The Many Faces of Gifted: Garrett (Part I)

By Carole Rosner

Every gifted child has a unique story. The following story is part of a series of posts highlighting gifted children and adults we have found through IEA programs, depicting the many faces of gifted. IEA’s Apprenticeship Program – mentioned in this story – links gifted high school students from across the country with mentors who advance each participant’s skills through the application of knowledge and exposure to real world experiences.

Garrett

Garrett Marcotte
IEA Apprentice at Avery Research Center in 2004
Software engineer, Facebook

“Just go for it, because the earlier you gain experience, the greater the benefits you’ll reap from that experience later on. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone, and never be discouraged by failure. Learn from it and do better next time, because you will improve.” – Garrett Marcotte

As a high school sophomore, Garrett participated in IEA’s Apprenticeship Program, working with Avery Research Center. Today, Garrett is a software engineer at Facebook, designing and writing the code that makes the popular social networking service work.

After high school, Garrett attended Princeton University and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science and Engineering degree in Electrical Engineering and minors in Computer Science and Robotics. While at Princeton, Garrett took every class he could in all subject areas because he “didn’t want to miss out on any of it.”

Garrett has worked in a variety of jobs, including internships at JPL and Google, a research position at USC, and as a teacher’s assistant and grader at Princeton. He also spent a summer trying (unsuccessfully) to launch an internet start-up company.

Garrett has been at Facebook for about 18 months and enjoys the work very much. He hopes to get involved again in a start-up company someday. “I’m particularly interested in applying technology to education, politics, non-profits, and global issues, so I could easily see myself doing something in that area. But there’s so much exciting innovation going on all around me every day that I’m really just trying to keep pace with all the opportunities and go wherever I can have the most impact and really make a difference in the world.”

Although a Facebook IPO is looming, Garrett focuses on the task at hand:

What really attracted me to Facebook was the opportunity to touch the lives of hundreds of millions of people on a daily basis, to contribute to a product that has changed the world, from the individual level of reconnecting friends and families up to the international level of helping millions organize for a common cause. In the Silicon Valley tech world there’s a strong belief that if you build a great product then you will be rewarded accordingly. Facebook is no exception, so the focus of all the employees that I know, from Mark Zuckerberg on down, is the same as it’s always been: to make Facebook the best that we possibly can and a real force for good in the world.

Garrett credits the Apprenticeship Program with giving him a huge jump start on his life path in several ways:

First, it helped me evaluate my interests. The fact that I signed up for a chemistry program but ended up spending most of time programming and working with electronics made it pretty clear where my real passion lay. And it was due to the diversity of projects available and freedom in selecting a project that I was able to reach that realization. Second, the program was a stepping-stone to future opportunities. The experience of owning a project, driving an end-to-end solution, and working within all the constraints of a real-world environment formed a central part of my college applications and job interviews for several years after the program. Finally, I jumped several years ahead of the curve in the field of signal processing, and in particular the most important software program in that field, Matlab. Most of my peers had no exposure to either of these until college, and because of that I was prepared for higher level courses and more advanced opportunities at a younger age. For example, I’m certain that I would not have been able to intern at JPL right out of high school if it hadn’t been for the skills I picked up during the Apprenticeship Program.

Although Garrett doesn’t see the other Apprentices on a regular basis, their paths have crossed a few times. “The shared experience of the Apprenticeship program really is a common bond that ties us together even after several years.”

For more about Garrett’s Apprenticeship at Avery Research Center, read Part II

There are still spots available for our Apprenticeship Program in Los Angeles and San Diego. Apply today!

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