Catalyst for Change in Africa: Biz Gebre, Cohort 3

by Alison Krupnick

One of many memorable moments at our 2021 virtual luncheon was the speech given by Biz Gebre, a Cohort 3 alum, the inaugural alumni member of the Rainier Scholars Board of Trustees, and a Senior Technical Program Manager at Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Biz set the stage with these words:

At the beginning of my Rainier Scholars journey, I’ve got to admit, as an 11-year-old, the thought of hitting the books HARD for two summers and a school year in between, for all the short-term sacrifices Rainier Scholars requires? I wasn’t sold. But my family had a vision for my future. A vision that, in time, I too began to see.

The vision takes shape

After graduating from Washington State University with a finance degree, Biz immersed himself in tech, eventually serving as a Salesforce Solution Architect at Bluewolf, which was later acquired by IBM. In 2019, he transitioned to a role at AWS where he focused on supporting the AWS Sales and Marketing teams in their use of internal Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools. Building meaningful relationships, he was able to fully immerse himself in learning the business and products from multiple perspectives.

That motivation is not surprising. If you know Biz, you know that he wholeheartedly embodies the spirit of “catalyst for change.” He’s hungry to learn and take on new challenges and exhibits a zeal that can’t help but energize those around him.

Coming full circle

Now Biz is getting ready to take on a new professional challenge with personal connotations. As an Ethiopian immigrant, who came to the U.S. when he was seven years old, in March 2021, Biz took a trip back to Ethiopia for the first time since moving to the U.S.  Feeling moved to give back to the country and continent where he was born, after his trip he was inspired to find ways to leverage technology to help improve the quality of life for people.

Biz started networking internally at AWS to better understand the footprint in Ethiopia, and Africa as a whole, to see what opportunities existed on the continent to drive digital transformation using cloud technology. After a year of networking, this March he landed a Senior Tech Program Manager role focused on customers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Everlasting magic

In his luncheon speech, Biz movingly described the impact Rainier Scholars has had on his life:

What Rainier Scholars does is magical… but it’s not magic. It’s a simple formula really, a formula that has worked extremely well for the last 20 years. Rainier Scholars provided me with purposeful education by surrounding me with fantastic teachers who taught me resilience, instilled in me a love for education, and helped me believe in myself at a very early age. And I got to experience all of that in a community of like-minded scholars who have become my best friends over the years.

As a scholar, I was presented with incredible opportunities: the opportunity to attend a private school, opportunities for internships in high school and college, educational opportunities that led to greater career choice. And now…the opportunity to give back.

In Africa, he’ll do his favorite thing – create synergy – connecting people with resources so they can thrive.