Spotlight on Alumni

Jorge Ramirez Takes a Big Bite of Life at Apple Inc.

Degree and graduation year:

BS ICS 1982

Other education (school names, degrees, dates):

University of Louisville, MS Computer Science, 1985
University of Texas-Arlington, PhD (Artificial Intelligence Applications in Medicine), 1999

Where do you live (city & state/country)?

Aptos, Calif.

What do you do for a living?

Senior Scientist/Individual Contributor, Data Mining Group, Worldwide Business Intelligence, Apple, Inc, Cupertino, Calif.

Our objective is to apply science to real-world problems and real-world systems. For example, when Apple realized that the company was being defrauded of millions of dollars through warranty programs, I designed and developed a warranty fraud prevention system and implemented it worldwide. Even though we love our fancy, cutting-edge research, many times a regression model works just as well as a neural network, plus it’s less costly and easier to understand. It is my job to know when to use what method, and to be able to explain why.

What was your first job after leaving Georgia Tech?

Software Design Engineer, Texas Instruments, Dallas, Texas.

Our first project was to develop tracking software for a ship-board missile system. We learned the hard way that, when developing software for a new system, it’s essential to consider the environment in which it will be used. Our tracking system failed to track through waves and clouds, but did really well on dry land on a clear day!

What do you like best about your current job?

I love this company.  I love my coworkers.  I love the work I do and the freedom and flexibility I have here. Someone would be hard pressed to recruit me away from this job.

What do you like the least?

Sometimes the work I am doing is not that challenging, but still I’m constantly learning new things about how the company works. At times I have to tackle a problem that I know has no solution, but I have to prove it to the business in terms they can understand.

How did CoC prepare you for the working world?  

The most outstanding thing was teamwork.  About 30 of us who were juniors in ICS in the fall of 1980 pooled our talents and, sometimes literally, dragged everyone through all the required classes to graduate in the spring of 1982. I remember in particular, there was a statistics class that I helped everyone through, but I also remember how my classmates contributed to my success.

What do you consider the single greatest advance—technological, sociological, economic, etc.—in computing since you were in school? 

First let me say that the answer to this question, in this day and age, could very well change every year, if not every few months. In my opinion, the greatest advance that has had the most impact on individuals is the iPhone.  Even if you don’t have one or want one, it has changed the world you live in. When I was a senior, we beta tested the original IBM PC. What a long way we have come since then!

Operating system of choice:

OS X, what else is there? LOL

Which professional associations are you a member of?

American Association of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI)

What do you remember and/or value the most about your time at Georgia Tech/CoC?

Again, I would have to say teamwork … and several specific individuals who were there for me as I went through the trials and tribulations of growing up. Thank s to Brian, Stacey, Louis and Christopher.

What faculty or staff member had the greatest impact on you?

Though the faculty were great, and there were only a couple of classes that I didn’t like, I never developed a close relationship with any of the faculty. I leaned on my friends for counsel and advice.

In your spare time, what do you do for fun?

I am an avid outdoorsman. I live on the central coast of California, where just about anything you could want to do is a short drive away, if not in your own backyard. For me, I love running on the beach, mountain biking and hiking in any of the great natural reserve areas. For the past 20 years I’ve been a rodeo judge and rodeo arena director. Every few years I try to learn a new sport, and even compete on an amateur level.  So far this has included racquetball, a half-marathon, a full marathon, cycling and road racing. I competed in my first triathlon last summer in Copenhagen, Denmark, and won the men's recreational 45-49 age group! I learned to snow ski five years ago, and I love it. I love to travel; since joining Apple, I travel overseas three or four times a year, not including my sports competitions.

If I had it to do over again, I’d be a _______________.

I wouldn’t change a thing! I do still have a lingering interest in my artificial intelligence applications in medicine, most recently in the area of matching up currently known drugs to receptors in genes, trying to find new applications of treatments that are already developed, and discovering  why we are lacking  treatments in some areas.

Do you stay in touch with other computing alumni?  If so, who?

I have not, but that is probably part of a greater story, and I do regret it.

Are you a member of an online community?  If so which one(s)?

I am not. Despite being a high-powered computer geek, I am the last one on the block to get the latest toy, and social networking is much the same. But I’ll choose something appropriate for me, and join it. See how fast Facebook replaced MySpace?

Anything else you’d like to share? Here’s your chance!

In 1990, an illness almost took my life. Facing my mortality at such a young age has caused me to live each day to the fullest. Ask anyone who knows me, I have an extraordinary life! In addition to my work at Apple, I devote much of my time to a charitable organization called MaleSurvivor, which provides community and healing resources for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. We hosted an international conference in NYC in March 2010 (www.malesurvivor.org).