In the second issue of “Lab Chat”, we spoke with Despoina Mochou, one of Decision Lab UK’s consultants. In the past a ballerina by hobby (that explains the great posture and poise), she told us about the importance of good client-facing interactions for producing user-friendly decision tools. She also revealed some insights about the cutting-edge trends in optimisation and why she enjoys working in the company.
Despoina also shared her plans post COVID. Travelling was the answer. We hear you, Despoina! We so hear you!
What is your passion at Decision Lab?
The work is quite research focused and gives you the opportunity to explore different technical areas such as mathematical optimisation, machine learning etc. I really enjoy that you can experience a project end to end – from building the mathematical model to deployment, thinking about visualisation and user experience. I also find quite interesting the fact that the role can combine software engineering, operational research and consulting.
How do you find the consultancy aspect of your work?
In optimisation projects the client’s input is vital from the beginning till the end of the project. At the same time, the consultant’s client-facing interaction skills are important, as you need to be able to explain complex concepts in a simple way. Most of the time, clients don’t understand the maths behind the problem, they are mostly interested in the results and that’s why the visualisation part of the project is key. You might have the best technology, the best maths, you might have spent hours and hours building an excellent decision-making tool but in the end it’s all about the user experience. There are several projects where the whole added value is coming from one visualisation board only. This is why I am interested in how you can integrate software development with mathematical modelling to deliver insightful decision tools.
What’s at the cutting edge of optimisation?
There are two main areas. One is the integration of machine learning and optimisation, to build more powerful decision-making tools. Specifically, machine learning predictions can be used as inputs into an optimisation model to generate superior decision recommendations. The other is the development of faster and more robust solvers, which allow us to explore complex business problems that once were unreachable.
The best bit about working at Decision Lab is…
First of all, I really like that people at DL are coming from all sorts of backgrounds, with expertise in different scientific areas. It’s challenging but really rewarding to work with people who are intelligent, hard-working and share the same passion as you.
Also, although DL is a small company, the projects are diverse and complex. This gives you the opportunity to get exposed to different aspects of every project and explore areas you’ve never thought about. For example, I’ve never thought about working in software development, which is now one of the key parts of my role. DL is great for someone at the early stages of their career, as it’s an environment that welcomes experimenting and continuous development. I’m actually now thinking about enrolling on a machine learning course to expand my technical skills, something that the business is supporting.
What it feels like living and working in London?
It’s a nice city to live in. Easy. And there are so many things to do and explore! I would suggest to everyone to come and work in London. The possibilities are so many if you’re open to new challenges.
What the post COVID work and life will look like?
Full of travelling! I want to visit America, Asia and other parts of the world but it looks like this will probably have to wait until 2022. However, I will definitely visit my brother in Georgia as soon as I get the chance!