“I saw this [structure] at the University right from the start—even as I was going through the hiring process. The environment and systems here are well-organized, with the right policies and procedures in place—and that benefits everyone in the University community.”
At first glance, the academic world and the value it places on the questioning mind and healthy skepticism seem far removed from the military or the international shipping sector. Few environments are as highly disciplined and structured as the theatre of operations found in the army and aboard ships.
So how does someone who has spent the great majority of his professional life in one or the other handle a shift to academia?
It seems a good question to ask of Hellenic American University’s new Director of Informatics and Engineering, Dr. Ioannis Filippopoulos, who joined the University as Assistant Professor in February 2019. He comes to the University after a career in not one but both sectors, having served as a senior officer and ICT manager with the Army General Staff and as Chief Information Officer for a large, international shipping company. A career, not coincidentally, reflected in his own academic background. Dr. Filippopoulos earned an MSc in Information Technologies from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens as well as an MBA from Middlesex University (London) before receiving his Ph.D. in Computer and Networks Engineering from the University of Thessaly in November 2012.
In his view, however, the apparent contrast in structure between the university on the one hand and the military and the maritime industry on the other conceals deeper similarities. As he points out, all organizations need discipline and structure to function effectively. For him, the organizational culture is one of the strong points of Hellenic American University. “I saw this at the University right from the start—even as I was going through the hiring process. The environment and systems here are well-organized, with the right policies and procedures in place—and that benefits everyone in the University community.”
Moreover, Ioannis is persuaded that innovation and transformation can often be fostered only within a structured environment. He points to his own field as an example: “Think about the vast amount of data we produce. To transform this into useful information you need to structure it in some way.”
An approach reflected in his own research interests. An expert in Geographical Information Systems, he was become increasingly engaged in research in areas such as big data, Artificial Intelligence, and blockchain platforms in the shipping industry. One of his recent research publications, for example, deals with transferring structured data and applying business processes in remote vessel environments. Other research has investigated issues in cyber security and vessel reliability.
The innovative use of technology to enhance safety and security has long had a key place in Ioannis’s research, dating back to his Ph.D. research project, which investigated the use of fire simulation modules for managing forest fires. One is tempted to say it might also have to do in part with his passion for sailing. Having crisscrossed the Aegean countless times in his 1976 Jeanneau Ginn Fizz του boat, Ioannis says: “One thing sailing teaches you when you’re out at sea is how small you really are.”
In any event, Ioannis is no stranger to the world of university teaching and research. Before coming to Hellenic American University, he had served as adjunct faculty member at the University of Thessaly for the last 4 years. Before that, he was a lecturer at the Army General Staff Institute for Information Technology Officers.
One of the most valuable insights he claims he gained from his experience as teacher but also as commander in the armed forces has been the importance of communicating vision—and enabling others to develop theirs. It’s an experience he’s eager to put to work at Hellenic American University.