When Daniel Otieno, one of our superstar QA engineers, saw his first computer, it was love at first sight.
Despite having never been within a 100 mile radius of one before the — well, relatively, for someone of his generation — ripe old age of 17, he took to it like a fish to water.
Within months, he was mastering advanced programming languages while tutoring other students in the basics. So, when it was time for him to go to university, he didn’t have to think twice about which subjects he’d choose.
Bachelor of Science degrees, particularly ones in computer science and mathematics, are notoriously challenging.
But Daniel — or Danny, as he’s known around the office — has never been one to shy away from hard work.
Plus, the fit was perfect. Not only did he excel in his studies, but the path eventually led him to ALT21, where he’s been making an invaluable contribution and has become the first employee to be part-owner of the company.
Yes, you read that last part right.
As of 2022, Danny is also an ALT21 shareholder.
From Mombasa to the world
Growing up in Mombasa, Kenya’s second city, was a challenging experience for Danny. ‘I’m from a humble background,‘ he says. ‘My dad was a casual worker and money was often tight.‘
So, despite getting excellent results in his primary levels — the Kenyan equivalent of GCSEs — it looked like he wasn’t going to be able to continue on to high school, simply because the fees were out of his family’s reach.
Determined to make sure Danny could reach his potential, his mother decided to get a chama loan — chamas are informal cooperatives in which members pool their savings and use them to help each other out, kind of like credit unions.
This enabled Danny to further his studies. An opportunity he took extremely seriously.
‘The school I could afford to go to with the chama loan was local and very small,’ he remembers. ‘But, I said to myself… you know? I have this chance. I want to learn. So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.‘
Hard work pays off
It didn’t take long for Danny to start reaping the rewards of his hard work.
‘At the end of the first term,’ Danny explains, ‘the head teacher called to let me know someone was asking about me and to see if I was available for a meeting.‘
Despite not being sure quite what to think, Danny agreed. And, as it turned out, the meeting would change his life.
An Irish charity called SAAS — Sponsor an African Scholar — had noticed Danny’s potential and offered him a scholarship. As a result, Danny was able to transfer to a higher rated high school in neighbouring Kilifi County.
Here, he continued to excel academically, winning Student of the Year awards twice, in 2011 and 2016.
More importantly, it’s where he realised he had a knack for mathematics and where, eventually, he would set eyes on his first computer.
By the time he graduated from the Technical University of Mombasa, which he was also able to attend thanks to a SAAS scholarship, Danny didn’t just have academic qualifications. He also had several years of practical experience under his belt.
In the period between the start of his high school studies in Kilifi County and his university course, Danny became a mathematics tutor and, subsequently, a computer instructor.
He also started a foundation for aspiring local programmers called Nairobi Mombasa. The foundation, Danny says, is more than just a means for him to share his passion for computers with others. It’s also his way of giving back to the community.
‘I was privileged to go to university,‘ he says. ‘There were others who didn’t get the same opportunity… The foundation has opened a lot of doors for many people. Some of them are even working with Microsoft now.‘
At the same time, Danny also started freelancing with Swahili Box — a technology open space in Mombasa through which he got his first technology jobs.
But it was SAAS that would once again offer Danny a life-changing opportunity.
‘I was chatting with a volunteer and the conversation turned towards computers,’ Daniel recalls. ‘I was telling them about my areas of interest, and they told me they knew an Irish company that needed somebody with my skill set.‘
That company turned out to be ALT21.
A round of interviews later, Danny was flying to Dublin to meet the team.
Be the change you want to see
What Danny loves best about his role at ALT21 is that it combines the two things he cares about most in the world: computers and helping people.
‘I make sure the company ships stable products,’ Danny says. ‘My goal is to help the client to have a smooth, seamless experience. And that’s what I love to do, helping people.‘
Danny’s decision to buy shares in ALT21 also stems from this mindset. ‘I strongly believe that you should be part of the solution,’ he says. ‘Buying shares in the company, to me, is about having a stake. I’m putting my money where my mouth is.‘
Over the next few months and years, Danny is looking forward to helping ALT21 fulfill its mission to make hedging accessible for everyone.
But his success has also spurred him to redouble his efforts to help the less fortunate in his community.
‘No human is limited,‘ he concludes. ‘Good things happen to those who believe.‘
Through his work, he’s hoping to help the next generation of developers turn that belief into rock-solid opportunities.