iSchool undergrad Emmanuel 'Izzy' Gambliel is on a roll

What do cybersecurity, social dancing, and roller derby have in common? Just ask Izzy.

UW Information School student Emmanuel “Izzy” Gambliel is not your ordinary undergrad. As he explains, “I’m very much an individualist. I don’t generally fit in in any box.”

For starters, when Gambliel joined the iSchool in 2013 to pursue his degree—while simultaneously earning a BA in Mathematics—the long-time Seattle resident had already enjoyed what most people would consider a long, successful career in high tech. He’d worked for more than 13 years as a game tester, IT manager, program manager, and system administrator.

Gambliel gained all his experience—without a bachelor’s degree—much in the way he ended up at the Information School. He unreservedly followed his passions. When he was younger, he attended Summit K-12, an alternative private school. While there, he learned BASIC programming, which ignited his passion for computers. Then, like many alternative school students, he left Summit at 17 to earn his GED at Seattle Central Community College.

“When I was at Seattle Central, one of my friends owned a computer hardware distribution company,” Gambliel said. “I started working with him. We were computer nuts. We made gaming systems and were constantly upgrading them. With the skills I learned, I was able to go to work in IT at Earthlink.”

That initial break led to more jobs, including increasingly responsible positions at Swedish Medical Center, TriKing Games, and Microsoft.

“I was doing software forensics. During the 100-day wait between Microsoft contracts, the huge economy collapse hit and my project was cancelled. After that, knowing IT but having no degrees or certifications to back it up, left very few opportunities,” Gambliel explained.

So he headed back to Seattle Central. He quickly earned his AAS in Computer Programming, with his sights set on coming to the UW.

“I grew up at the UW,” Gambliel explained. “I’ve always had a strong connection. All through high school my mom worked at the UW.”

Here, Gambliel has found his professional experience helpful.

“A lot of times, I’m able to pick up things easily and quickly,” he said. “I often end up acting as a semi de facto TA because I have the kind of personality that likes teaching and sharing.”

Gambliel’s desire to share has found another outlet at the UW. He currently serves as ASUW’s IT system administrator.

“It provides me a way to give back to the UW,” he said. “It’s also a way to earn a little money, help the ASUW get everything they need done, and do it on campus with a flexible schedule.”

Flexibility is vital for Gambliel. While he finds his coursework relatively easy, there’s one challenge he faces that’s difficult to overcome: finding enough hours in a day to do all the things he loves. Namely, his other self-described “geek” passions: social dancing, board games, and roller derby.

Gambliel is IT co-administrator for Seattle’s Rat City Rollergirls, a position he’s held since 2007. Not only that, but during that time he’s become an in-demand roller derby official and referee, skating alongside the participants in matches, including international championships.

“There’s rarely a weekend that I’m not off somewhere doing a couple bouts,” Gambliel said. “There are also several national and international tournaments every year, and I usually end up officiating anywhere between four to seven of them. I’ve been skating all my life. I like providing an opportunity for women to participate in a full contact sport. It’s something that’s not common—so providing that opportunity and being able to help in that community is a joy.”

Gambliel also describes himself as “very passionate about playing board games” with a group of friends who are professional board game designers. In fact, Gambliel himself designed card games while working for TriKing Games.

“My other big passion is dancing,” Gambliel said. “I participate in a lot of dance classes through the UW. I’ve been studying Salsa. I’ve been studying Tango. I’ve been studying Swing. It helps me maintain a good work-life balance in my studies.”

Eventually, Gambliel hopes to become a cryptographer—a passion he developed after reading two books: Cryptonomicon by Seattle author Neil Stevenson, and The Code Book, by Simon Singh. It’s a demanding, specialized field Gambliel feels his iSchool studies will help him break into.

“Cryptography requires a strong knowledge of math and a strong knowledge of cybersecurity,” Gambliel said. “I chose the iSchool because they had a program in information assurance and cybersecurity—which links into my desire to study cryptography.”

After he completes his iSchool degree next spring, Gambliel plans to move on to a masters degree in cryptography. And, of course, keep dancing, playing board games, and skating.

“What I’m studying now at the iSchool really relates to what I want to be doing with my life,” Gambliel said. “It’s surprising how close-knit everyone in the program ends up becoming.”