Student Profile: Magdalena Ramirez

April 21, 2021

Written by ITS Campus Engagement, Jim Phillips

Meet Magdalena Ramirez - Part of ITS Student Profile Series

Programming 3D characters to walk magdalena photo

Magdalena Ramirez, third-year UCSC Computer Science major, developed an interest in computers not through STEM courses in school as one might think, but instead through her natural artistic inclinations.

"I started graphic design and animation at the age of 10, and that really sparked my interest in technology. As I developed video games and programmed 3D characters to walk, I became increasingly interested in the technical components behind that.”

And so began a journey that would have significant impacts on her professional and academic direction.

Girls Who Code

In 2017, Magdalena decided to participate in the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program where she spent seven weeks at Adobe headquarters in San Francisco, tinkering with robots, coding websites, and conversing with women in the tech industry. The program concluded with the creation and presentation by the students of pseudo-companies and products they had developed. This rewarding experience allowed her to showcase her new-found technical skills and led her to seriously consider a career in the tech industry.

Landing a Job in ITS for Graphic Design

In the summer of 2020 while Magdalena was diving deep into her Computer Science major, an opportunity presented itself and she landed a job in Information Technology Services (ITS) for graphic design. Her early passion for graphic design had opened a door to a real (paid) work opportunity. 

Zombie Hotspot and Binge Watching Skits

In her first months on the job, she worked on UCSC’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) campaign, planning, designing, compiling data and analyzing feedback. Most notably, she organized and facilitated activities to engage participants in learning about NCSAM, such as "Zombie Hotspot" a simulation that challenged participants to locate security issues before time ran out. Magdalena was also behind the development of an activity that required participants to binge-watch cybersecurity skits and then complete a quiz to test their knowledge. Her efforts resulted in a successful learning rate of over 80% across ITS staff who took part in the activity.

Moving up the ITS Ladder

Magdalena’s cheerful attitude, strong work ethic, and dedication to learning all she can about technology allowed her to move up the ladder quickly. Of course, having a supportive supervisor can make a big difference.

"I was so fortunate to work with Tamara Santos before she retired. Our touch-base meetings helped me navigate the challenges I was facing. And, Tamara offered sound advice on how to approach something I had never done before. This was my first job, and Tamara was so helpful and supportive. She was a wonderful mentor."

When Tamara recently retired from ITS, Chief Information Security Officer, Brian Hall, became Magdalena's supervisor and was quickly impressed with her ability to interact with large groups of people on a topic that can be tedious since it involves a heavy dose of policy and regulations. Magdalena’s personal involvement helped to make IT security easier to understand and more enjoyable. Brian recounted,

"Magdalena would go into these large group meetings, with sometimes as many as 80 people, and lead staff from across campus through the simulation she developed." 

Magdalena not only developed the activities, she also designed them in a way that allowed ITS to measure employee engagement. For the first time, NCSAM became less of a passive learning experience, and this was apparent in the completion rates and feedback provided. 

In reflecting on her professional attributes, Brian described Magdalena as dependable and a reliable contributor to the team.

balance on tree photo

"She's technical but also a good communicator, and that unique combination of talents is rare and wonderful to find in people."

Magdalena also offers solid praise for Brian,

"He is incredibly supportive, ensuring that I am where I want to be and have access to the necessary information and resources. There have been a couple times now where he gave me the latitude to identify what projects I wanted to work on next and this, in turn, has been an amazing opportunity for personal growth."

Expanding her ITS Role

Today, Magdalena’s responsibilities have expanded to include running ITS’s social media platforms (Twitter & Instagram) and coordinating projects with other UC campuses. She is also helping revamp the ITS website and even helps to write creative products for the division, such as these student profiles. Demonstrating a deep commitment to community, Magdalena serves as co-chair on the newly formed Undergraduate Student Tech Advisory Council (USTAC) for ITS. And, of course, it won’t be too long before collaboration with the IT Security team fires up once again as they turn their attention to planning next fall’s NCSAM campaign. 

Eye on Graduating in 2022

Magdalena plans on pursuing a Master’s in Computer Science when she graduates from UCSC in 2022 and working in the tech industry. When you consider her strong communication skills and her aptitude for technology, it is no surprise that she has a keen entrepreneurial impulse with her ultimate goal being to someday start and run her own company.

"There's something really satisfying in having an idea and seeing it through, especially when you believe it can impact real world challenges." 

Advice for UCSC students thinking about a job in ITS

"You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do in the field that you are studying, but get out there and start experimenting. ITS is an incredibly supportive environment with room for exploration."

If you are a student who would like to apply for a job in ITS, you can begin your journey by visiting the UCSC Career Center.