We’re pleased to present this blog segment, a piece designed to celebrate the journeys and achievements of non-traditional tech talent in our community. MnTech is committed to continuing the work necessary to strengthen, energize, and diversify the tech ecosystem. Whether you’re a woman, BIPOC, someone without a traditional IT/CS degrees, someone who’s considered early/late in your career, you’ve recently made the leap into tech from a different industry, you’re actively searching for a new tech role, etc, we’d love to highlight your story and shine some light on the diverse variety of backgrounds and paths that lead folks into technology.

An early taste of tech
It was just a few short years ago that Abdirizak Hussein was a sophomore in high school, watching a presentation from an engineer who had come to his school to speak about potential computer science education pathways and careers for students. This was Abdirizak’s first glimpse into the technology industry, and the first time he felt the spark of interest ignited.

After the visiting engineer’s presentation, Abdirizak began watching YouTube videos about coding, and experimenting with some homemade computer game and website builds. Back then, he was not yet fluent in English, and was drawn to coding for the simple fact that it was one language that put him on an equal playing field with his peers. Everybody began learning coding language at the same skill level and therefore, he was at no disadvantage. 

The road less traveled
Born in Somalia, Abdirizak emigrated to the United States with his family at age 10. As is typical for many children of immigrants, he felt pressured to pursue a college degree to make his parents proud, and chose Psychology as his field of study at Metropolitan State University after graduating high school in 2018. However, he quickly realized this was not the most ideal path for him, as his true interests and passions were in software engineering. “I couldn’t tell my parents I wanted to pursue computer science, because to them, that just means I’m playing video games all day. A psychology degree seemed like a good way to still get that ‘doctor’ title,” he joked. 

The traditional bachelor’s degree route became more and more unattainable due to his busy work schedule and familial obligations, so Abdirizak decided to leave Metro State after two years. He joined the 12-week full-stack developing program at General Assembly instead, knowing he’d be able to gain practical and marketable technical skills quickly through a bootcamp. Plus, the flexibility that the General Assembly cohort offered would allow him to keep his job on the side, which was a non-negotiable.

All work, no play
In February of this year, Abdirizak successfully completed the General Assembly program and has since made job hunting his full-time job. Or rather, he’s added that to the extensive list of other things going on in his world; Abdirizak already has two other full-time jobs as a PCA in assisted living facilities. He works an average of 80 hours per week, leaving him with very little time for many of the things that most other 21-year-olds are doing. But with his positive disposition and no-nonsense attitude, Abdirizak says the graveyard shifts give him the downtime and flexibility he needs to tackle the tedious task of job searching. On breaks and in between shifts, he browses LinkedIn for connections, scours Indeed and ZipRecruiter for open positions, and tries to sneak a quick nap in where he can. 

In rare moments of free time, Abdirizak is strengthening his tech skillset by developing at home and attending learning & networking events such as MnTech’s Tech Careers 1.0 Pair Programming sessions. He’s boldly reaching out to tech industry leaders for advice, tips, and tricks. He’s grabbing job interviews wherever he can to practice his interpersonal skills, though he notes it’s somewhat of a jarring experience to walk into interview rooms where none of the senior leaders look like him, and after interviewing with a company that couldn’t grant him a one-hour prayer break on Friday afternoons, Abdirizak is searching for a role at a company that honors inclusivity and celebrates cultural diversity.

Looking toward the future
As for his dream first job, Abdirizak is hoping for a position with plenty of room to grow at a 
MnTech member company like Target. He admires the friendly and knowledgeable Target engineers he’s connected with recently, and appreciates the company’s vast diversity initiatives. When asked what unique characteristics and skills he could potentially bring to a top tech company, Abdirizak confidently states, “I’m hungry and I’m ready to eat. I have the passion to learn, and I know that I’m only as much as I put in.” 

Despite the challenges he’s faced during his short but arduous non-traditional journey into technology, his strong work ethic, commitment to providing for his family, passion for learning and discovering, and distinctly humorous way of viewing the more difficult aspects of life have persisted. Five years from now, Abdirizak hopes to be married to his long-time girlfriend, have a family of his own, and be training young versions of himself as a senior engineer at one of Minnesota’s top tech companies.


Adriana Nguyen
Marketing & Events Manager