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From NASA to Google Cloud, Ivan Ramirez helps top gaming companies reach new levels

Editor’s note: Ivan Ramirez, Gaming Team Lead, works in one of Google Cloud’s most dynamic, and least understood businesses, supporting some of the world’s biggest online gaming companies. He’s in a world of extreme potential, heart-stopping challenges, big teamwork, and managing scarce resources for the maximum outcome. And that’s before we get to the gaming.

I assume most people in gaming are lifelong gamers. True?

Not in my case, but I did start out playing the world’s best video game. I graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Aerospace Engineering and went to NASA. I trained to work on the electrical and thermal control systems of the International Space Station, and simulated things like an explosion or a medical emergency for 12 hours at a time.

What was it like moving over to the Gaming industry?

I had a lot of jobs before I started at Google in 2016. Now, as a Gaming Team Lead, I’m working with customers in many different aspects of the technology relationship, from working hands on keyboard alongside engineers to giving industry vision presentations to executives and everything in between. 

The great thing about this industry is that at every level, Gaming wants to be at the bleeding edge of technology. They want to be using the best graphics chips, have the most players online at once, or the fastest networking. They want lots of analytics, for things like placing ads in real time, or detecting cheaters while a game is going on. Look at something like Niantic’s Pokemon GO Fest this year, where players caught over one billion Pokémon, spun over 750 million PokéStops and collectively explored over 100 million kilometers. We’ve got big scale numbers like that with a few customers.

How does that affect the rest of Google Cloud?

When they push us to go faster and deliver more, it helps us invent the future.  

Gaming companies also value the freedom to innovate, and have a real passion for their customers, which is something Google Cloud shares in our culture, as well as our leadership in scale, data analytics and more.

You say you did a lot of different jobs, but you’ve been here six years. Why?

I grew up in Lima, Peru. When I was 10, my dad got an offer to relocate to Miami. It was tough for him, but it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. Later, I wanted to go to Georgia Tech because they were strong for Aerospace, even though in Peru you traditionally stay close to family. I think I learned early on that you have to get over your comfort zone to rise up. 

I’ve had a great time here at Google because it enables me to continue to grow. Over the six years it’s always stayed interesting. Being at Google pushes me to try new things.

Do you think Gaming has affected you personally, too?

Maybe it affects the way I think about work and people. Some of my proudest moments are helping people, connecting them with others. I try to teach them some of the things I’ve learned, including taking care of yourself. We are people who want to say “yes” to everything, who feel like there’s always something more that we can do, or another project we can improve. You have to find limits and ways to care for yourself and your family too, or you won’t be able to last over the long haul, or even be a good partner and teammate.

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