In April 1998, Two Stanford students named Larry Page and Sergey Brin presented a PageRank at a conference in Australia. One month later, hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea sparked a two-year-old border dispute that killed thousands of people. The first incident established Google’s dominance over the internet. The second placed 15-year-old Timnit Gebru on his way to work in the future megacorp.
At the time, Gebru was living with his mother, an economist, in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. His father, an electrical engineer with a PhD, died as a child. Gebru loved school and socializing in cafes where he and his friends earned enough money in his pocket. But the war changed all that. The Gebru family was Eritrean, and some of their relatives were deported to Eritrea and forced to fight in the war against their homeland.
Gebru’s mother had a visa for the United States, where Gebru’s sisters, engineers like their father, lived for many years. But when Gebru applied for a visa, he was denied. So he went to Ireland, and joined one of his sisters, who was there to work for a while, while his mother went to America alone.
Arriving in Ireland may have saved the Gebruas’ life, but it also confused them. He called his mother and asked her to return to Ethiopia. “I don’t care if it’s okay or not. I can’t stay here, ”he said. His new school, culture, and even the weather were unusual. The rainy season in Addis Ababa is stable, with heavy rains penetrating the sun. In Ireland, it rained steadily for a week. When they faced the challenges of youth in new classes and bullying, serious anxiety subsided. “Will I be reunited with my family? What happens if the record does not work? ”He recalls thinking. I felt inferior. ”
The following year, Gebru was allowed to return to the US as a refugee. He also met his mother in Somerville, Massachusetts, the purest town of Boston, where he enrolled in a public high school – and committed the genocide in America.
Some of his teachers, Gebru found, seem unable or unwilling to accept that an African refugee could become a better student of mathematics and science. Some white Americans found it better to share their belief that Africans were working harder than African Americans, who they considered to be lazy. Historians have narrated an encouraging story about the Civil Rights Movement’s decision to end American divisions, but the story has been in vain. “I thought this wouldn’t be true, because I see it in school,” says Gebru.
Piano lessons helped to provide a place where they could breathe. Gebru also struggled to change mathematics, science, and his family. He loved the profession, not because of its beauty but because it was part of a non-political party or a civil war. This division became part of Gebru’s way of traveling the world. “My goal is to be able to go to class and focus on work,” he says.
Gebru’s mind won. In September 2001 he registered at Stanford. Naturally, he chose a family head, an electrician, and soon his career began with the Silicon Valley archetype of a foreign trailblazer. During his junior year of training, Gebru developed an experimental key for electronic piano, enabling him to succeed in his studies at Apple for the production of audio drives for Mac computers and other devices. The following year he started working full-time for the company while continuing his education at Stanford.
At Apple, Gebru did well. While Niel Warren, his manager, was looking for someone to dig up delta-sigma modulators, a team of analog converters to digital, Gebru volunteered, exploring whether the technology could work in the iPhone. “As an electrical engineer he was fearless,” says Warren. She found that her new phone was popular, always ready to hug, and determined out of work. In 2008, Gebru dropped out of one of his classes because he was spending too much time begging for Barack Obama in Nevada and Colorado, where several doors slammed into his face.