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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

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Luka Lomtadze Luka Lomtadze
 


From SDSU-Georgia to Facebook

SDSU computer engineering junior Luka Lomtadze, a member of the first cohort of students in the SDSU-Georgia program, was selected to intern at Facebook.
By Michael Klitzing
 

“I’m not wasting a single second as I try to gain new skills. I’ve been working lately on things involving artificial intelligence and cybersecurity—mainly machine learning. I’m very excited.”

Last fall, Luka Lomtadze received a potentially life-altering email. A recruiter from Facebook was interested in the San Diego State University computer engineering junior as a possible summer intern, and the social media giant wanted to set up an interview with him as soon as possible.

Somehow, the email ended up in Lomtadze’s spam folder.

By the time he discovered it, a month had passed.

“I was so depressed,” said Lomtadze. “I rushed and wrote to them, ‘Your email ended up in the spam. I hope you’re still interested because this is my dream job.’”

Fortunately, Facebook must have felt he was worth the wait. After acing two technical interviews, Lomtadze is headed to Menlo Park, California, to start his software engineering internship. As he waits to find out which team he’ll be matched with, he’s already starting to prepare for an experience that could fast-track his career.

“I’m not wasting a single second as I try to gain new skills,” he said. “I’ve been working lately on things involving artificial intelligence and cybersecurity—mainly machine learning. I’m very excited.”

SDSU-Georgia success

The prestigious internship would be noteworthy for any SDSU student, but particularly in the case of Lomtadze—a member of the first cohort of students in the SDSU-Georgia program, launched in 2015 as a joint partnership between SDSU, the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Georgian government.

Lomtadze, who served as student president of SDSU-Georgia’s engineering school, wound up on Facebook’s radar after his LinkedIn location changed to San Diego; he came to SDSU’s main campus in fall 2017 as part of an exchange program between the two campuses. He has now completed his second semester in San Diego.

“I’ve been programming for 10 years already and, since the beginning, I’ve always wanted to work for the top companies of the world,” Lomtadze said. “And Facebook is one of the biggest companies imaginable.”

Tech prodigy

Lomtadze’s path to one of the top brands in tech started in Kutaisi, a city of about 150,000 residents in western Georgia. Money was often tight growing up, and his unearthly skill with computers allowed him to help his family make ends meet. As a sixth grader, he was already developing websites.

“I was into technology because it was an easy way to earn money in Georgia,” Lomtadze said. “Even if you are small you can freelance and do something on the internet. It gave me enough money to be a bit more independent and help my family.”

By the time he was 15, Lomtadze was creating tech startups. In all, he launched eight of them in Georgia; six of them failed but two—an app called Hero that connects good Samaritans with people in need, and an app that turns moving images into gifs—are still going strong.

Seizing opportunity

Lomtadze dreamed of studying in the United States after high school, but his family’s financial situation kept him in Georgia. Fortunately, SDSU-Georgia’s campus in Tbilisi gave him another chance at his dream.

“I decided to use every opportunity I had, which is why I chose to become an SDSU student,” said Lomtadze, who lives in San Diego with two of his Georgian classmates. “Life is very different here. I really like how the system works in the U.S. People are more independent and more focused on achieving their goals.”

Now—thanks to a fortuitous check of the spam folder—one of Lomtadze’s biggest goals is in reach.