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Living life at a fast tempo: Austin McGee ’07

An appropriate music score for the movie of Austin McGee’s life would be a marching band set to a fast tempo. McGee graduated from UC Berkeley with two degrees and now balances an impressive job at IBM while playing a pivotal role in a start-up that hopes to help solve the global water crisis.

It is exhausting even just listening to all that McGee has loaded onto his plate since graduating from Sonoma Valley High School in 2007.

A robotics fan as a middle schooler, McGee took that interest to the next level by choosing to attend Cal for its excellent engineering program. He spread his time between electrical engineering and computer science coursework, while still finding time to play trumpet in the university’s renowned marching band all four years. Perhaps still not busy enough, in his junior year he began to take his music even more seriously and started trumpet lessons with the lead trumpeter at the San Francisco Opera, which led him to join the University Symphony Orchestra. While most students who are on track to finish their double major early might watch TV and drink some beers, McGee decided to get a simultaneous bachelor’s degree in music.

What makes being so busy so much fun for McGee? Following his passions, and that is the advice he has for current students. “Do what you love. It doesn't matter so much where you go to college – craft your own experience and make it awesome. If you're passionate about whatever you're doing, you'll do great things with it,” he said.

Looking back, McGee thinks that being in Cal’s marching band and orchestra taught him as much as his coursework. “I learned about being part of a team, leading a team and channeling hard work into constructive self-improvement,” he said. “It was an incredible time commitment and I spread myself a bit thin through college (and just in general, it's a bad habit),” he said, “but I think that's actually something that makes me who I am.”

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