Employee Spotlight: One Minute with Stephan Jou

Learn more about CTO Stephan Jou, the veteran mind behind Interset’s vision for security analytics.

Stephan Jou, Interset’s chief technology officer (CTO), may be one of the most recognizable faces of our company—and for good reason. With almost two decades of experience designing software from inception to release, Stephan is the veteran mind behind Interset’s vision for security analytics.

Previously a technical architect and senior manager at IBM Cognos Analytics, Stephan has significant experience as a technologist and leader in startup and enterprise environments. At IBM Cognos, he architected and managed more than 10 product releases related to cloud-computing, data-mining, neural networks, semantic search, visualization, and mobile.

Stephan holds a Master of Science in Computational Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering and a dual Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Human Physiology from the University of Toronto, but he’s also a continuous student of new technologies and methodologies.

To gain a little more insight into his past, present, and future, we sat down with him for a quick Q&A.

Q: How did you come into this field of work?

A: At IBM, I led the Cognos Analytics engineering team responsible for designing and building new analytical products. We had the privilege of releasing twelve analytical products to market, using technologies that ranged from data mining to neural networks, big data to parallel computation systems, desktop to the cloud, and low-level APIs to high-level beautiful visualizations. It was incredibly fun, gratifying work, and I really gained an appreciation for how analytics in all its forms can solve some really hard and important problems. And, arguably, some of the hardest but most important problems to solve are in cybersecurity today.

Q: We heard your family inspired your education choices. Can you tell us more about that?

A:  My sister is autistic which, combined with my parents’ desire for me to become a medical doctor, led me to pursue degrees in biology and genetics. At the same time, I was fascinated by the computers that had started to become available to homes and schools in the early 80’s (Commodore VIC-20 FTW!) and found myself programming at a young age, leading me to also pursue joint degrees in computer science and statistics. The combination of biology and computer science met in my postgraduate studies in computational neuroscience, a then-emerging field where computational methods were applied to answer biological questions. Specifically, I looked at ways to understand the impact of the geometry of dendritic trees a part of the brain known as the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, and its impact on memory formation. This was where I first found myself building mathematical, theoretical models to understand real-world data.

Q: What is the most difficult aspect of math & AI for people to understand?

A: First, what AI actually is. With terms like deep learning, cognitive computing, machine learning, NLP, neural networks, etc. all being loosely thrown around, it’s a confusing and sometimes regrettably misleading time! At a high level, artificial intelligence is simply a collection of technologies—often based on computer science and math—that attempts to replicate or automate various aspects of natural, human intelligence. The reason there are so many different technologies is that there are so many pieces of what makes us as humans intelligent, such as perception, learning, memory, planning, and communication. I have an expanded blog entry on this.

Second, the limitations of math. While the buzz around AI and math is well-deserved—as I said, you can do some pretty amazing things with math!—there are limitations and there are challenges that are left to be overcome. You can read about three things you can’t do with math on an article I wrote here.

Q: Any advice for aspiring data scientists?

A: Yes, I wrote a blog on it: Getting Started in Data Science 101!

But from a personal perspective, I’d advise you to follow your inspiration, leverage your strengths and be confident in yourself.

Rapid-fire Round

Q: Coffee or tea?

A: Coffee

Q: Classical or hip-hop?

A: Movie soundtracks, SID chiptunes, and flamenco. I guess that’s closest to “classical”!

Q: Tropical beach or urban cityscape?

A: Beach, but with my e-reader!

Q: Electric toothbrush or regular toothbrush?

A: Electric

Q: Ice hockey or curling?

A: Hockey

Make sure to connect with Stephan on LinkedIn and check out his guest posts on VentureBeat.