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Meet our alumni: Despoina Magka


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Despoina works as a software engineer with Facebook’s Account Integrity team. The fundamentals of Computer Science and core skills that she learned during her MSc and DPhil at the University of Oxford have stood her in good stead in her career. 

After studying Electrical and Computer Engineering in Athens, I arrived in Oxford in 2008. I completed an MSc in the Department of Computer Science, where I delved into a wide range of exciting subjects, from computational linguistics and quantum computer science to dynamic epistemic logic.  

That year was one of the most intense and enjoyable of my life, but way too short, so I was thrilled when I received an offer to pursue a DPhil in the same department with generous EPSRC support.  

I had always been fascinated by logic and also had a strong interest in its practical applications, so Professor Ian Horrocks’ Knowledge Representation and Reasoning group was the perfect match for me.  

The group gave me a precious opportunity to work alongside world-leading researchers and learn from the best.  

My DPhil years were a formative experience that helped me hone some of the core skills I still use today, such as approaching problems in a structured and disciplined way and shaping my own research agenda. Former DPhil student Despoina Magka 
They also gave me a bedrock of Computer Science fundamentals on which I have been relying on ever since. For my doctorate, I designed and implemented ontology languages for the classification of complex objects; I applied those to taxonomies of biochemical structures from the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge.  

I travelled to present my research at academic conferences in various places, including Canada, Germany, Italy, China, France and Scotland. I immersed myself in Oxford’s wonderfully diverse community, attending and organising events of the various international societies, socialising in the premises of centuries-old colleges and meeting and chatting with talented people in some of Oxford’s numerous pubs.  

Looking back now, I realise how privileged I am to have savoured this unique experience in one of the most magical cities in the world.  

After defending my DPhil thesis in 2013 and spending a summer interning in Cisco, Ι joined Yahoo as a developer working with backend Hadoop technologies. Following a one-year stint there, I joined Facebook’s vibrant London office as a software engineer.  

During my first year at Facebook, I was part of the Entities team, where I contributed to building and understanding the Graph Of Things that people are interested in and connected to.  

Since then, I have been part of Facebook’s Account Integrity team, where my job is to protect billions of people from online abuse, a role which I find tremendously rewarding.  

As a software engineer leading large scope efforts, I feel empowered by the skill set acquired during my doctoral studies. I am comfortable working on risky research projects, clearly communicating technical content and confidently asking the right questions.  

The advice I would give to students considering their next career choice is to follow their passion, never stop learning new things and always seek opportunities that are fulfilling to them.