Episode 41 – Girum Ibssa


Software Engineer at Google



So, my first question is how did you decide to work in tech?

I did a year in Cal Poly and I had the time of my life. So, I had a lot of fun. I was promptly kicked out of the college, I got a zero point five GPA or something like that. It was crazy; it was a lot of fun. So, I didn’t go to community college; I waited for a semester after that and did nothing. And then I took a semester of film study because I liked editing films at that time. It was fun, there were like some videos I’ve edited online on YouTube.

After doing ‘film’ for a semester, I was like OK this is cool but honestly I Googled film editor salary and that number was not high enough. So, I started looking for a better job, and then I was like, oh yeah this engineering thing–I tried engineering for the first year but I didn’t really care about it and I wasn’t motivated. I failed at Calculus three or four times, but I came back around. Then I circled back around at community college and I began trying again. I put forward a lot of effort, and by this point, I’d already decided that there was no point of going to school and not getting A’s. What’s the point of being there for that many hours in the day and not going all in? So I made a decision at this point. I tried it, it worked, it’s great, had a lot of fun, that was probably the important part that I was enjoying it. I did that for two years, had to get straight A’s to get back in the Cal Poly because Cal Poly is the only school that would take me. I got back in, kept doing the same thing over there. While I was there I got into a project, so I first started falling in love with the idea at school evolved me.

That overtime at Cal Poly during those years changed the school from an academic thing to more to like engineering and building things. I like making apps; apps are fun. So on my second way back at Cal Poly, I started making apps, which was really fun, and then I graduated. And then I worked for a company called VIVA–have you heard of the music video like on YouTube or whatever, VEVO? Have you listened to that?

So, that was not where I worked. I worked in a company called VIVA, which was like a manufacturer for pharmaceuticals. It was exciting in there; the engineering was exciting, but the product itself was not? I did that for a year and a half, it was really fun, I made some really good friends over there. Then I went to work for this company called Secret.


What obstacles did you face when you were working in tech, and how did you overcome them?

Yeah, I’m going to go with failing out of the university. And, I overcame it by just deciding that… It doesn’t make sense, it really doesn’t for me. I’m a very all in kind of guy; either I’m all in or I’m just not going to play. Well after failing out of school, it was like what’s the point of being in there if you are not giving it all?


What was your perception of the tech industry before entering it, and what’s your perception now?

So before entering it, I was like with a bunch of really nerdy dudes who like to play like Benjamin Jenkins, who are really good at programming. I bet that I’d fit right in. My perception afterwards is like, all right it’s a bunch of dudes who like to play Dungeons and Dragons and I do fit right in. So, it’s exactly what you think it is. What you see is what you get, I found.


What are the three tips that you could give to college students, high school students, any students who want to enter tech?

So, if you look into motivation with like self-motivation, then you can inspire yourself to do things you otherwise couldn’t do. If you set a small goal ahead of yourself, or “this is the actionable outcome that I want with this goal–I’m going to get a hundred percent on the next quiz”, and just do it, study, figure out what you need to do to get hundred percent in that quiz, and then see what happens in your brain, and as it is happening there’s actually a little bit of tension that is released.

 Start there and see what happens. So, that’s probably number one; everything kind of follows from that first tip. If you understand your own mind, you can pick and choose any other thing. Once you do tip number one, tip number two is go and do everything you want to do–not everything just picks the things that you actually want to do, and do them. The tip three is, don’t take it too seriously.

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Michael Berhane, Founder of POCIT
Ruth Mesfun

Co-Founder and Blogger for POCiT. She is also piloting the first Computer Science curriculum as a teacher at Excellence Girls Middle Academy in Crown Heights. She was selected for the CS Educator Fellowship at the Flatiron School and is also a member of Teach For America-New York's Ambassadors Program.

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