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Member Profile: Ricardo Rendon Cepeda

1. What do you do, and how long have you been doing it?

I’m a Senior Software Engineering Author at Apple. Our team produces documentation, sample code, and WWDC sessions to help developers build amazing apps for Apple’s platforms. There are so many cool things to work on, but my main focus is and has always been Metal. This involves a deep understanding of GPUs and their role in games, graphics, compute, and even machine learning! You can read more about our work here:

2. What was your first job?

For my first professional job I was a Business Analyst at Deloitte. I studied engineering and business at university, so I wanted a job where I could apply and grow both of my new skills. However, shortly after joining I really began to miss computer programming, specially the creative and practical aspects of it. Three months into my job, one of my designer friends came to me with a really exciting idea for a mobile app. I immediately quit my job, bought a new iPhone 4 with my savings, and we took our chances as indie developers.

3. Where did you complete your formal education?

BEng in Computer Engineering at University of Birmingham, UK

MSc in Advanced Computing at University of Bristol, UK

4. How did you first get involved with ACM SIGGRAPH?

I first found out about ACM SIGGRAPH in 2012, whilst researching technical papers to support my MSc thesis. I was thoroughly amazed that so many publications came from the same organization; on the other hand, I was really worried that my bibliography would be too narrow! Once published, my thesis received high praise from the university faculty, so I began thinking it might be a worthy SIGGRAPH submission too. After some investigation, I decided to take my chances with the Posters program and also applied to the SV program (last chance for me). Luckily, I was accepted to both and in 2013 I was a first-time attendee, volunteer, and presenter at the SIGGRAPH conference in Anaheim!

5. What is your favorite memory of a SIGGRAPH conference?

Birdly. Birdly won the AR/VR award at SIGGRAPH 2014 in Vancouver and had the longest lines for their demo all week, but I finally got to try it out on the very last day. This is not only a favorite SIGGRAPH memory, but a favorite life memory that I’ll never forget. Never ever. For a brief moment of my life, I transformed into a bird in flight and was completely detached from my own human self. I’m serious.

Everything about Birdly is so carefully crafted to be a completely immersive VR experience. Headset, headphones, full-body haptics, a responsive fan, and a complete model of San Francisco. Birdly is the perfect embodiment of SIGGRAPH, a beautiful mix of art, technology, hardware, and software. There are many great things at the SIGGRAPH conference and you may not always get to see them all, but you should never miss the Emerging Technologies exhibits.

6. Describe a project that you would like to share with the ACM SIGGRAPH community.

One of my favorite projects came as a result of a hobby that eventually became my current job. I’ve always loved writing and teaching, particularly for subjects that I had trouble learning myself and where I’ve noticed clear knowledge gaps.

After my MSc, I began writing OpenGL ES tutorials for, a very popular site amongst iOS app developers. Eventually, I was invited to write a chapter for the team’s “iOS 8 by Tutorials” book. Here’s the catch… iOS 8 hadn’t been released yet. We suspected it was coming at Apple’s WWDC 2014, but we had no idea what to expect. Right after the announcement, the whole team put together a list of topics and each author nominated themselves for a few that they might be able to handle. After the assignments were made, each author had just a few days to come up with an idea for a demo app, code it from scratch, and write a chapter outline. Then, we all had to work together to publish the book in just 3 months (with many of us holding full-time jobs and working remotely). In the end, the book was published in full and on schedule, much to the delight of our readers.

7. If you could have dinner with one living or non-living person, who would it be and why?

Dr. Sylvia Earle, queen of the ocean. I absolutely love marine life and I’m a recreational diver. Being underwater is magical and I really cherish time spent amongst coral reefs, schools of fish, and many more wonderful animals. Unfortunately, the ocean is in great danger and faces many catastrophic problems, such as acidification, climate change, and plastic pollution. This puts the whole world at risk and we must act to save it.

Dr. Sylvia Earle is the most important person in ocean exploration and protection. I would love to have dinner with her to hear about her upcoming adventures, current challenges, and favorite memories. Most importantly, I would like to know how I can help her and the Mission Blue team. You can read more about their work here:

8. What is something most people don’t know about you?

I’m very interested in global problems and solutions. I watch a lot of documentaries, talks, and videos that can be categorized in two major topics:

1) Socioeconomic Development. In particular, World Bank projects, the World Economic Forum ideas lab, and the United Nations sustainable development goals.

2) Environmental Conservation. In particular, Mission Blue hope spots, UNESCO world heritage sites, and WWF campaigns.

I’m always amazed by the digital worlds created by computer graphics, but I’ll always love the real world a whole lot more.

9. From which single individual have you learned the most in your life? What did they teach you?

My family and childhood friends will always share the #1 spot! However, I can instead share the single most important lesson in my professional life. Lynne Mochon, my high school CS teacher, told me these three key characteristics of computers: “Computers are dumb, but they’re fast and obedient”. After that, computer programming didn’t seem so hard (but it’s still a lot of effort).

10. Is there someone in particular who has influenced your decision to work with ACM SIGGRAPH?

Colin Dalton, my MSc thesis supervisor. Colin pushed me really hard throughout the entire process: solving an industry problem, developing an AR app, and documenting every bit of my project. If it wasn’t for him, I would’ve never spent so much time reading SIGGRAPH papers and finding new inspiration. He really helped the quality/quantity of my work and gave me the confidence to integrate myself into the SIGGRAPH community.

11. What can you point to in your career as your proudest moment?

Last year, Apple released a new app called Swift Playgrounds that helps you learn to code. During the international rollout and localization phase, I happened to be in Mexico City and was invited to work with the education team. I first learned to code in Mexico City in 2005, so it was truly special to come back home in 2017 and teach a new generation of kids how to code. I can’t wait to see what they achieve! You can read more about Swift Playgrounds here: