Brewing up apps

In a city where coffee and technology are king, iSchool graduate Stephen Ramirez, ’15, has found his niche as a developer at Starbucks — with help from the Husky Promise.

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A first-generation college student from Kent, Washington, Stephen Ramirez, ’15, always wanted to give back to people. He grew up watching his grandmother spend her life in the public service industry, volunteering and working on behalf of others — it’s part of what inspired him to help others better do their jobs as an application developer at Starbucks.

It was Ramirez’s grandfather, a retired employee of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, however, who inspired him to attend the University of Washington.

“He used to pick up Metro shifts on the weekends that took people to the games down at the stadium, then he’d watch the game and take everyone home; that was his routine during football season,” recalls the informatics major. “He was always really big into the Huskies, and when he took me to my first game, I fell in love with the campus. For me, with all the opportunities at the UW, it was here or bust.”

Ramirez was a member of Running Start at Kentwood High School — he earned his associate degree the day before he was handed his high school diploma — and qualified for the Husky Promise, which allowed him to attend the UW without having to worry about finances.

“If I didn’t have the Husky Promise, it would have been really hard for me to do all the things I did in college and engage in student life,” says Ramirez, who, among being involved in activities campuswide, was invested in the iSchool — he served as president of the Informatics Undergraduate Association, acted as an executive officer of the UW’s first-ever hackathon DubHacks, and led his classmates through commencement as the iSchool’s gonfalionere.

Receiving the Husky Promise was also instrumental in his ability to get involved off campus and intern at Starbucks. “Starbucks has an amazing relationship with the iSchool,” says Ramirez. “Starbucks sits on the board, is involved in what we’re learning, and comes to all the career fairs, which is how I got connected with my internship.”

Ramirez was one of three students from the iSchool to participate in the program his junior year.

“Every week during the internship, we got to sit down with vice presidents and directors in the company, and they told us about their departments, or what they did, or how they got to where they were,” he says. Because Starbucks is headquartered in Seattle, Ramirez was able get a comprehensive overview of what it takes to make a company of that size and scale run — from a behind-the-scenes look at the roasting facility, to actually talking with the store managers and baristas who serve the coffee. “It was far more educational than it was vocational,” he says. “It was all about learning.”

And he learned a lot. So much, in fact, Starbucks offered him a job as an application developer for the business intelligence department before he’d even started his senior year. Now, he’s a full-time employee, packaging data and building applications that optimize workflow within the company while volunteering his IT skills throughout the community on the side.

“Informatics is the study of the intersection between people, business and technology,” says Ramirez. “In a practical sense, informatics is a lot of different things — it’s always changing. At its core, though, it’s really about helping people.”

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