I got rid of the word Impossible in my dictionary — Ili Ko about her journey through the world of IT

8 Mar 2021

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At the beginning of February, our cybersecurity team was strengthened by researcher Ili Ko, who moved them to the Czech Republic in cooperation with the ICS to research network security in the H2020 project SAPPAN. What are her first impressions of our Institute and Brno? What are the plans and goals for the future? On today's International Women's Day, we symbolically shared an "international and women's" interview with you.

Hello Ili. Can you briefly introduce yourself?

My name is Ili, I came from Taiwan and have lived in the U.S. and Ireland before moving to Brno. I enjoy visiting different countries such as Japan, Italy, Spain, France etc. I believe that anything is possible, so I got rid of the word "Impossible" in my dictionary since I was a kid.

What was your path towards IT? When did you decide this is a career path you want to pursue?

My passion has always been science. I started out majoring in Physics but ended up finishing in Mathematics in college. I used to work in the retail industry but felt something was missing in my life. One time I was trying to solve a physics problem, and the calculation quickly became lengthy. That was the straw that broke the camel's back, so I went back to school to study computer science to learn programming to do the computation.

However, I have already forgotten what I tried to solve at the time. At that time, I thought I would go back to get a Physics degree, but I realise that I like to create models with machine learning. For now, I enjoy doing research related to apply machine learning. After being away from school for a while, it wasn't easy when I first went back to school. Nevertheless, I am delighted that I have done it.

„I believe if a person is good at work, gender is not an issue.“

How did you find the position at the ICS? What were the main reasons why you decided to take it?

My PhD research utilised machine learning for cyber- attack mitigation, so I was looking for a research job related to cybersecurity. I found the position online. I decided to take this position right after discovering that MUNI has devoted a lot of effort to cybersecurity research.

This industry is, in general, mostly occupied by men. Why do you think that is? And have you encountered any difficulties on this career path as a woman?

The IT industry is male-dominated because parents usually encourage or push their sons to study science-related subjects, but not so much with their daughters. I was always interested in science because ever since I was a kid, my father encouraged me to study science. I have not encountered any difficulties in the IT industry, or maybe I was not paying attention. However, I believe if a person is good at work, gender is not an issue. It may take some time, but eventually, people can see a person's ability.

What is your experience of working and living in Czechia? What surprised you the most? What do you like the most?

Ever since I arrived in Brno, I have been pleasantly surprised by how lovely the city is. I enjoy the convenience the city has to offer. Additionally, I like the fact that there are so many different varieties of food. I enjoy working with my team members and people I met at MUNI.

„The best thing to do about studying or working abroad is to go for it.“

What would you recommend to people who are worried about studying or working abroad?

Before moving to Brno, I read a lot of blogs about ex-pats in Brno. They were mostly positive comments, but I was a bit concerned about the negative comments. However, I have been thrilled since I moved here. Even though I don't speak the language, I have no problem getting around. Nonetheless, not speaking the language, you may end up buying or ordering the wrong food, from my personal experiences. Most people are amicable and willing to help.

It takes some getting used to – living in a block building, especially if you had lived in a detached property. The best thing to do about studying or working abroad is to go for it. I believe there will be ups and downs, but you never know what life brings you without trying it.

What are your career plans, goals and vision of the future?

I enjoy working in an innovative environment because I like to stay at the cutting edge of technology. My goal is to make an impact in the scientific community. My vision of the future is to come out with an invention that can enhance people's lives. I don't know what that is yet, but I will figure it out eventually.

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