Trinity Lutheran College is proud to have played a role in the lives of many remarkable men and women who have gone on to make a positive impact on the world, pursuing rewarding careers, redefining their fields, and living their dreams. John Zakos is one such Trinity alumnus and we were fortunate to have been able to catch up with him recently as his two nieces joined Trinity at the start of 2018.
John co-founded the artificial intelligence company Cognea which was acquired by IBM's Watson group in 2014. John holds a PhD in intelligent web technology, has authored numerous
publications and presented his work at international conferences and
invited talks. He is a Visiting Research Fellow at the School of
Information at Communication Technology at Griffith University, in
Queensland and participates in collaborative research efforts with other
academic institutions in Australia, in the USA and other countries. He is currently Program Director, Virtual Agents at IBM and an Honorary Professor at University of Technology Sydney. We are delighted to welcome him back to Trinity and hope you enjoy our Q&A with him...
When did you graduate from Trinity?
I graduated in 1994.
Tell us about your academic qualifications and achievements.
I completed my PhD in Information Technology in 2005 and I am now
an Honorary Professor at University of Technology Sydney. I also previously held position at
What are your interests outside of work? What do you enjoying doing in your down time?
I love doing yoga, swimming in the ocean, reading,
traveling and spending time with family and friends.
What are some of your fondest memories of your time at Trinity?
I always remember loving the great overall
atmosphere and environment at the school. It was organised, safe and with a great
focus on quality education. I also fondly remember all the sporting carnivals (I
was part of Blue Buribi team, now called Stephan I believe) and volleyball
competition of students versus teachers!
What do you believe makes Trinity a great school?
The strong Christian ethos along with the attitude of
the teachers and the amount of care they invest in the welfare and education of the students they teach.
Please briefly describe what have you been up to since graduating from Trinity - how did you start your career and what has been your professional journey?
Basically, after completing my PhD I went on to
co-found a company that focused on innovation in artificial intelligent. We
started up in Sydney and took the company to the USA before being acquired by
IBM. I ended up spending 6 years in the USA before returning home again to settle on
the Gold Coast.
What has been your greatest achievement?
Professionally it would be the invention of the Artificial Intelligence technology and its application as a real world technology to impact the way humans interact with machines.
How did your experiences at Trinity prepare you for life after school and for your planned future career?
I remember at the Vice Principal coming into our mathematics class at the start of Year 9 and giving us a serious talk on how our focus and performance in Year 9 mathematics dictates and effects the mathematics we do in Year 11 and 12 and, in turn, the types of university courses we would then have access to. We were essentially made to realise, fairly early on, that focus and dedication to our on going development was our responsibility and that we needed to apply ourselves early on. I think this is symbolic of how Trinity instilled focus, awareness, dedication and resilience in the students at the time and continues to do so in the students today.
Do you think Trinity produces global graduates that can compete internationally?
From what I can tell, very much so YES.
What are your future aspirations?
To continue my entrepreneurial pursuits in technology and
my academic involvement with universities.
What message would you give to the present Trinity students as well as the Alumni?
You make your life what you want it to be, no one else does. You define yourself and what you do and it can be anything you want it to be. You just have to want it and know it.