Ia Kochiashvili

Astrophysicist is now a cybersecurity analyst (and on LinkedIn)

Ia Kochiashvili did her PhD research monitoring the remotest galaxies of the Universe. Now she monitors computer networks.

A few years ago I spent a day at the Dark Cosmology Centre at the University of Copenhagen for a feature in the university newspaper. One of the people I met was Ia Kochiashvili.

Ia Kochiashvili

Ia did her astrophysics PhD on extremely distant galaxies

She was doing her PhD on types of objects called Lyman Alpha emission line galaxies. Only telescopes can observe them. Out there, distant, at the ends and beginnings of the Universe.

Now, seeing that Ia had recently started being active on LinkedIn, I decided to catch up. I am interested in how researchers make the social media transition from intense, focussed, PhD work at university, to a job in the private sector. Here, wider networking skills and partnerships, and other types of work routines are more pervasive.

Ia seemed to be an excellent example of someone who had made this transition. Why is she suddenly there on LinkedIn? What is the difference, between now and then?

Opted out of academic career

Originally from Georgia, Ia grew up on a high mountain observatory. Her mother is also an astronomer.

”When I was in the middle of my PhD I was consumed by it, and I thought I was going to do postdoctoral research. But I realised towards the end that it would be hard to to continue down an academic career path, and I also realised I wanted to do something different. And as for LinkedIn and Twitter, I had accounts, but that was it.”

“You get views from people that are related to people – that are related to people – that you know.”

”After my PhD, my husband got a job here in Turin, Italy, and we moved. And then we had a son. There were no jobs, specifically, in my astrophysics field. However before my time at the Dark Cosmology Centre I did some courses on computer networks, and reckoned that I should branch into that. So I did a six month intensive Cisco course on computer networks. It was all in Italian, which was tough for me at the time, but the written material was in English, so I managed.”

Ia Kochiashvili

The data can be something you collect from the telescope, or it can be something you collect from the network.

”At the end of the course, a cybersecurity consulting company was hiring new personnel to work on their new advanced product they had called Aramis, which detects anomalies on networks. It sounded interesting, and I went for the interview. Cybersecurity is, after all, the future!”

Data from skies, data from networks

The leap from astrophysics to cybersecurity analysis is not as big as you might think, she says.

”There is the whole data science part of cybersecurity. The data can be anything. It can be something that you collect from the telescope, or it can be something that you collect from the network. Data science is not something, specifically, that I haven’t done yet because I wanted to get more into understanding malware, and in to understanding attack methods.  But the next thing for me is that I would like to do more on the data science side of cyber security.”

“If you are active, your name is top of mind for people in the specific field that you are interested in.”

As for LinkedIn, Ia now spends 15-20 minutes a day on it. She uses it to keep up to date on the news related to her field, her own specialty interest in aviation cyber security, and catching up with former and present colleagues, she says, She doesn’t feel that she has missed anything from not using the platform during her PhD, but she admits that she can never know.

Related to those who are related

Seeing the reach on her own posts is always interesting, she says:

”You get views from people that are related to people – that are related to people – that you know. This, at some point I hope, can help me in the future. If you are active, your name is top of mind for people in the specific field that you are interested in.”

Some people prefer to have specific times of day allotted to their professional use of social media platforms. But for Ia Kochiashvili, Linkedin is tied into the flow of her working day.

”It is a way of mentally resting between one task and another task on the job. I get away from my screen as well, of course, for breaks. But I sometimes go to Linkedin between tasks.”

To monitor their clients’ security 24 hours a day, she and her colleagues uphold different time shifts to cover all the working hours. This gives her the opportunity to go on to Linkedin every now and again.

Since Ia started being active on the platform a year and half ago she has ”already got a couple of job offers,” she says.

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