Seeing Double at Commencement? Maybe Not!

Twin brothers Ibraheem and Ismaeel Alsaadi prepare to graduate from George Washington University’s CPS cybersecurity program.

April 27, 2023

Ismaeel (left) and Ibraheem Alsaadi

Ismaeel (at left) and Ibraheem Alsaadi like working as a team. (Contributed photo)

The Alsaadi twins are fraternal, but their resemblance to one another is close enough that you could be forgiven for thinking they are identical. The last time they deliberately tried to fool anyone about which brother was which, they were in grade school. Ibraheem was a more gifted math student, and Ismaeel was a stronger reader, so the brothers hit upon the idea of switching their assigned seats so that Ibraheem could handle the math while Ismaeel handled the reading. After their teacher discovered the ruse, they were placed in separate classrooms.

Years of good behavior paid off when the brothers were free to be classmates again at GW, where they are both seniors preparing to graduate with B.P.S. degrees from the cybersecurity program of the College of Professional Studies.

The twins, babies of the family (technically, Ibraheem is younger, but one minute hardly counts here), were born in the United States but grew up in Qatar. After studying civil engineering at Northern Virginia Community College for two years, they were feeling unfulfilled and restless. Their father, a telecommunications expert who holds patents with Intel, suggested they pursue something related to computers, reasoning, “You guys have been on computers your whole life.”

In transferring to GW, they were following in the footsteps of their sister Rzan, B.A. ’22, who studied psychology and brain sciences at GW and suggested they apply to the cybersecurity program. (Their other sister, Rwan, is pursuing a degree in environmental science at George Mason University.) Both brothers say they enjoy their studies and are grateful for Rzan’s advice.

“I’m taking a class in digital forensics taught by Timothy Losito, who does digital forensics for the Department of Homeland Security,” Ibraheem said. “He tells us how he catches bad guys on the internet using different forensic tools to extract information from their computers and their phones, and gives us in-person simulations of FTK® Imager, the software he uses at work.”

The social skills they’re learning are important as well, Ismaeel said. He enjoys events with classmates such as a recent barbecue with steak and chicken on the grill, as well as the academic experience.

“Soft skills, like being able to network with others, being able to express opinions, maintain eye contact, and make PowerPoint presentations, are crucial,” he said. “I think Dr. Scott White, the cybersecurity program’s director, thinks so, too.”

The brothers say they do a lot of studying together, breaking up lessons and sharing notes. One of the things they have enjoyed about their classwork at GW is that they are often assigned to work on projects with a team.

This semester, the twins were on a team of six cybersecurity bachelor’s degree students at GW who participated in a competition designed to prepare them for some of the challenges they will face in their future careers. Dubbed Commonwealth Cyber Fusion 2023, the competition was hosted at Virginia Military Institute, where teams faced off against students from other Virginia colleges for what Ibraheem likened to a game of “capture the flag.” They took part in activities such as using Wireshark, open-source software designed to analyze network packets, to identify the type of attack presented in an example. The GW team finished in the top third at the competition.

Both brothers plan to stay in the United States after graduating. Both have accepted job offers from Deloitte, a professional services firm, where they will help clients assess their cybersecurity controls and manage risks. They were careful to let the Deloitte human resources recruiter know that they are twins, and she gave them the green light to apply.

They will report for their new jobs at Deloitte’s Arlington offices after summer trips to the Bahamas and back to Qatar. But first, their parents are coming from Qatar for an extended visit, and the family will gather locally for GW’s Commencement on the National Mall.

The twins say they are still frequently mistaken for each other, but haven’t tried to deliberately fool anyone since getting in trouble in the first grade. If you think you are seeing double at the Commencement ceremony, you are probably watching the Alsaadi brothers march in procession.