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– Carl Handy tells how he overcame poverty to now own a tech company
By Gabriella Chapman
A positive outcome in the future of a child growing up in extremely poor conditions, especially in a third world country like Guyana, may seem impossible to many. Though it may be tougher to earn notable achievements, especially experiencing poverty while at a tender age, or the age where peer pressure and the life of crime is ever so prevalent, it is definitely not impossible.
Testimony to this is 25-year-old Carl Handy, owner of a software company named Kalpa Services. In an interview with Village Voice News, he shared details about the challenging life he endured as a child.
Handy shared that the biggest challenge in his life was overcoming poverty, after growing up in Plantation Liliendaal, familiarly known as A field Sophia. “I’ve been homeless twice, suffered from severe depression and had suicidal tendencies. I was raised by a single mother, with help from my grandmother (her mother). That of course came with its own challenges. But she did the best she could to provide for my brother and I. Our house was a tiny wooden thing, probably 15×20, that often leaked when it rained. I can’t tell how many times we’d be on the roof patching holes. We slept on mattresses on the floor and had no electricity, so studying was tough. We’d hurry home to catch daylight so we could revise and do homework cause the lights from candles and lamps were too dim,” the young man recounted.
These conditions were endured for his entire school life. But he never succumbed to the hardship of his childhood. Handy was adamant that regardless of his circumstances, he will commit to doing his part in preparing himself for a better, brighter future.
“I studied for CXC under candle light. I used to go to school and sleep in class because I’d be up all night writing out SBAs and doing other homework. In fact, if it wasn’t for my aunt, who was the deputy of my school, I wouldn’t have gotten most of my SBAs done and wouldn’t have even written CSEC cause my mom couldn’t afford it. Thanks to her, I was able to write all 10 subjects I wanted, and passed all. I got three 3s, five 2s and two 1s,” he shared with this publication.
After completing high school with excellent grades, things really began to shift financially for Handy, as he was able to gain employment.
While in high school, Handy took a liking for a career in Law, but he knew he couldn’t afford to attend the University of Guyana just out of high school. So he worked and began saving money for his tuition.
“The extra income helped a lot, but I soon realized that it wasn’t going to be enough. So I started thinking of ways I can bring in extra money. I taught myself PC repair and started doing that part time for a while. That led me to network with some very genuine people who took a liking to me and mentored me to some degree. They had me read business books and taught me things that really shifted my mindset and the way I viewed money,” he said.
In 2014, Handy got a chance to study law at the Antigua State College, after his grandmother reached out to some of her friends there and got him enrolled in their associate programme for the 2014/2015 semester.
He said that the Law programme was significantly cheaper than UG so it made sense to travel. However, halfway through the Law programme, Handy made a spontaneous decision that he has not regretted.
“It was during the 2016/2017 semester I decided to put law on the back burner and pursue a career in software development, after seeing IntellectStorm launch Directory gy. My thought process was, ‘even though my grades are good and I will likely get a scholarship to attend UWI, finding a job in the field is going to be rough, and the future is tech.’ So in the spur of the moment I booked a ticket back home and made it my mission to land a job at IntellectStorm and I did several months later, in February of 2017… With law, there aren’t too many moving parts when looking at a case. So there’s rarely any opportunity to apply creative problem solving. A stark contrast when compared to software development because almost every challenge is unique to the product you’re building. The switch really allowed me to push the limits of my thinking,” he told Village Voice News.
Handy is now reaping the fruits of his resilience, persistence and labour. Today, he is self-employed, owning his own software company that he formed last year after quitting his job at IntellectStorm.
Kalpa Services (his company) designs and builds websites, mobile and web applications. He disclosed that most of their clients are based in Germany, UK and the USA.
He is also an active open source-contributor, currently working with Prismic.io – a California based tech company, to help improve their developer experience.
Handy said that others who may be going through similar circumstances he endured, must know two important things.
“First, find a mentor or mentors. I definitely wouldn’t be here without the wisdom of those who did it before me. The financial literacy they imparted and I later built up, was what got me out of poverty. I took eight years to go from wondering where my next meal would come from, to now not even bothered by prices when I shop. Sendly, money is a by-product of value added. So
instead of thinking, ‘how can I make more money?’, think about the value you can add to others,” the young man imparted.
In addition to his academic achievements, and overcoming poverty, Handy also made the decision to become a humanitarian.
“I’m a Project Periwinkle Ambassador. I joined this organisation’s fight against stomach cancer after losing someone who was like a mother to me in 2019. I’m also actively contributing to ‘theKeepers’. A project that aims to bring to life a digital archive of all the contributions of black women and girls throughout the history of hip hop. This project is the brainchild of Akua Naru, an American hip hop artist and poet,” he shared.