Finding ‘the ultimate package’

Tomi Babalola sits with a notebook and pen on a red metal bridge that crosses the Chicago river

Tomi Babalola could have been your dentist (and would not have been happy about it). But thanks to some experimentation with computer science, Tomi found a career path that represented an unexpected calling.

Written By
Tomi Babalola
  • Her Own Words (HOW) series

I never had one true passion in life. As far back as I can remember, the first thing I ever wanted to be was a doctor. I dismissed my childhood fantasies and focused on a more realistic career in business, but as I grew up, business didn’t seem as appealing to me anymore. Then I was sure that I was going to be a dentist. People would hate me, but it would be fine because I’d be thriving in my career. A few weeks before I submitted my college applications, I had an epiphany, and dentistry sounded absolutely terrible. I’m not the biggest fan of science, and I get grossed out and queasy, so I’m not sure what I was thinking.

I was always and still am very envious of people who are decisive: those who have known since they were 2 that gymnastics or medicine or art was their ultimate passion. I never had anything like that. When it came to choosing a career to spend the rest of my life doing, I was frustrated and angry at myself that I didn’t even have something I was interested in enough to pursue. I had no idea which field I would go into. Was it math, science, business, art, engineering, or law? I didn’t have a clue. I researched day and night trying to find something that piqued my interest, but it was to no avail.

Choosing computer science as my major was a spur-of-the-moment decision. My applications were due, and I hadn’t a clue what I was going to major in, but the determined part of me refused to go into college undecided. I liked math because there was one answer to a problem; it appealed to the indecisive and logical part of me. And I liked English because putting my thoughts into words on paper was my creative outlet. Computer science was like a gift from god because it felt like the ultimate package. I didn’t feel like I was limiting myself to one field of study. I would get a chance to bring new ideas into the world. I could work anywhere, and the pay was the icing on the cake. I had never even considered that I would be in the tech field, but now that I am in it, I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.

I moved to the United States from my home country, Nigeria, about five years ago. Starting over in a new environment presented a unique chance to rewrite my story. My previous existence consisted of living in oblivion, expecting that things would work out great without any extra effort from me. Nigeria and the United States differ in many ways, most especially in technology. Constant electricity, wifi, and laptops and projectors in schools were not common in Nigeria. I remember when my school installed one projector screen in only one classroom. Everyone was stunned and so excited to have an improved learning style. However, the projector wasn’t used often because only two teachers in the whole school knew how to use it. Moving from Nigeria to the United States, I have seen firsthand the promise that technology holds and its benefits to society. We see the advancement of technology every day, with products like self-driving cars and foldable phones. I love technology because it makes the things that seem impossible possible, and there’s no limit to what someone can do with the right idea.

Although I was never sure what I wanted to spend my life doing, I knew for certain that I wanted to do something that made an impact on people and the world. I want to change the world, to make my mark, to be a thunderstorm incapable of oversight.