Developing Opportunities to Inspire Curiosity

I knew what I wanted to be: A philanthropist, a leader, an entrepreneur. In other words, an engineer.
- Nahom Fissaha, James Madison University ‘18

Introduction

James Madison University

Developing Opportunities to Inspire Curiosity
by Nahom Fissaha, September 5, 2019

I have always been curious. Growing up in Ethiopia, I could be found taking apart and assembling my toys to learn how they worked. After moving to northern Virginia, I watched videos and read instruction manuals to take on maintenance work around the house. I also started developing interpersonal and communication skills early on, thanks to working at my mother’s farmer’s market stand and store.

I knew what I wanted to be: A philanthropist, a leader, an entrepreneur. In other words, an engineer.


This article originally appeared in the KEEN 2019 Annual Report. Reprinted with permission.

Developing Opportunities to Inspire Curiosity

James Madison University’s project-based engineering program helped it all come together. The program built on my natural curiosity and passion for learning, fostering a broader mindset. My time at JMU opened doors by providing an opportunity to work on eight different projects, participate in leadership roles through the Madison Engineering Leadership Program, and as a Stanford University Innovation Fellow, which helped students embrace human-centered design.

As an undergraduate student, I also created an e-portfolio to help share my projects and passions with potential employers. When Microsoft reached out to me while I was still at JMU, I used my e-portfolio in the interviews, showing instead of just telling what mattered to me. And it worked. 

Project Examples
Augmented Reality Textbook

Augmented Reality Textbook

Early assembly adaptive bike

Early assembly, version 2, of a custom bike for a 9 year old boy with cerebral palsy

Adaptive Bike in Action

The custom bike in action!

Of the two positions I was offered, I chose the consultant role. I wanted to keep working with a team to create new solutions. Here, it’s about clients, not code: Researching customer needs and working with them to develop the right solutions.

I am grateful for the foundation of learning I had in my early years, and for working with brilliant mentors while at JMU who helped me overcome challenges and keep growing.

Meet the Author

Nahom Fissaha

Nahom Fissaha

At the time of this article, Nahom was an Engineering Major, James Madison University ‘18. He is currently an Azure Cloud Infrastructure Consultant at Microsoft.

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