Science and Technology

Engineering graduate chooses his way to Microsoft

Nahom Fissaha

SUMMARY: The versatility of JMU's engineering program sets graduates like Nahom Fissaha ('18) up for success.

By Caleb Ayers

It’s impressive to receive a job offer from Microsoft during college. It’s even more impressive that Microsoft offered JMU engineering student Nahom Fissaha (’18) the ability to choose between two different positions. After graduating in May, Fissaha will move to Dallas in July to begin work. 

A self-described “jack of all trades engineer,” Fissaha’s versatility helped him land a job with Microsoft, but it was not the only factor. His e-portfolio and LinkedIn profile highlighted his strengths and experiences and gave him the exposure he needed.

Fissaha found his appreciation for projects and problem-solving while growing up in Northern Virginia where he became “the house handyman.” Since his parents, immigrants from Ethiopia, were not fluent in English yet, Fissaha watched YouTube videos and read instruction manuals to learn how to fix things around the house—whether it was the television, the lawnmower, or the car. As a result of this childhood, he decided to pursue an engineering program that reminded him of his youth, and chose JMU Engineering because of its project-based approach.    

Nahom wasted no time, and quickly got involved with the most demanding but rewarding opportunities on campus. His involvement in the University Innovation Fellows resulted in the development of a hackathon on campus, as well as leadership roles nationally. He applied to the Madison Engineering Leadership Program. Once accepted, he began working on his e-portfolio. He created an engaging platform that communicates his experiences both effectively and creatively and utilized infographics to explain his mastery of certain skills. He put significant time and effort into the project, understanding that it was more than a grade. “At the time I wasn’t thinking this is going to get me a job,” he said. “I just knew it was going to somehow help me share my story. I just didn’t think it would be this impactful.”

As he began participating in a variety of projects within and outside of Madison Engineering, Fissaha documented his progress in his e-portfolio. He also created a LinkedIn profile to highlight his accomplishments and network with others. In addition to the networking capabilities it provides, he views LinkedIn as a way to connect people to his e-portfolio website to learn more about him.

During the fall of his senior year, Fissaha received an email from a Microsoft recruiter. Because of his LinkedIn profile and his e-portfolio, they had a few roles they wanted him to apply for. “At first, I honestly thought it was spam,” he said. “Once I realized it was legitimate, I completed the application and received an interview.” He brought his resumé and tablet to the interview to show examples from his e-portfolio “because pictures are worth a thousand words and they help share a story.”

Microsoft called him for a second interview in Dallas. There, he attended a networking dinner, prepared and presented a speech, and interviewed with several Microsoft representatives. Shortly after, Microsoft offered Fissaha two positions to choose from: a field engineer—flying around the country fixing technical problems and conducting informative workshops for clients; or a consultant—working with teams to tailor Microsoft tools to fit clients’ needs. Motivated by the prospect of consistently working with a team and creating new solutions, Fissaha accepted the consultant position.

While Fissaha’s story demonstrates a LinkedIn profile and an e-portfolio, helped him land a job at Microsoft, these tools are only a means to demonstrate impactful skills and experiences intentional gained. Fissaha pursued his passions within the Department of Engineering, JMU, and the community; he worked as an engineering intern with JMU’s X-Labs; he served as an engineering instructor for Play-Well TEKnologies; and he co-founded Youfory Flag Co., a company that sells customizable flags—some of which display Fissaha’s original artwork.

Kurt Paterson, Head of JMU’s Department of Engineering, believes pathways like Nahom’s are important for college students to understand if they want to launch the life of their dreams. “Nahom is a great example that as a student your professional experiences, reputation, and network are the key things to develop over your time on campus,” he said.  “His abilities to be curious, connect with others, create value, and choose well during his studies at JMU set him up for success with Microsoft; these same abilities will serve him immensely well for whatever comes his way in the future.” 

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Published: Thursday, June 7, 2018

Last Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2020

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