Lots of teenagers get into trouble at school when they start experimenting with new ways to push boundaries. When Gabriel Rosa was fourteen years old, he decided to hack into his school’s computer system. When his principal found out who was behind the computer system’s problems, he called Gabriel into his office. After a stern talk, the principal handed him a Mac Book™ computer. Instead of punishing Gabriel, he helped hone the young hacker’s programming skills.
“He told me to experiment on something more productive, rather than destructive,” Gabriel said. “For me, getting that computer was the best thing ever. I had taught myself how computers work by reading my dad’s old computer engineering textbooks in the basement, and having my own let me explore and expand my skills in subjects I was interested in.” Gabriel attended the Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, in Brooklyn, NY, a career-inspired education program co-founded by IBM that combines the best of high-school, community college, mentoring, paid internships, hands-on, skills-oriented learning. Like other P-TECH students, he started to take college courses beginning in grade 10, learning skills in programming, virtual reality and mobile app development. That same year, Gabriel got a chance to try another big experiment when his teacher connected his class with a NASA hackathon.
“We created a solar system app as part of the hackathon,” Gabriel said. “I had the chance to meet a lot of interesting people and see how they were able to collaborate to make something together. It let me take what I had learned in school and the things I taught myself and put those skills to work.”
He saw the same collaborative dynamic during an internship with IBM in his third year of school, when he worked alongside user experience designers and digital strategists on a project for IBM.com.
Over his time at P-TECH, Gabriel made good on his principal’s advice to channel his skills and energy into something productive. By 2015, he had finished P-TECH’s six-year program in just four years, and he became the first in his family to achieve an associate’s degree.
“When my parents were 18 or 19, they didn’t have the opportunities that I’ve had. My dad came to this country from the Dominican Republic when he was about my age. I have two younger brothers and two younger sisters, and I’m glad I can set a good example for them.”
Through his internship contacts, Gabriel landed a full-time job at IBM as a front-end developer. At 19 years old, he now creates websites as part of the checkout experience on IBM’s online marketplace. Using his background in programming, he collaborates with designers to bring their ideas to life in code.
“P-TECH itself was an experiment, and it allowed me to grow and change how I deal with problems, both in my personal life and my professional life,” Gabriel said. “Now I have a job that I love where I get to see how design, user and business needs come together to make a great final product.”
Adam R. Pratt
Ph: (202) 551-9625
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