Dr Fawad Nazir of CSIRO's Data61Please join us in welcoming Dr Fawad Nazir, the new Research Director of Engineering and Design at CSIRO’s Data61.

With a background in research, engineering and product design, Dr Nazir has worked across various industries in customer-facing engineering, product design and product innovation, and joins the Dat61 team from Telstra.

Earlier in his career, while working at CERN in Switzerland, he published and patented work on discovering the topology of large and complex networks within seconds, worked on analysing and visualising large datasets coming from the world’s largest linear particle accelerators at Stanford University in the US, and wrote algorithms to execute algorithmic trading arbitrage opportunity in nano-seconds.

Director Jon Whittle recently sat down with the former Chief Technology Officer to ask about his plans for the for the role, the research capabilities he wants to explore, how the program can help Australia through this period of change, and more.

Jon Whittle: I’ve got a few questions to ask you today, Fawad, to help us all get to know you a little bit better. So, the first question for you is what attracted you to CSIRO’s Data61?

Fawad Nazir: In the past few months I’ve been thinking about what I should I be doing next and what challenges and problems I want to solve. I was really connected with the vision that CSIRO has, which is using science and technology to solve Australia’s greatest challenges.

And looking at this mission, it became even more obvious that I wanted to join the organisation to be part of the solution to these greater problems. So that was the main reason why I wanted to join your team at CSIRO’s Data61, to help solve these problems.

Drought Map on Terria platform

Drought Map on the Terria big data platform

JW: We’ve got a lot of research projects and projects achieving real impact within Data61. Are there any particular highlights from the Product, Engineering and Design team that stood out for you?

FN: I’m still in the phase of finding out, but one project that interests me very much is Terria, the spatial data platform. It gathers data from all the different sources and really enables policy makers to make informed and effective decisions faster for local councils, states and territories.

I’ve also seen that we’ve completed more than 280 engagement projects across CSIRO.

JW: Can you share an example of a research or engineering project that you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of? What was the biggest lesson you took away from the experience?

FN: As you know, timing is very important when you’re playing in the market, and any technology that attracts customer attention gets crowded very quickly by competing solutions. In a previous role, the company I was working for could take up to 18 months to release a product into the market.

This limited our ability to test the market and fail-fast, and stay competitive in a highly competitive space. I was given a challenge to reduce this time to a couple of months, if not days. My strategy was to decompose the end-to-end process into reusable and configurable modules. Join the modules on the fly based on the product features, curate products and introduce them to the market within days.

I led a team of 50+ participants across the world and build a very innovative solution that allowed us to push simple offers in the market within seconds.

JW: What unique role do you think the Engineering and Design team, and CSIRO’s Data61, can play to help Australia through this period of change?

FN: CSIRO’s Data61 has world-class deep expertise in technologies that underpin almost every business today and the importance of these technologies will continue to grow, with current market uptake in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Security, Robotics, Data science, digital technologies a testament to this.

CSIRO’s diverse social impact sets us apart from anyone else in the world, and this is where Data61 can play a unique role. The Engineering and Design team will play a crucial role in enhancing this, by enabling Australia’s national science agency to deliver tangible and useful solutions to society, while also creating unique products.

JW: That’s awesome, great answer. Really interesting to hear your responses to those questions and get to know you a little bit better.

We all really look forward to working with you within Data61 and CSIRO. It’s really great to have you on board.