This is one in a series of profiles showcasing some of Harvard’s stellar graduates.
Billy Koech was an electrical engineer before he even knew what one was.
As a teenager, he owned a pair of headphones with an FM receiver, but he had no way of transmitting music from his smartphone to the headphones.
Not one to leave a problem unsolved, Koech found a YouTube tutorial, taught himself to solder, and built an FM transmitter that enabled the devices to connect.
For Koech, it seemed like a perfectly natural thing to do.
“I’ve always been a tinkerer and enjoyed working with my hands,” he said. “Growing up, I remember taking a radio apart to see what was inside, then taking different pieces off and putting them back on to see what would happen to the device.”
Growing up in Kenya, Koech had the opportunity to take an electricity class at his high school, where he became fascinated by the concepts of resistance and capacitance, and the ability to design a simple circuit that could do some really incredible things.
So after being admitted to Harvard, he arrived in Cambridge ready to explore all that electrical engineering had to offer. Koech, who had never been to the U.S. before, felt right at home in the tight-knit engineering community at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
“I really enjoyed building devices and programming them to achieve some goal or solve some problem. That’s what attracted me to electrical engineering,” he said. “The deeper I dove into the field, the more I found that I could hone my skills and design things that really excited me.”