From Zayed Ahmed’s vantage point, he has the world at his fingertips—or at least nearly half a billion global consumers who access Yahoo’s web services each month.
As a production operations engineer at Yahoo’s Network Operations Center in Lockport, N.Y.—about 30 miles northeast of Buffalo—Ahmed specializes in uptime, or ensuring that the company’s vast network of servers maintain continuous operation to benefit online users in more than 30 languages.
“We are the first line of defense,” Ahmed says. “We use our judgment very carefully to distinguish between critical issues that could impact users internally or externally and noncritical ones.”
The 2015 computer information technology graduate from Ivy Tech Community College’s Fort Wayne Campus says such judgment calls require vigilance, familiarization with current issues and protocols, and teamwork through a variety of communication channels.
Ahmed says the College prepared him well for the technical and soft skill challenges associated with on-the-job debugging, troubleshooting, networking, and systems administration.
In addition to rigorous course requirements, he applied himself at Ivy Tech through a number of problem-solving pursuits: an advanced networking internship, a systems administration internship, completion of four computer certifications, and participation on the Cyber Defense Competition team.
“That competition is what really got me exposed to what’s out there in the real world,” Ahmed says. “The friends I made showed me so many things I didn’t know about. Having acquired those skills, they’re now knowledge I use at my job every day.”
That knowledge may have remained elusive if his first attempt at college had been successful.
Born in Saudi Arabia to Yemeni parents, Ahmed enrolled at Yemen’s University of Science and Technology in Sana’a to study civil engineering in 2011. Two years into his studies, the university closed due to militant uprisings around the country. Yemen spiraled into a civil war in 2014 and the fighting continues.
Soon after his return to Saudi Arabia for safety, Ahmed met a graduate from an American university who encouraged him to study abroad. He followed the peer’s advice and lived in a few states briefly before settling with family and friends in Fort Wayne and selecting Ivy Tech.
“I’ve been passionate about IT from day one, but now having the ability to study it in the U.S.—one of the greatest places to learn about technology—was an even bigger motivation,” Ahmed says.
Near the time of his graduation, Ahmed got married, and his wife relocated to Fort Wayne. It wasn’t long before she grew homesick for her family and hometown of Buffalo, Ahmed says. The couple moved to Buffalo, and Ahmed secured employment as a contractor for Yahoo in October 2016. He became a full-time associate last July.
Ron Tumiel, associate manager of Yahoo’s Network Operations Center, oriented Ahmed to the company’s complex system architecture and remains his supervisor.
“During his time, Zayed has learned a great deal, and I now see him explaining complicated topics to other new employees,” Tumiel says. “This includes stuff I know I didn’t teach him, which to me demonstrates his ability to be open to new ideas and to learn from people around him in order to keep pushing himself further.”
That intrinsic “push” is an attribute Ahmed plans to apply in both the short-term—completing a bachelor’s degree in computer science—and long-term—becoming an entrepreneur and developing mobile apps with the potential for an international audience.
Ahmed says “remaining curious and seeking knowledge” is his personal mantra. He recommends the same ideals for others pursuing opportunities and a better life.
“Remember, a college degree will help get you a good career, but being good at what you do is what’s going to keep you there,” he says.