Samuel Tumdedo: A Humanitarian’s Journey to the Masters in Software Development
It was an inspiring experience to interview Samuel Tumdedo, who came to the Masters of Software Development (MSD) program with an impressive background working for humanitarian organizations such as World Vision International, Samaritan’s Purse International, and Action Contre La Faim (ACF), where he managed water supply projects in refugee camps, and often in war zones. Samuel dedicated many years of his life to helping school children and refugee communities and has recently joined MSD to become a software developer. He plans to use his new skills to continue his work with humanitarian organizations. Learn more about this man and be prepared to be inspired!
Interview by Christine Albers
CA: Can you tell us a bit about your family and where you grew up?
Samuel: I was born and raised in the Hadiya zone of Ethiopia which is 235km from Addis Ababa, the capital to the south. I am the second of six siblings. My father and mother and four of my siblings are in Ethiopia. My other brother and sister are in Johannesburg, South Africa. My parents are farmers and commerce merchants, selling farm products. They always ask me to come back. And I do miss them and Ethiopia. The weather there is a kind of utopia. The temperature is always 60 to 70 degrees.
CA: What is your educational and career background?
Samuel: I attended the Arba Minch University in Ethiopia, where I studied hydraulic engineering for five years. After graduating with my Bachelor of Science in Engineering, I worked for about one and a half years in water supply and housing projects in the Hadiya zone of Ethiopia as a hydraulic engineer. After that, I joined World Vision International to work as an Infrastructure Engineer. I was promoted to Water Supply Design Engineer Officer and stayed with World Vision for almost six years. During that time, I was based in different parts of Ethiopia working in area development programs and also three and half years in Addis Ababa. I then took a managerial position with Action Contre La Faim (ACF) where I stayed for a year.
After my year at ACF, I had the opportunity to join Samaritan’s Purse International in South Sudan where I worked with Nubian refugees and South Sudanese host communities in Unity State. My South Sudanese experience was special in many ways; it was a war zone with extremely difficult weather conditions. There was no communication and we could only make a call if there was an emergency. There was so much stress and pressure as we were serving very large populations. One camp had 70,000 refugees, another had 40,000, and another housed 300,000. I was managing different projects for Samaritan’s Purse along with other humanitarian organizations in the cluster.
CA: You also worked in Cambodia. What took you there?
Samuel: I had the privilege of working in Cambodia which lost more than 3 million people during the Khmer Rouge genocide. I was a water supply, sanitation, and hygiene program manager for almost three years in Cambodia, while still working for Samaritan’s Purse International. When I think of Cambodia, I always think about how much war can damage a country’s economy, education, livelihoods and so much more. When I saw Cambodia, it was so sad. The population was not well educated. These people left their country and were refugees who came back, and then they were assigned to another place. They lived in fear. It was really depressing to see how they were tortured. My job was working for them on water supply, water quality tests, building reservoirs and water tanks, hygiene promotions, and education.
CA: You are such a compassionate and good-hearted person, Samuel. What inspired you to work for these humanitarian organizations?
Samuel: After graduating from college, I really wanted to help the world with my profession, which at that time was engineering. I am a Christian, so I feel there is great value in helping people and communities in need. I thought, what is my true profession? And the answer that came to me was to advance the kingdom of God.
CA: You certainly did wonderful work during those years in Sudan and Cambodia. What inspired you to move to the United States?
Samuel: I’m really proud I worked there and had that experience. I had the privilege to learn about other global communities, cultures, religions, and specifically the South Sudanese community who are still suffering from unreached needs. There are so many untold stories about that young nation. I hope there might come a day when South Sudan can use its resources and rise as a nation.
However, the pressure of bringing facilities to needy people, who were coming from the war zone was extremely stressful and it wasn’t very safe to live there, so at some point, I was ready for a change. For so many years I was really stressed and I needed to stay in one place.
So, after working many years in humanitarian organizations I moved to the U.S. because I wanted to be more settled in one country.
CA: What was your experience when you arrived in the United States?
Samuel: I started coming to the US in 2015 and working on IT projects with friends while continuing with humanitarian projects. When I first arrived, I had to adapt and learn everything new. I had to work to get to know people and gain entry into other communities. The newness of everything was a culture shock. Over time, I became more acclimated to life in the US and in 2019 I moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, with a plan to stay permanently.
CA: Were you able to find work in the US?
Samuel: When I came to the US, I needed to change my engineering career to Information Technology (IT). I had some inclination to technology and I love learning new programming languages. I had some knowledge of Structured Query Language (SQL) so that was the first job I got in the USA. I explored more on the IT side and I learned a bit of Python programming language. I also had the opportunity to learn Cloud Computing.
I am now certified with four Amazon Web Services. Last year (2021), I became an AWS certified cloud practitioner, AWS certified solutions architect associate, AWS certified developer associate, and AWS certified Data Analytics Specialist. But I still wanted to get out of the norm where I used to be. That is why I decided to stop, change my job, and get more education. I felt that I could do better with software development and I decided to join Maharishi International University, and here I am in Iowa.
CA: What was your experience when you arrived at MIU?
Samuel: I really like MIU. It was totally new to me, but now it feels like something good. For example, the food is different. I was a meat-eater but now I am eating vegetarian, and I like that it is healthy. Another thing is the TM technique. I’m not accumulating stress anymore because I have a way to release it. I feel more self-aware. I know what I’m doing and I can remember things better. I’m realizing those benefits now. The education system coupled with TM at the beginning and end of the day makes me feel like I am understanding something deeper, like I am more connected to God, and have a deeper appreciation of my own religion.
CA: What are your plans for the future?
Samuel: I will see what happens but I hope to be a strong software developer and work with humanitarian organizations where I can contribute to educational systems in underdeveloped countries.
CA: Thank you, Samuel. Getting to know you through this interview, I can see you are a beautiful person, and all of us at MIU wish you the very best success in your career and happiness in life.