In high school, Jibril Abdi didn’t know if he would one day go to college. No one in his family had pursued higher education, so if he chose to go that route he’d have to chart his own course. While he didn’t have all the answers, he did have an appetite for learning, especially about technology and all the ways it shapes how we live and work. That appetite to learn only grew, and Jibril eventually set his mind on going to college. He began staying after school for College Possible sessions, where he’d prepare for the ACT exam, get tutoring assistance, and meet with mentors. The experience was transformative. The next fall, Jibril found himself on the U of M campus—a freshman in college.
He wasted no time immersing himself in the many opportunities that the University offered. By the end of Jibril’s freshman year, he had cofounded a student group for those passionate about artificial intelligence; he’d participated in a machine learning project, developing a prototype for an app that could detect drunk drivers; and he had cofounded a nonprofit called Aflah Tutoring (“Aflah” means “success” in Arabic) to help others at his high school pursue college like he had.
Today, Jibril is graduating with his bachelor of applied science degree in Information Technology Infrastructure (ITI), and he has a job as a security risk analyst lined up for this fall. We sat down with Jibril to ask a few questions about his experience in the ITI program and how his final semester went this spring.
How did you discover the ITI major and why did you choose it?
Ever since high school, I wanted to be ahead of the curve. I was always looking toward the future, following trends and watching how technology advanced. I wanted to find a way to get into it professionally, and when I found out about the ITI major, I knew it was a good fit. ITI fuses business and technology—two things I’m interested in.
Can you share a little bit about your experience in the ITI program?
I really enjoyed the format of the courses, which were taught at night. This schedule worked well for me because I was able to do internships or offer tutoring during the day. I also liked that the courses were taught by instructors who work full-time in the field. The security classes were especially great because the instructor brought in guest speakers, and this gave me a glimpse into a day in the life of someone who works in cybersecurity and risk analysis. I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in security, too.
Tell us more about how internships played a role in your education.
I’ve done three internships over these last four years, and they’ve all been excellent. I’ve gained great experience. My sophomore year, I interned with Best Buy, and last summer I did an internship with Delta. Then, in the fall of 2019, I started an internship with Hennepin County.
And on top of that, you’re tutoring high school students through your nonprofit!
Yes, that’s an important project for me. During my freshman year at the U, I was reflecting on the things that got me where I was. There was so much opportunity available to me, and I wanted to give that to others. Aflah Tutoring is very similar to College Possible, but I think it might be more accessible to some. It’s been very gratifying, and some students that I tutored when I was a freshman in college are even here at the U of M today. That’s amazing.
Let’s talk about spring semester 2020. Obviously the pandemic brought with it an unprecedented shift to distance learning. How did that go for you?
Because this was my senior year and my last semester of college, I wanted to be on campus a lot more. Of course, with the pandemic that wasn’t possible, so that was a bummer. But in terms of my coursework, I easily adjusted to my classes being online—three of the five classes I took were being taught online anyway. But it was tough not being in the physical classroom because I’m an active learner, and I like asking a lot of questions in class.
I would say that as I reflect on this semester, it’s been a positive experience overall. It’s helped me to appreciate the smaller things in life a lot more. I’ve spent more time with my family, and I’ve done more things I didn't think I had the time to do, like going for a run in the morning and meditating. So I’m building a lot of good habits and am able to look at life from a different view.
That’s a great perspective. Tell us about your post-graduation plans.
I have a job lined up with Deloitte! This is a really big deal for me because I’ve known that I wanted to work for this company throughout college. During my junior year, I applied for an internship with Deloitte, but didn’t get it. I just tried again, only this time I worked with Deloitte recruiters. After I submitted my application for a full-time job, I was invited to a diversity and inclusion blitz in Dallas at the Deloitte office where there were 48 hours of interviewing and events over the course of a weekend. I’ll never forget the phone call when I got the job offer. I was in Coffman when my phone rang: I was offered a position doing cyber risk analysis in the Minneapolis office. I was so thrilled! This is everything I’ve been working for, and I can’t wait to start.
Jibril Abdi is a recipient of the Joan T. Smith Scholarship. He is a first-generation college student.