A Top Facebook AI Researcher Departs After Almost a Decade

George PaulNews

Joaquin Quiñonero Candela presenting at BayLearn 2017. Image courtesy of BayLearn via YouTube

Joaquin Quiñonero Candela, the Distinguished Technical Lead for Responsible AI at Facebook, has officially stepped away from the social media giant after almost a decade, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Quiñonero Candela orginally announced the move on Facebook earlier this summer but hadn't provided an end date. He hasn't left the tech titan for a new role and instead will take the next several months to relax, reenergize, and let his mind wander.

He added, “I need to take care of myself before I can offer the best of myself. I need to put my family first, not in theory, but in practice. This means being a homemaker and doing all the work my wife has been doing so she can take off, go out there to study and work.”

Facebook 6.11.21

Before his departure this month, Quiñonero Candela had led Facebook’s AI technical strategy for fairness and inclusiveness, robustness, privacy, transparency, and accountability. Before that, he built and led the Applied Machine Learning team at Facebook, which he called “one of the most intense but satisfying things I have accomplished.”

In his announcement, Quiñonero Candela said that leaving Facebook is one of the hardest things he will ever do. He also stated, “...I’m very thankful for the support and encouragement of Facebook AI leadership along the way. Responsible AI is never fully defined and never done, but it is now one of the core groups in the AI org. The RAI leadership team are people who I fully respect, trust, and admire.”

Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer commented on Quiñonero Candela’s announcement, “...it is impossible to thing (sic) about Facebook without you. The days building AML were amazing and have left a permanent positive mark on the company and the industry.”

Prior to joining Facebook in 2021, Quiñonero Candela created and taught a machine learning course at the University of Cambridge. He also spent five years in research roles at Microsoft and led the click prediction auction optimization teams for sponsored advertising on Bing.

In the coming months, Quiñonero Candela said he will take a three-month internet sabbatical, shunning the internet to focus on family time with an exception for online messaging and streaming movies and series. After that, he says he will “explore areas where I can help with an open mind, ideally with a ‘beginner’s mind.’”

“I have been an 'AI person' all my professional life and I want to consider non-AI options too,” he added. “Honestly, I have no idea what concrete things I want to do next. Regardless, the most important things will remain — who I work with and the impact of that work.”

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