Brandon Tory, who graduated from the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department in 2010, has traveled a long and perilous journey from living as a teenager in a Brockton, Massachusetts, homeless shelter to working as a senior software artificial intelligence engineer at Google in Southern California and moonlighting as a well-known rapper. His poignant and inspiring story has most recently been featured in the Brockton Enterprise, but in the past has made the pages of Forbes and the Wall Street Journal. See 2019 College of Engineering story: UMass Alum and Rapper/Engineer Proves “It’s Cool to Be a Genius”.
The Enterprise feature, written by Alisha Saint-Ciel, gives a colorful account of Tory’s early years.
As Saint-Ciel writes, “In a cramped homeless shelter that smells like Black & Mild cigars, 15-year-old Brandon Tory dumpster-dives for salvageable parts to build his own computer as 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin’ plays in his headphones and he slowly mumbles the words.”
From that lowly beginning, Tory now lives a fulfilling life as a senior engineer at Google and a successful musician and producer.
According to Saint-Ciel, “Tory, as a teenager, stayed up all night in a Brockton shelter where his family lived and spray-painted a computer he built from scratch black. Building computers, hacking, coding, and reading carried Tory through the unstable environment that was his life.”
Tory recalls that “My family faced a lot of financial struggles, but my mind was always focused on becoming a hacker and learning how to code. So I taught myself how to code and different coding languages, and I was good at it at a young age.”
Despite Tory’s disinterest in high school brought on by the soul-sapping life faced by his family, his intelligence and skills won out in the end.
In Saint-Ciel’s words, “Luckily for Tory, he was a great test taker. He got high SAT scores and earned the John Abigail Adams scholarship when he graduated in 2005. The prestigious scholarship funded his college journey at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he pursued an engineering degree. Despite despising [high] school, Tory wanted to attend college, and his parents pushed for him to do so.”
Later, at UMass, Tory met another unconventional character who helped change his educational trajectory. As Saint-Ciel writes, “He sat in the back, away from his classmates, and always wore his favorite Champion hoodie. Luke Root, Tory's classmate, sat in the front and wore a full suit every day to class. In Tory's mind, they both didn't fit in the dynamic of the classroom. As a result, they both were the odd ones out.”
According to Tory, “We had something in common. We were both alone, and we both looked weird. One day I started talking to him, and I found out he was a straight-A student, and we started hanging out and studying together.”
Saint-Ciel explains that “With this newfound friendship, Tory was able to connect and build with Root. His grades improved, he became a straight-A student, and graduated college in 2010.”
Tory’s ECE education eventually led him to Google in California and also to his other career as a rapper and producer.
As Tory told Forbes in 2019, he has thought quite profoundly about the integration of his two contrasting loves, engineering and music. “Music to me is the equivalent of code with emotion,” said Tory. “I consider music to be software for the human brain. I believe that within the actual binary bits in the music there are encoded shimmers of the relationships and the things that happened to create them.” (July 2021)