From a near death experience during a deployment to Afghanistan, to graduating college in just three years (plus getting into graduate school), Sanjar Hamidi said his guiding light has always been a strong desire to help people.
Originally from Afghanistan, Hamidi moved to Omaha, Nebraska when he was just 16 years old. While he always had a natural interest in computers, once he hacked his brother’s computer so he could use Microsoft Paint, a career in computing wasn’t always his vision. He discovered that he really wanted to help protect others who couldn’t protect themselves, and started as a civilian contractor and worked with the military. In the years that followed, Hamidi completed four deployments to Afghanistan, three with the U.S. Army Special Forces and one with the Navy Seals. During his last deployment, he was shot in the battle field and returned home.
But everyone at IS&T went above and beyond and helped me figure it out. Now, I find myself helping other students figure their path out as well.
- Sanjar Hamidi
“The recovery was a long and difficult process, but I am thankful to have such amazing parents who helped me through. They have supported and encouraged me throughout my life,” Hamidi said. His family pulled together and encouraged him to enroll in classes at a community college. Feeling inspired again, he said he just “happened” to call IS&T to speak with an advisor. That call helped change his life trajectory.
This May, Hamidi will graduate with his degree in cybersecurity, minors in computer science and management information systems, he will be the first person to graduate from IS&T with the Cyber Operations certificate, and he’s been selected as the IS&T undergrad student marshal.
“Once I found my niche I really learned how to apply myself. School really changed my mind and changed my focus,” Hamidi said. “Next fall I just have one more class, and I’ll complete my master’s degree.”
He credited the IS&T advisors for helping him find his passion, and the professors for always being available to help him along the way.
“At first, it was really overwhelming having to learn new languages and piece together everything in the most optimal way,” he said. “But everyone at IS&T went above and beyond and helped me figure it out. Now, I find myself helping other students figure their path out as well.”
He reflected that he can’t say what his favorite class was, because he liked them all. “It was never repetitive, it was either an extension of my experience or something completely new.” Hamidi added. “Everyone comes from different backgrounds. The people at IS&T are there to help you along.”
Hamidi has already started a position as the cyber systems engineer at Northrup Grumman, and has plans to continue on once he graduates with his undergraduate degree this May.“You don’t have to be on the battle field to help people. You can help [protect] people this way.” Hamidi said of his cybersecurity career.