First tech leader to receive the Kernot Memorial Medal
In the Kernot Memorial Medal’s 95-year history, Zhang is the first recipient from an information technology (IT) background, with the University expanding the award criteria to recognise tech innovators of the future. This recognition also acknowledges the changing role of engineering in society – shifting the focus on physical assets and large infrastructure to incorporate future focused technology and innovation.
The Kernot Memorial Medal was established in memory of Professor William Charles Kernot, the first professor of Engineering at the University of Melbourne. The award traditionally recognises distinguished engineering figures in Australia. Previous recipients include Sir John Monash, construction magnate John Holland and civil engineer Donald Victor Darwin.
Zhang, a Computer Science graduate from the University of Melbourne, has led a distinguished career in Australia’s financial technology sector. Working as a technical lead for major banks including NAB and ANZ, Zhang co-founded Airwallex with four friends in 2015, three of which were also University of Melbourne alumni. The business has rapidly grown to become one of the world’s leading technology companies, achieving the title of Australia’s fastest-grown tech unicorn, and raising over US$500 million in equity funds to date.
Speaking on the award win, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, Professor Mark Cassidy, said, “We are proud of the incredible progress Jack has made in his career with Airwallex and the leadership he shows in the tech space. Recognising Jack’s achievement with the Kernot Memorial Medal, the first time a tech leader has been honoured in this way, acknowledges the growing role of technology and entrepreneurship in society. We can’t wait to see what Jack does next and look forward to strengthening our relationship with him!”
Zhang responded to the award win as a significant moment in his career. “As a University of Melbourne alumni, I am honored to have received such a prestigious award, and to be recognised as the first tech leader to be awarded with the Kernot Memorial Medal,” said Mr Zhang.
“Inspired by the approach of my professors during my time at the University of Melbourne, I’ve been driven to look beyond what’s possible and solve tough engineering challenges every day. This ethos is a key part of the product and engineering culture at Airwallex - from our leadership team to our internship program - and I hope this inspires talented engineers to forge their careers at Airwallex.
“I am so proud of what we have achieved with our global financial infrastructure, and this award reinforces the excellence of our technology and innovation. We are truly on our way to realising our vision to be the global financial cloud to empower businesses to operate anywhere, anytime.”
New engineering hub in Sydney will boost local talent pool
To continue its pursuit of engineering excellence, Airwallex’s growing Sydney team will house the company’s second Australian engineering hub. Similar to its existing Melbourne hub, Sydney’s engineering team will focus on research and development in new products and enhancements for Airwallex’s global financial platform.
The company currently employs over 50 engineers in Australia, and plans to double that number across Sydney and Melbourne by the end of 2021. Outside of Australia, Airwallex has engineering hubs in San Francisco, Shanghai and the Netherlands.
“Melbourne’s engineering hub has played a pivotal role in Airwallex, with many of our recent products beginning its development there, such as our core banking platform and multi-currency Visa debit cards. After witnessing the big impact our Melbourne team has had on the development of our platform and products, it was a no-brainer to open our fifth engineering hub in Sydney. This new hub allows us to invest in the growing tech talent pool in Sydney, which we look forward to welcoming to our team,” said Mr Zhang.