Tyrone Jacobs Jr.’s drive to succeed is larger-than-life — like the ginormous image of him on a wall at LinkedIn headquarters in California.
A line from an April post is by his photo: “I will never, and I mean never, stop striving for greatness.”“I got tagged in a post on LinkedIn. And I clicked on the link and it was me, and I was like, ‘Whoa!’ I had to stop. I thought: Is this for real? And I’m looking at it, and it’s for real — a wall, a mural, dedicated in my honor in their headquarters,” the UT junior majoring in electrical engineering said.
“Anybody who works at LinkedIn in California can see me all day — right there when you walk to the café — it’s a huge plastering of me,” he said. “I can’t put what it means into words.”
It all began in March when Jacobs attended the National Society of Black Engineers conference in Boston and interviewed with Boeing Co. In April, he was offered a summer internship with the world’s largest aerospace company and manufacturer of commercial jets.
“I got the offer, and I posted about it on my LinkedIn account,” he recalled.
Heartfelt and candid, the post began: “To be real, statistically, I should be dead or in jail. I’m a young black man that was raised in the hood by a single mother that had to support three other family members along with me. I don’t even know what to say. How did I make it this far in my life when the odds were always against me? I’m so in shock. I came from practically nothing and to get an offer from Boeing for an electromagnetics effects position just absolutely blows me away… I will never, and I mean never, stop striving for greatness.”“The post just blew up,” Jacobs said. “It really took off like a rocket. It had 13,000 to 14,000 likes and comments.”
In fact, the post received so much attention that LinkedIn invited Jacobs to visit. He traveled to the business networking giant’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., in April.
“I flew out there for a photo shoot and a video shoot. My video is on the YouTube channel if you type in ‘defying the odds Tyrone Jacobs Jr.,’ you’ll see me with my big cheesy smile on the thumbnail of the video,” he said and laughed.
More than 3,500 have viewed that video, and thousands have seen Jacobs on LinkedIn’s wall, which went up during the summer.
“I’m just trying to spread my story to inspire someone,” he said.It’s a moving tale about a boy born in Chicago who grew up in Toledo.
“I lived in a bad neighborhood. I come from where people don’t make it from. I saw a lot of police, violence, gangs, drugs — all these things you see in a movie or on TV, I was seeing in real life,” he said. “Sometimes we didn’t have electricity or food. And I didn’t have a father.
“My mom, she was so focused on me, going to school and keeping my grades up, making sure I was taking care of my business.”
Since the family didn’t have a computer, with his mom’s encouragement, Jacobs went to the library every day after school.
“My mom talks about that now, how I was always so studious. I was trying to get away from all the negative stuff around me,” he said.
His mom continues to motivate him.
“She’s worked so hard over the years, and she’s done what she can with so little,” Jacobs said. “She’s my inspiration. If I can make a better situation for her and the rest of my family, that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.”The 2012 graduate of Toledo Technology Academy has impressed many.
“Tyrone sets a great example of what all of our students can achieve. They are ready to take on major roles in industry and start making an impact right away, even before graduation, in Tyrone’s case,” Dr. Nagi Naganathan, dean of the College of Engineering, said. “Tyrone exemplifies the kind of leadership we want our students to embody. I don’t doubt that his perseverance and dedication will pay off in ways he has yet to realize.”
“I think Tyrone’s story is inspiring to anyone,” Dr. Mansoor Alam, professor and chair of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, said. “It proves there is light at the end of the tunnel, but only for those who keep on and on — moving forward as Tyrone did.”
“I find Tyrone an inspiration,” Christie Hennen, associate director of student services in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, said. “He never gives up on his goals. When faced with challenges, Tyrone perseveres and does it with a positive attitude.”
Jacobs found his passion in a high school digital electronics class. Choosing to attend The University of Toledo was easy.
“The main reason was because UT has a really strong College of Engineering. And the fact that the school is close to home, all my family is here,” he said. “I got offered scholarships as well to come here and pursue my education. Everything worked out.”That includes landing internships with two Fortune 500 companies. In 2015, Jacobs worked in information technology at Eaton Corp. in Maumee.
Then there was Boeing: “I had a chance to see employees design airplane wings and other parts of airplanes. I was looking at military aircrafts, all this super-cool and confidential stuff that people usually don’t have a chance to see.”
Last month, Jacobs experienced more rarities when he returned to LinkedIn.
“I flew out there to meet with some of the people who have been working on my stuff,” he said. “And I was kind of a celebrity there in a sense for a moment. I was walking through the building, and everybody was freaking out: ‘Wait! Is this the guy?’ Everybody is stopping their work just to say hi. That felt pretty cool.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Jacobs met LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner.
“He was very humble, relaxed and cool. He shook my hand, we took a picture, I got to pick his brain for a little bit. He actually said, ‘I remember you, I liked your post.’ He actually likes my posts. I’ve never had a CEO of anything like my posts. I see his name pop up, and I’m just like wow, he genuinely likes my stuff. It’s crazy.”
Back on campus, Jacobs is concentrating on classes. He is president of the UT chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers and a member of the Roy and Marcia Ames Engineering Leadership Institute, and he is an information technology desktop support assistant in the College of Arts and Letters. Carrying a grade point average above 3.0, Jacobs plans to graduate in fall 2017 with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering and a minor in business administration. He’s applied for another internship with Boeing, this time in California, and hopes to get an offer letter soon.
“I want to use my all for everything that I’m doing right now — school, work, all my leadership on campus — everything I’m doing, I have to give it my 120 percent every day, not complaining, not making excuses, just getting the job done,” he said.
“I want to keep growing, making more moves, and keeping my eyes on the prize, and not stop until I get there.”