Jelena Milosevic, Data Scientist, Mondi Group

Servizio alumni

In order to help current students and recent graduates to find their way in the working world, many of our alumni shared their career story. Here the story of Jelena Milosevic, Data Scientist for Mondi Group in Vienna (A). USI Degree: PhD in Informatics, 2017.

How did you start your career?

Although during my bachelor and master I was one of the best students in my class in Serbia, it was a big step and success for me to get the opportunity to do a PhD in Switzerland (highly developed country) and at USI-Lugano (highly international university where I felt like part of the family from the beginning). The 5-years long period I spent there transformed me as a person- both professionally and privately, and had a deep influence on my career.

I was always passionate about mathematics and informatics, but it was only during my PhD@USI that I discovered in more depth machine learning, an area that combined both of my passions. During my PhD I had an opportunity not just to theoretically learn about different aspects of machine learning, but also to discuss many concepts with colleagues and peers and sharpen my critical thinking, and to apply my knowledge in multiple research projects. In the later stages of my PhD, a particularly interesting aspect for me became the combination of machine learning and security, how can we make systems secure by using machine learning, and also how we can then guarantee the security of deployed machine learning solutions. Learning more about these aspects and answering this question brought me to my first career choice, to continue research, as a postdoctoral researcher and project assistant at Institute of Telecommunications @TU-Wien in beautiful Vienna.

Having expanded my knowledge on adversarial machine learning (security of machine learning) during my 2 years long postdoctoral research, I understood that the next step in my career is going to be related to applying the obtained knowledge in concrete practical scenarios, seeing systems I learned about being deployed in practice and making sure that their deployment is both secure and smart (thus learning well and performing the intended actions correctly). Having these principles and goals in mind, after seven years of academic-like life, I entered an industrial environment and started my new career as a data scientist in February this year/2020 and so far did not regret my choice.

Why did you choose a career in Mondi Group?

Mondi group, my current employer, is an international manufacturing company (dealing with paper and packaging production) that is currently undergoing through the process of digitalization. This means that, among other things, data science and machine learning is being used across all the company and thus across all the globe in order to improve and automate production processes. This allows me, as a data scientist in the company and a member of Digital Excellence team, to support the process of digitalization from the very beginning through design and development of ML solutions able to improve various processes in operations, speed and quality being some examples, and to achieve my goals of running secure and efficient machine learning methods in practice and roll them out worldwide. This allows both for improvement of lives of thousands of employees in operations through useful visualizations, guidance and help on the status of the production process, and for the possibility to help sustainable production through reduction of waste and better use of materials.

What is your current role/duties?

As a Data Scientist, I have following main duties:

  • Understanding main characteristics of different production processes, whether they can be improved through use of machine-learning-based methods and, if yes, which kinds of methods are the most suitable within the given scenario.
  • Design, development, and deployment of machine-learning-based methods in the production process in order to improve the production speed, decrease setup time, and decrease unplanned downtime.
  • Communication of obtained results to different entities and presentation of results to different stakeholders, having to bridge the gap and clarify the main concepts of ML-based solutions to different roles in the company.
  • Continuously learn and improve not just technical skills related to data science and data engineering, but also knowledge of production process and business.

In your opinion, what are the qualities necessary for a successful career in Mondi Group?

Passion for continuous learning and improvement of technical capabilities - both on the algorithmic and machine learning side and on the programming side, good communication skills in order to be able to understand different requirements and points of view and convey results to a variety of stakeholders, openness to team working, knowledge sharing and acceptance of other people's ideas.

What positive aspects and qualities meant most to you during the study programme you attended?

The main positive aspects of the study program in my opinion are: high quality education, quick access to latest study material, international environment with possibility to meet different people and establish interesting connections, modern and dynamic environment, and a small community of people who know each other well and exchange ideas openly.

What competences and/or skills acquired in your USI Study Program have been useful/are useful to your professional career?

The most useful I find gained technical skills related to programming, knowledge of machine learning and algorithms. Furthermore, soft skills such as communication and presentation skills have been useful. Finally, working both independently and as a part of an international community has been beneficial for me.

What is your advice to USI students entering the job market?

My advice to students entering the job market is to always go in the direction of the profession/job they like and feel excited about, because that will give them the necessary energy to spend enough time in understanding and mastering the content they are dealing with and to stay motivated while things are difficult and obstacles to pass seem unbearable. Furthermore, it is important to go deep into details of what they are doing and, at the same time, stay informed, open and flexible once possibilities of trying something new arise. Finally, the most important is to always keep learning, practicing, and improving skills.