Famous machine learning guy leaves Apple rather than return to work

From Malcom Owen's "Apple's Director of Machine Learning exits over return-to-office policy" posted Saturday by AppleInsider:

Apple's director of machine learning, Ian Goodfellow, has resigned from the company after three years, in part due to the iPhone maker's policies about returning to work in offices.

The machine learning lead is leaving over three years after he joined Apple, as part of Apple's bid to increase its existing AI and machine learning technologies development. In an email to staff, Goodfellow confirmed the imminent departure.

While the official reasons for leaving are unknown, Goodfellow did let on that the policy change by Apple to get more people working from its offices was an issue. "I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team," Goodfellow wrote in the note according to Zoe Schiffer of The Verge...

Previously, Goodfellow worked for Google as a senior staff research scientist. He is also known for his work on Generative Adversarial Networks, or GANs, which put two competing neural networks against each other, so as to improve the accuracy of the systems.

My take: Every high-profile departure hurts Apple. In this case, however, the fellow spent more time at Google than he did at Apple.

UPDATE: From Twitter...

Pet peeve: “Apple’s director of machine learning” makes it sound like there’s only one/that Ian runs ML at Apple. But there are likely dozens, and Ian is likely 2-3 layers below anyone who can be characterized as in charge of all ML work.


  1. David Emery said:
    Meh. I’m not particularly impressed with “talent with no self-discipline.”

    May 8, 2022
  2. Mordechai Beizer said:
    So sorry to hear you’re leaving. Good luck at your next employer. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

    May 8, 2022
  3. Michael Goldfeder said:
    Just another cog in a very large wheel at Apple. Moreover, if he chose to leave due to not wanting to work in the office, then why didn’t he leave before the pandemic?

    The hairs on the tail of the dog will never be wagging the dog while Tim Cook is still the CEO. Wish him well as apparently he’s very well thought of by the bathroom mirror he looks into every morning.

    May 8, 2022
  4. Jerry Doyle said:
    There is a reason Apple built the $5,000,000,000 Cupertino campus. It is the same reason used for all the glass installed inside the campus building. Steve Jobs believed deeply in the need for employee interaction, building appropriate linkages for use as a network of resources to tap in promoting a dialogue leading to new, unique ideas and innovation in resolution of problem solving. The sudden encounter around the corner with a coworker, or the ability to sit spontaneously with face-to-face discussions or go for a walk to talk out problems needing solution all are the catalyst for sparking needed and animated discussions. One is not going to get that uniqueness, spontaneity, access sitting at home alone.

    WFH should be an employee benefit, not a right. WFH should be considered and used appropriately as the performance of job tasks and needs arise to afford employee flexibility in carrying out assigned job tasks to better balance work and family obligations.

    The dynamics of work on-site, the diversity of worker interactions and the ability to cultivate constructive employee working relations with peers, supervisors and managers also go far in developing meaningful career advancement opportunities.

    Again, there is a reason Apple built its $5,000,000,000 campus. Workers who do not understand that reason need not apply for work at the campus, or any Apple campus. This policy doesn’t mean workers do not have access to a WFH option. They do, but only to be used as an employee benefit when the need arises and is appropriate for the assigned job tasks.

    May 8, 2022
  5. Bob Goldstein said:
    My son is doing a Masters in Machine Learning and AI. He said in his program they are always reading his research papers and that he is extremely important in the field

    May 8, 2022
    • Michael Goldfeder said:
      @Bob Goldstein: Lina Kahn wrote a research paper too. Does that make her a genius? Outside of Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Jonas Salk, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk, Ian Goodfellow doesn’t move the needle. Just saying.

      May 8, 2022
      • Bob Goldstein said:
        I don’t get your snarky comment. Where did I state anything about genius. I was just stating that this man is very big in the field and students are using his work. All cutting age. I made no comment on what he meant to Apple or that he would move or not move the so called needle.
        If you want to read what he has done in the field check out the link

        May 9, 2022
    • Rodney Avilla said:
      The guy was probably a great asset. And Apple needs great assets, but also needs team players. And “my way or the highway” is not a characteristic of a team player.

      May 9, 2022
  6. Brian Loftus said:
    I think of my first year as a chemical engineer and my first few years as a neurologist, informal mentoring was a large part of my development. You can learn so much talking in the lunch room and knocking on someone’s door. I cannot see those interactions being replicated virtually. I think their is a lot of value for early hires and newly promoted individuals to work together.

    May 9, 2022

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