postdoc line manager, Verena Rieser (researcher at Google DeepMind). Their work ethic, perseverance and down-to-earth mentality are all admirable traits. 

What attracted you to a career in computing / tech?

While at high school, I was introduced to programming and I was immediately fascinated by the problem solving abilities, the clever algorithms that can be used to quickly solve problems and generally I was intrigued by the different way of thinking that you don’t normally get in classic subjects. 

What makes you angry?

Unkind people. 

What have you done you are most proud of?

Completing a PhD is probably one of the toughest things I’ve done. But now I get a lot of satisfaction when I help others to reach their potential.

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