The Journey of One Technion Alum

The 1983 Cold War science fiction techno-thriller WarGames was a box-office hit that garnered three Academy Award nominations. The film about a young hacker who unwittingly accesses a Pentagon supercomputer also made its mark on then 12-year-old Guy Merin. “I went straight from the theater to K-Mart and bought my first computer,” he recalled. “I started my journey there.”

It’s a journey that took him from earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science at the Technion to Microsoft, where he played a key role in the recent release of Surface Duo 2 — the latest iteration of the dual-screen Android smartphone, named by TIME magazine as one of the best innovations of 2020.

“It’s a super cool innovation,” said Merin, director of engineering for the apps team, of the industry’s first dual-screen phone. The device doubles as a notebook, allowing users to write with its Surface Pen on one screen while chatting or emailing on the other. “It’s an office on the go,” Merin said, explaining that having two screens mimics an office environment where a laptop is connected to a second display. And Surface Duo folds up into a single screen that fits in your pocket.

Merin and his brothers grew up in Jerusalem, except for a year in Chicago (site of the life-changing movie), where his father moved the family for his work as an eye doctor. He served in the Israel Defense Forces in the Paratroopers Brigade, traveled the world, and entered the Technion in 1994. “The first year was a bit of a shock,” he said. “The work was very demanding.”

In time, he figured out how to manage what he called the three S’s: sleep, study, and a social life. “You can’t have them all, all of the time. You have to prioritize,” he said. Getting that balance, he said, was not only the key to success at the Technion but also helped him later in juggling responsibilities as a father, husband, and Microsoft team leader. He also credits the Technion for teaching him how to learn on his own. “Once you learn how to learn, you can pick up any new technology.”

Graduating in 1997, he landed a position at Microsoft in Israel. Upon accepting the offer, he remembers saying up front: “I plan to stay two to three years, study from the experts, and then leave to start my own company.” He stayed indefinitely, as Microsoft gave him the entrepreneurial freedom to create his own projects and see them to fulfillment.

Merin currently lives in Redmond, Washington, where Microsoft’s headquarters are located, with his wife Ayelet, an architect, and two teenage boys — and is on the American Technion Society Pacific Northwest Leadership Council. “The Technion gave me a lot,” he said. “How can I give back?” In addition to providing financial support, Merin hopes to mentor Technion computer science students and to influence the curriculum. “That’s something I can do to contribute back to the Technion and benefit the computer science industry.”