My name is Mohammed Al Jashmi, an Omani working as product design engineer at Apple.
I was a student in Almuhanna Bin Sultan Public School and on the last day of grade 11, the career counselor at my school mentioned the program to me as a new initiative to prepare students to study at the world’s top universities. At the time, I was mainly interested because I wanted something to do over the summer. During the summer program, I met amazing students from all over the country. I was really impressed with the reach of the program in its first year to attract students from all over Oman. I continued throughout the different phases of the program to eventually being selected as one of the students who will get a scholarship to study abroad.
I went to a boarding school called Gordonstoun in Northern Scotland. It was somewhat of a typical European boarding school: beautiful campus, strict rules, and extracurricular activities. Academic classes were good but most of my memories comes from the extracurricular activities. I played soccer, squash and volleyball and on weekends I did rock climbing and mountain biking. There was always something to do and I enjoyed that.
During my Takatuf program, eager and ambitious scholars started talking about universities they were interested in. I didn’t know any of them but that’s when I heard of MIT for the first time. I was impressed by the inventions that came out of the university, but I was most excited by the range of student activities available.
In my senior year of high school, I applied to MIT and to my surprise I was admitted! Alhamdulillah!
In truth, I didn’t expect it at all. My essay was riddled with mistakes, I didn’t have any major achievements or awards. A lot of the students that were around me had International awards to back their application. I’m not sure what the admission saw in me but I knew I had to make the most out of the opportunity now that I’m in. I suspected that the admission committee believed in my passion for learning and so I knew that as long as I can maintain that, I’ll be okay.
In my first year, I was still figuring out the field that I wanted to study so I got involved in many different clubs: Drones, robotics, electric vehicles, Arab Students association and Muslim student’s association. I met incredible, talented, and kind people in all these groups. People who mentored me, guided me through this journey. At the end of the first year, I decided I wanted to learn something new over the summer. I participated in a program in collaboration Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), where students from SUTD came to MIT and we worked together to build electric boats then compete to in a race on the Charles river. This was my first time building anything, so I learned a lot from the Singaporean students who already finished their second year of college. During this program, I realized that I was behind in terms of skill acquisition and there was a lot to catch up.
In my second year, I decided to focus on fewer areas to learn dive deeper into. I majored in mechanical engineering and worked extensively with MIT’s electric vehicle team. With the team, I learned how to use design software, welding as well as the principles of mechanical design. With the Arab and Muslim student organizations, I organized social events to bring the community together. It’s important to feel a sense of community where everyone grows together and learn from each other. You support and get supported, a virtuous cycle where everyone benefits. After my second year, I decided to spend the summer with my friend Ali Badr in Brazil. There, we worked as design engineers to design a robot for children. The team of researchers in Brazil trusted it to take responsibility of the robot development and gave us a lot of design freedom. At the end of the summer, we completed the first prototype of the robot named Mars.
The end my third year was important in terms of getting an internship to “get my foot in to the door”. I have applied for over a hundred jobs through career fairs, company visits and online postings. Most companies don’t respond at all, some of them reject you at the end of their recruitment cycles and a couple invited me for interviews. Interviews seemed to go well but the result was still a rejection. After over a hundred applications, I got my first and only internship offer from Tesla. Finding industry opportunities is very uncertain and can depend on many factors outside of my control: Industry needs, company needs, vacancies and time of the year. The only way I can maximize my chances was applying to as many opportunities as possible, I was one application away from not getting an internship.
At Tesla, I worked as a product design engineer where I designed a thermal model to simulate the temperature distribution inside the oil pump. I learned a lot from my colleagues at Tesla, who were not only talented but also passionate about the company’s mission.
After graduating, I worked with Phaze ventures, an Omani venture capital firm. I was very passionate about the startup ecosystem in Oman. My job as a technical analyst was to screen startups in the US for the opportunity to run a pilot in Oman. I learned a lot from the talented team at Phaze ventures about the VC world and the MENA region technology needs.
Following my time at Phaze ventures, I joined apple as a product design engineer. One of the first challenges at Apple was to acknowledge what I don’t know or understand and seek answers and explanations. Before the end of every day I need to have asked at least 10 questions. That number was arbitrary, but it helped me overcome the barrier of asking questions. It allowed my curiosity to stay alive. Questioning the given assumptions enabled us to innovate.
Since graduating, I have made continuous learning and improvement my top priority. It becomes harder everyday as you get comfortable in your job. But as long as I ask those 10 questions every day, I know I will learn something new.