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Meet the graduates: Tevin Otieno

Tevin Otieno, CIS'17, is "excited to reconnect with the bustling tech culture in East Africa" after graduation, he says. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University
Tevin Otieno, CIS’17, says “Northeastern is what you make it.” With three co-ops, a hand in designing software for Boston Public Housing, and several campus ambassadorships under his belt, Otieno made it a global, experiential, community-centered experience. Now he’s looking forward to taking his entrepreneurial spirit back home to Nairobi to start a company to bolster tech literacy there.

It’s only a matter of days until Commencement. When you reflect on your Northeastern experience, what stands out the most?

Looking back at my experience, the two things that stand out the most are the diversity on campus and the mantra of “Northeastern is what you make it.”

Northeastern is filled with students, faculty, and staff from all walks of life, and they all bring a unique perspective to campus. This diversity of culture, background, and thought stands out because it promotes a rich discourse and truly reinforces the fact that you can learn something from everyone.

Additionally, the sheer number of opportunities to create the life you want is staggering. From being able to create your own major to crafting your own co-op, the infrastructure for customizing your time here has definitely stood out to me.

Moreover, one of my most gratifying experiences while at Northeastern was my time as technical director of HackBeanpot Inc., a Boston nonprofit that organizes an annual hackathon to foster an inclusive tech community and empower first-time hackers. This year’s hackathon convened students from schools all around Boston to work together to build amazing products—from a medicine cabinet with facial recognition locks to reduce teenage drug abuse to a web application that helps patients find the cheapest medical procedures in their area and gives them access to hidden healthcare costs.

You have served as a Husky Ambassador, a College of Computer and Information Science Ambassador, and a CCIS Fellow. What have you learned from these experiences?

I think these experiences have definitely made me grow as a person. I’ve been able to share my journey in experiential learning and hopefully inspire others to take chances. These opportunities have also taught me the importance of cultivating a growth mindset, and I’ve encouraged others to foster the same in order to make the most out of their experiences, good or bad.

Furthermore, I’ve been able to meet students and parents from richly diverse backgrounds, and through them I have learned so much, both about myself and the world.

You did three co-ops, including two in Boston and one in Beijing. How have you grown professionally from these experiences, and what do you think you gained most from your international co-op?

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

My first two co-ops gave me invaluable insight into what it’s like to work as a software developer. I not only learned how to apply the technical skills taught in class, but also the more nuanced soft skills required to successfully navigate professional environments.

Being an international student, the emphasis on cultivating a global mindset is definitely one of the things that attracted me to Northeastern. I had the opportunity to take advantage of that and did a co-op in Beijing as a software developer for Super Effective Technologies. This experience taught me how to build and contribute in a mutually-beneficial cultural exchange and reinforced the importance of having diverse teams to address the challenges of today’s global society. Working in a foreign country is one of the most exciting, enlightening (at times painfully so), and gratifying experiences I’ve had.

In your software development course last spring, you were part of a team that won the service-learning program’s Course-Community Collaboration Award for your work with the Boston Housing Authority. Tell us about the project.

As part of the software development course, we were split into teams and assigned a community partner via the service-learning program rather than working on projects for “fake” clients. My team had the pleasure of working with the Boston Housing Authority, for which we built a content management system to streamline its previously manual and tedious process of onboarding, training, and scheduling volunteer interpreters.

While I learned a lot from the project from a technical perspective, my biggest takeaway was the realization of the amount of value we can provide as Northeastern students. Armed with classes and co-ops, we as students have the skills to create meaningful change, especially for those less privileged. It was inspiring to be able to have a positive impact on the BHA, and it was an absolute pleasure working with the organization.

What’s next after graduation?

I’m going back home to Nairobi, Kenya. I’m excited to reconnect with the bustling tech culture in East Africa. I’m currently interviewing for jobs, with a few offers already. I’m also working on taking all that I’ve learned through experiential learning and using it to start a company to bolster tech literacy in young adults in Nairobi.

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