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Astrophysicist finds a new career at Amazon


Árdís Elíasdóttir works in the Dynamic Advertising group at the Amazon Development Centre in Edinburgh, where her team personalises the shopping experience for customers by delivering adverts that are likely to be relevant on an individual customer basis.

Born in Iceland, Árdís earned an Astrophysics PhD in Denmark before joining starting in her role as Machine Learning Scientist.

What do astrophysics and Amazon have in common?

Astrophysics and Amazon might seem a world apart, but Árdís sees several similarities between working as a researcher and working for Amazon.

One similarity is using experimentation to learn. “We frequently run experiments to improve the customer experience here at Amazon” she says. “It reminds me of the approach you would take in science, where you don’t let your feelings make decisions for you, but instead you go out and verify or falsify your theories,” she explains.

Another similarity is the programming. “In Academia you have to write a lot of software, even if it’s not at the same standard as what we have here at Amazon,” she adds.

Amazon leadership principles

Finally she calls out the use of analytics and data as something important both in astrophysics and at Amazon. Unsurprisingly, the Amazon Leadership principle Árdís relates to the most is “Learn and Be Curious.”

And it’s a principle she takes into her personal life as well. “In my free time I like to explore the nature around the city,” she says. “Even during my lunch breaks, I’ll often go for a walk. My favourite lunchtime spot is probably Calton Hill.”

Calton Hill is a famous area in central Edinburgh located beyond the east end of Princes Street and included in the city's UNESCO World Heritage site. Views from the hill are used in photographs and paintings of the city.

Árdís says that she feels very welcome in Edinburgh. “People are unbelievably friendly here,” she says. “They have basically opened their hearts and homes to us. I have lived in many cities as an expatriate and this is by far the easiest to feel at home in.”

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