Headshot of Nikolaos

Life after a PhD in Cryptography – Nikolaos’ experience

We close our series of #EdTechDataCareers guest blogs with a contribution from Nikolaos Lamprou. Nikolaos graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2021 with a PhD degree in Computer Science and is currently working as a Cyber Security Engineer at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). In this blog, Nikolaos reflects on what he learned from his PhD studies in Cryptography and provides an insight into his move into industry.

Looking back at starting my PhD studies at Edinburgh

I remember my thoughts when I was leaving Athens in 2016 for the first time to travel abroad just to continue my studies after my masters degree. I was very excited and at the same time very nervous about what I am going to face.

My first reaction when I landed at the airport were two things: shocked by the cold weather and pleased at how welcoming the people were.

I left in September at 30 degrees and when I arrived in Edinburgh was barely 15.

I remember feeling a little bit lost as I wasn’t very familiar with the processes or the Scottish accent. All of these feelings suddenly diminished when people around me, even at the airport, were so willing to help.

What do you think was the most valuable aspect of your time at the University of Edinburgh in preparation for your career?

In my PhD, I had the privilege to know already a few things about research as I had already published an article during my masters degree. This gave me the time to explore more research areas. I am grateful that during my PhD I had the opportunity to work with some amazing people in terms of character ethics and scientific background.

But, the most important thing that I learned during my PhD wasn’t how to undertake research but how to approach a problem:

  • What strategy I need to follow for solving it
  • What tools are available and what tools I need to develop
  • How to communicate my findings with internal and external collaborators to name just a few.

My career journey after my PhD

After completing my PhD and having been published at some well-known conferences around cryptography, I decided to stay for a little longer in academia working as a Post-doc. It was great but I felt something was missing – the real-world impact of my work.

When solving a problem in academia could be a breakthrough, something to improve, something to ‘break’ or just something to tell. In academia, they have the saying ‘publish or perish’; this is when I felt the need to work outside academia and see how cryptographers work in an industrial setting.

My move into my current role at JLR

After that, I started to apply for crypto/cyber security-oriented positions around the industry. This is where I found the position of cyber security engineer in JLR. At first, I thought ‘How are cyber security and the automotive industry are mixing together?’

After research, I found that cybersecurity was in demand due to the rise of EVs (electric vehicles) and the new features they add to mitigate the risk of potential attacks. This is when I applied and after some interviews, I was delighted to receive my offer.

Now after two months of working in JLR as an engineer, I think my choice was correct. JLR is a wonderful place to work and enrich myself.

Parting advice

PhD years can be intense with a lot of up and downs. Despite that, the end is rewarding whether you continue in academia or not. Trust the process and, most importantly, make the most of opportunities.

Thanks Nikolaos.

JLR have early careers opportunities – check out their website for more details and look out for opportunities on MyCareerHub.

We have advice on the Careers Service website on Moving on to a PhD.


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