How Autodesk’s Director of Research Engineering, Anthony Ruto, Cultivates Impact through Innovation
Anthony Ruto does not step away from a challenge.
Originally from Kenya, he moved to the UK at age 17, where he had to switch school systems and cultures, and tackle different challenges as he forged his path to a doctorate degree, created multiple innovative developments, and co-founded a leading software company acquired by the multinational Autodesk.
When he’s not leading innovative technologies, you can catch Anthony staying active outside. “Outside of work, I enjoy spending time doing hikes with family in the countryside, surfing the coast when the opportunity presents itself, and running regularly to stay fit,”
We sat down with Anthony to hear about his accomplishments and career trajectory so far, and how he encourages meaningful impact through innovation in his team at Autodesk .
Anthony’s Academic Journey
“When I moved to the UK, I had to transition to a different education system which gave me new opportunities,” says Anthony. His interest in Math and Science, and Technical Drawing started before his move, but “transitioning to A-levels in the UK allowed me to continue with my focus on Math and some Sciences, although I had to give up on Technical Drawing as this wasn’t offered as a subject in the school I attended.” He also began to explore the world of software programming at school. “I got exposed through friends and learned to program simple games on scientific calculators,” elaborates Anthony. “This led me down a path where I wanted to learn more about computing.”
He was able to foster this interest by studying Computer Graphics as part of his first degree in Computer Science at the University of Cambridge. “Being able to program visualizations was fascinating, going far beyond what I could achieve with a pen, paper, and a bunch of rulers,” Anthony explains. He continued to pursue this passion by completing a Master of Research degree in Computer Vision, Image Processing, Graphics, and Simulation at University College London (UCL). His studies opened up the door to contribute to several innovative projects in the software creation field, including at a 3D body scanning startup (TCTi) and BBC Research.
After a few years, a lead professor from one of Anthony’s previous masters courses at UCL reached out to him. “He offered me a doctorate position to study an Engineering Doctorate in Virtual Environments, Imaging, and Visualization focused on three dimensional (3D) human body shape analysis,” Anthony explains. “I very much enjoyed this area of study and was able to publish a number of papers and present my work at conferences.”
Through his studies, Anthony learned to apply machine learning techniques to the 3D human body shape to derive useful insights from it. Consequently, he has developed a number of patented technologies, such as developing an image guided radiotherapy monitoring system to assist with patient treatment, ensuring a more safe and effective treatment. This was a major milestone as it was a direct application of his doctorate study.
Acquired by Autodesk
Once his degree was complete, Anthony decided to pursue new challenges. “I helped a friend establish a company as a co-founder and the Chief Technology Officer,” says Anthony. The company was “focused on developing design optimization software and offering design consulting services for individuals and companies that wanted to explore the very best that 3D printing and additive manufacturing had to offer.” The company had a successful track record, and it eventually became a world leading design optimization solution provider for the 3D printing and additive market. So much so that Autodesk approached the company in early 2014 “and acquired the company midway through the year.”
Autodesk’s main objective is to ”make software for people who make things.” Headquartered in California, the multinational software company develops and sells software solutions widely used in the Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Product Design, Manufacturing, Media, and Entertainment industry. “From the greenest buildings to the cleanest cars, from the smartest factories to the biggest stories, amazing things are created every day with Autodesk,” says Anthony.
Upon joining the company, Anthony was given a role as Senior Manager, and led the transition from his former company’s technologies into Autodesk’s portfolio of design software tools. “I then led a research and development team that contributed to the development of Autodesk’s generative design technology for manufacturing, and helped transfer this to a product team,” Anthony says. “After, I became a Director in early 2018 and have been leading a research engineering team that explores and develops novel technologies that demonstrate innovation opportunities for Autodesk.”
Keeping Innovation and Sustainability at the Center
Innovation is key to Anthony’s work and his leadership, especially through the evolution of computer science and engineering in the last 25 years. Some of the major changes he has worked through include the “increase in computational power and data storage capacity, cloud computation and network bandwidth, AI methodologies, new manufacturing methods such as 3D printing, and new design paradigms such as generative design.” Through these changes, innovation and sustainability have been the key motivators for Anthony’s work and leadership.
“Innovation is important as it offers new ways of doing things that improve our livelihoods and productivity,” says Anthony. He encourages his team to be innovative by “highlighting opportunities where they can create novel technologies that can have a meaningful impact, such as addressing an unmet customer need or supporting discovery of new solutions that we believe will be important in the not too distant future,” says Anthony. “I am inspired to work with exceptional individuals. Giving them the right problem to solve is key, one that has relevance with our customers and Autodesk’s business.”
Working at Autodesk has given Anthony the opportunity to learn new leadership skills and “work with highly skilled individuals who are passionate about making a difference in the world.” Anthony credits his team’s “incredible ability to solve complex problems” as one of the many rewarding benefits of working at Autodesk. He tries to find meaningful challenges for his team, addressing issues in society that they have an opportunity to play a role in, and creating lasting impact for customers and businesses.
Sustainability is the second key motivator for Anthony's work. “Devising new approaches to aiding designers to design more sustainable buildings and products is motivating and meaningful. Simplifying and accelerating how designers and makers use software to design, manufacture and operate the things that they create is also motivating and meaningful as this can enhance their creativity and productivity.” Anthony encourages leaders to focus on meaningful work to empower highly skilled individuals to make an impact in areas that are important to them.
Autodesk continues to pave the way for innovation. Are you interested in joining their team? Find out more about their roles here!