Computer genius and mountaineer
Some people graduate from college and have to take jobs waiting tables, or washing dishes, or maybe, if they’re lucky, as a clerk at a law firm or an entry level position at a big corporation. Moiz Kohari? His first job was at NASA. He was a subcontractor working on the shuttle launch and control systems.
Kohari grew up in Karachi, Pakistan and moved to the United States before attending Rochester Institute of Technology. RIT is a private, doctoral university where Kohari studied computer science with a concentration in digital engineering and operating systems. He also took executive management courses at Stanford and Boston University. He is brilliant, although that’s not a word he would ever use to describe himself, and he has been on the forefront of emerging computer technology since the beginning of his career. “Right off the bat, I was able to work on something pertinent,” he says.
From NASA he went on to work for one of the founding computer science companies designing personal memory subsystems and NUMA (non uniform memory access). This was decades ago, and the processing speed of computers at the time was faster than the ability to access memory; NUMA created a new architecture to resolve the issue.
After that, he started a Linux software company, Mission Critical Linux. The code base from MCLX powers the high availability and enterprise capabilities for Red Hat Linux. Linux is an open source operating system, and this software supports a variety of industries, including financial services, telecommunications, health care, government, and even the CERN laboratory—you know, where Nobel laureate physicists confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson particle.
There was also a brief stint as the chief technology officer working on real-time computing and cloud infrastructure before Kohari started with the latest and most revolutionary innovations in computer science: blockchain technology and cognitive computing. Blockchain was the foundation for Bitcoin currency, a digital ledger system that is decentralized and distributed across a network of computers. A much faster and more secure way to conduct transactions, the technology is rapidly being adopted by the financial industry. Kohari was the chief innovation officer for the London Stock Exchange, running their advanced platforms team. And cognitive computing is popularly known as AI or artificial intelligence—systems that can learn and grow smarter in response to their environment and data. “My job is super interesting, there’s no question about it,” says Kohari. “These technologies are going to change the way the world operates. In my space it’s financial movement, all asset classes. It’s going to go through such a revolutionary change in the near future, where all of these asset movements—title transfers, settling of stocks—are going to be nearly instantaneous. And it’s going to happen in every industry, all over the planet.”
It was much earlier in his career, more than two decades ago, when Kohari decided to move to Telluride. The company he was working for said no, that he couldn’t move, so he quit. At first they assumed he was going to work for a competitor, but when Kohari assured them that wasn’t the case, they asked him what he was going to do. “I don’t know. Wash dishes,” he said. They relented, and let him work remotely. He was willing to do what any ski bum or dirtbag climber would do to feed their appetite for the mountain lifestyle, but he was lucky enough— and valued enough—to remain working in his field. “If you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll find a way,” he says. “Many of my friends could easily choose to have this type of lifestyle, and they don’t. It’s really a matter of the choices that we all make.”
He used to put in a hundred days a season, skiing bumps, coaching, and venturing into the backcountry, and he became skilled enough at climbing to lead 5.10 routes, but now he also has to balance his athletic endeavors with raising a family. He has three children, the youngest of whom is just three years old, and he has spent a lot of time volunteering with Pinhead Institute and helping to establish computer classes in the school district. “We have an AP computer science course, which is great, but we need to bring in additional programs, not just programming languages— exposing students to computer architecture, storage, core concepts of how you design systems.”
Kohari is soft spoken and handsome, with a slight English accent, a gentle demeanor, and kind brown eyes. You might imagine from his work, which is all about instantaneous response to critical situations and the fast-paced vanguard of the computer industry, that he would approach skiing and climbing the same way. His friends say he’s just the opposite—always a little late to meet up for an adventure, and perpetually composed, casual, and calm. That’s because although for some people, mountaineering is tough and tedious, for Kohari, it’s the antithesis—play and rejuvenation. “My friend Andy Sawyer always used to say that climbing is the lazy man’s way to Zen. You need to be able to escape, meditate, put everything behind. Some of us meditate by climbing and skiing. We don’t think about anything except what we’re doing. It helps us escape from the world we live in and takes us away from the pressures of everyday life.”