Apple's Director of Machine Learning exits over return-to-office policy

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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.

Goodfellow joined Apple in March 2019, according to his LinkedIn profile, as the "Director of Machine Learning in the Special Projects Group." The profile has yet to be updated with the departure.

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.

The policy at issue had Apple setting staff to work at its various offices from April 11 onward, starting with a hybrid work schedule of one day per week in the office and gradually increasing the in-office days over time.

Not all Apple employees are keen to proceed with the plan. One survey of a small number of employees found a high proportion were actively looking for employment elsewhere, with the return-to-office policy, the possibility of COVID infections, a toxic company culture, and a lack of a work-life balance cited as reasons for the need to move on.