Leonidas Kontothanassis


After a decade and a half working at Google and Facebook, Leonidas Kontothanassis was contemplating retirement or a few more years working somewhere more enriching.

When the opportunity came his way to return to BU for the first time since 1999 (when he was an adjunct), he leapt. While in the corporate world, he’d figured out exactly what he wanted to teach students before they made their way into the real world: the skills to hit the ground running at a new job.

Mainly, Kontothanassis, who is the inaugural MassMutual Professor of the Practice in the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences, wants CDS students to learn to operate in different cloud environments, which he says most companies, including start-ups, will be building on for the foreseeable future.

“So I know the Google system the best … I was there for 12 years,” he says. “There’s about 106 different products in the Google cloud. I’m not saying you have to know all 106, but it would be useful for people to come out and know what’s the difference between, say, Spanner and Cassandra and SQL and sort of whatever other storage product … why would you use one over another?”

He’s hoping to create a course or series of courses that familiarizes students with the various cloud environments, so that when they come out and they go to work in the industry, they’re better prepared for whatever comes their way.

His corporate experience has taught Kontothanassis that it can sometimes take new hires fresh out of college six months to a year to learn a company’s internal systems and software engineering practices. Once students are able to take the type of course Kontothanassis wants to provide them, that onboarding time will shrink, which benefits the employer and employee.

Life at a couple of the world’s largest tech companies had its perks, but now Kontothanassis is looking forward to a different type of satisfaction.

“I think this is something that’s going to be more rewarding than the previous work that I’ve been doing,” he says.

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