Fast Five with Danny Doan

Danny Doan is a Senior Applied Scientist at Xero and has worked for the company for two years after joining as a Data Scientist. Danny has worked at well-known companies such as Seek and Citi Bank in across data and analytics. As an expert in the field, we put these Fast Five questions to Danny about AI.

1. What appealed to you most about a career in AI?

I love working in AI because it gives me the chance to make an impact on people’s lives by solving real-world problems. At Xero, we use AI to improve the lives of accountants, bookkeepers, and small business owners. Something I love about working in AI is that I get to solve interesting and different problems every day, alongside a diverse group of people — think engineers, scientists, and product designers. This lets me learn new things all the time about different areas that I wouldn’t have encountered if I didn’t work in AI, and no two days look the same

2. What aspect of AI are you most interested in or passionate about?

 I most enjoy the process of running my scientific experiments to find the best AI solutions that solve a problem. In AI, real-world issues are transformed into an AI problem that can be solved with math, science and programming. That’s never stopped intriguing me. AI is powerful, but it only works if we understand and apply the correct techniques. Designing an AI solution is an art that demands rigorous scientific thinking at the same time. The process is challenging but super satisfying.

3. In your daily life, what are the positive impacts of AI that you see playing out in our society?

AI assists us every day by removing boring, repetitive tasks and giving us the mental space to focus on more interesting things. As an example, we use AI at Xero to assist our customers with their accounting and save thousands of hours of manual data entry every week. We can see AI in almost every aspect of our lives, such as entertainment, transportation, sports and accounting to name a few. It is hard to imagine how different our lives would be now without AI. The field of AI is still new though, and it is super exciting to watch what other benefits it might bring to our society.

4. Why do you think it is important to empower young Australians with access to AI education?

AI is a new and fast-evolving field. The best technology today might become obsolete in a few years. It is important to continuously learn and keep up-to-date with AI. The power of AI comes with its own challenges, such as privacy, fairness and bias. We need to carefully study and address these problems to ensure AI is fair to everyone and serves our best interests. Having access to AI education at an early age provides a solid foundation for understanding what AI is, what it can do, and how to use it in the correct way.

5. What advice would you give young Australians who want to learn more about and eventually work in AI?

It’s good to get excited about AI, and use that excitement to stay motivated! However, you also want to make sure you give as much focus to the fundamentals — like coding, math and scientific thinking too. Become proficient in these, because you will need them for a career in AI. Remember that AI is just a tool, and like anything, in the wrong hands or used incorrectly can be harmful, so build an awareness of how AI can be used for good, and sometimes go wrong. Lastly, don’t try to do it alone. Find a group, community, or mentor who shares your interest. AI at Xero is a team sport, the collaborations you build will serve you now and in the future.

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