Kiarie has the world at his feet – forging a career in a field that has recently come of age. He is passionate about new technologies and the role they play in driving innovation and effecting positive change.
Born and raised in Nairobi, Kiarie moved to Canberra at the age of 18. He studied at the Australian National University (ANU). Here he completed a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) and then a postgrad in Artificial Intelligence. Kiarie joined Xeroâ€™s Canberra office as part of its inaugural Xero Vacation Program in late 2015, attracted by the opportunity to do â€˜big things for small business.â€™ The scope of his work experience at university and during his grad year at Xero has been diverse to say the least. This includes:
- Working as an electronics engineer with the University of Sydney, alongside astrophysicists to optimise one of the worldâ€™s largest radio telescopes. This was part of a wider effort to map the early universe.
- Being an experimental laser physicist, working alongside a multinational team on laser systems that will power future quantum computers and communication links.
- Researching advanced deep learning algorithms at CSIRO, on projects that include future uses of advanced natural language processing and computer vision.
- And most recently, an opportunity to represent Xero internationally by working on a joint open source self driving car project. He worked within a small selective team of other machine learning experts from companies such as Amazon, NVIDIA and Microsoft.
Kiarie is working at the cutting edge of innovation with Xero and weâ€™re proud to have him in our stables.
Tell us about your role at Xero
Iâ€™m a Data Scientist in the Data Science Rapid Prototype team based in Auckland, but I work remotely from the Canberra office. I build and test state of the art machine learning algorithms that will soon power our Xero products. Some of these algorithms are similar to those employed in well publicised technologies.Â This includes self-driving vehicles, automated language translation systems and advanced medical imaging. A big part of my role is keeping up to date with the latest machine learning research and being able to communicate the intricacies of various algorithms to many audiences within Xero.
What’s it like to work for Xero?
The team I work with is pretty unique in that it isnâ€™t tied to any specific product or platform. Instead, different product teams come to us with ideas or pain points that they think we might be able to solve using our machine learning algorithms. Weâ€™re pretty lucky to get a chance work with so many other amazing teams within Xero. And it’s also awesome getting to solve unique and diverse problems that a couple of years ago would have seemed impossible. This means we are constantly challenged and really leading the way forward when it comes to machine learning.
Tell us something #human about yourself?
Itâ€™s mind boggling to think about all the cultural diversity of humanity. There’s a lot of knowledge and stories that still cannot be shared freely in the 21st century. I see machine learning playing an integral part in remedying this, allowing many of these voices to finally be heard. It would be awesome to have a Maasai pastoralist from Southern Kenya effortlessly talk to a Martu Wangka tribes person from Western Australia. In the process sharing tips on land and water management. A conversation carried out in both their native tongues and directly through their smartphones. I hope to play an active role in making this a reality.
If you couldnâ€™t choose your current job, what would be your dream job?
Being on David Attenboroughâ€™s camera crew. Planet Earth 2 is hands down the most wonderful piece of storytelling and camera work Iâ€™ve ever seen. Iâ€™m very jealous knowing that there are people out there who get paid to create such beautiful documentaries.
Where in the world would you most like to travel and why?
I’d like to visit Virunga National Park. Itâ€™s miraculously pristine and off the beaten track. Getting a chance to meet the people involved in its preservation efforts, despite decades long wars in the region, would be pretty cool. Iâ€™m sure we can also all agree mountain gorillas are pretty rad.
What are you most grateful for in life?
My family and my family away from home – comprised of my close uni friends and work colleagues.
If you could have dinner with anyone in the world (living or dead) who would it be and why?
â€˜Seems to me, if an octopus wanted to lock a human in a room, it would just need to design the exit with the three doorknobsâ€™ – Neil Degrasse Tyson. When it comes to mixing communication and comedy with mind-bending physics, this man has hit the nail on the head. It would be an incredible opportunity to pick his brain and learn how to communicate complexity whilst going on some hilarious tangent.
Who inspires you and why?
Everyday unsung heroes, whose narratives are often never told. These are people who – despite all odds – dream of better futures for themselves and their children, and rise to the challenge.