The Centre experience: Eleni Vakaki

03 Mar 2016

Eleni Vakaki's internship at the Centre for Global Dialogue enabled her to connect with leading academics in her field and opened up new career options she had never considered before.

What initially brought you to the Centre?

I saw the job posting on forest remote sensing on my University department's webpage and it drew my interest. The qualification requirements fitted my academic background and I found it a great opportunity to apply my skills outside the academic sector. So I applied for the internship, for which the Risk Research team of the Centre for Global Dialogue (CGD) was the leading partner.

What business area are you working in?

I am working for the agricultural underwriters of Swiss Re Corporate Solutions Environmental & Commodity Markets team. I am assessing the potential of remote sensing in order to reproduce the fire loss history for Chile and other regions.

Will we be able to see the results of your work?

For now, the results of my project are strategic and will be only available to relevant stakeholders. However, a brochure may be published later.

How have you found your time at Swiss Re and working at the Centre?

It has been fantastic to experience the culture at Swiss Re and meet so many interesting people. The working atmosphere in both the teams I worked with was very inspiring and friendly. All of my colleagues assisted in my integration. In addition, Swiss Re gave me the opportunity to participate in a scientific conference in Cyprus, which supported and accelerated my work. I was mainly located in Adliswil but I feel very privileged that I had the chance to work once a week at the CGD as it offers a unique, high-quality working environment which I really enjoyed.

What have you most enjoyed during this internship?

My favourite part of this internship was the fact that I was the manager of my own project and that my opinion was taken into account. I really enjoyed the team spirit of the Agricultural Underwriting team in CorSo and, of course, I was delighted that I had the opportunity to present at a scientific conference abroad as a member of Swiss Re.

How did you overcome the challenges in your work?

The most challenging part of my internship was when the dataset I had chosen to use presented significant limitations that could be neither resolved nor explained. I found the solution by attending a conference in Cyprus, and getting vital feedback from the scientific community, that helped me go further.

How can such an internship prepare you for the future?

An internship like this gives you the opportunity to get to know the environment and the way a global company works. You also become acquainted with people from different business sectors and with diverse backgrounds. Additionally, an internship in Swiss Re and the Centre for Global Dialogue fosters the evolution of essential skills, such as the ability to manage a project from top to bottom, the ability to understand and meet the needs of different stakeholders and finally to communicate the messages of my research to a non-expert audience. Moreover, the internship has opened a new career window I had never considered before. Additionally, it provided me with the essential knowledge on re/insurance and natural disasters risks. Finally, such an internship is the perfect opportunity to establish a professional network.

What are the next steps for you?

I would really like to continue working for Swiss Re at the same time, however, I have applied for a graduate position in the European Space Agency and I am scouting other options as well, such as PhD positions on remote sensing.

More about Eleni Vakaki

Academic background: Rural and Surveying Engineering, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Currently pursuing master studies in Geomatics at ETH; focussing on the observation of the Earth using satellite data - for natural disaster monitoring, environmental change detection, agricultural and forest applications etc.

Professional experience: I was an assistant in an engineering office during my undergraduate studies. The internship in Swiss Re was my first working experience in a global, high-reputation company.

Personal interests: Travelling, experiencing new cultures and learning foreign languages. I love being by the sea especially during the summer. I am a keen photographer and I have a passion for board games and cooking. I also like dancing and in particular tango.

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