Meet Tony Odongo

23-year-old Tony Odongo began as Navigate Enterprise Center’s Business and Economic Intern in early June. Born in Homa Bay, West Kenya he moved to the U.S. almost four years ago to attend Yale University, and as an incoming senior, Tony’s majoring in Electrical Engineering. “I am a passionate Afro-optimist. I am a fervent believer in the role of technology in shaping the future of Africa” states Tony on his LinkedIn profile.

“I took a year off from school,” Tony says, “and I worked for a foundation called Equity Group Foundation. They helped students from less privileged backgrounds apply to universities all over the U.S.  So when I came back to school this past year, I knew I wanted to do something with non-governmental organizations like JFCS.”

While it might seem odd for an Electrical Engineering student to take an internship focused on business, Tony is already an entrepreneur in his native Kenya. Tony explains, “I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that you can’t have a business without a business plan. You might have ideas in your head, but if you can’t come up with a visual model, like an actual business plan, it’s not going to work.” Tony also has learned a lot about working in an office. “I learned that teamwork is key. You need many heads to come together so you can come up with anything useful. Whenever I send my reports to Cynthia, my boss, she always finds something extra that we can include to make the report better. We need a lot of input from different people to be able to succeed.”

Tony is working to modify Navigate’s client management system, to find a way to capture the correct information for Navigate’s reports. Tony clarifies, “Navigate gives out a lot of [loans], and one of the organizations that fund Navigate requires reports with strict guidelines, so I’ve been modifying our system so that we can automate the process of receiving feedback from clients while attempting to capture the required information for the reports.”

Tony is also working on a business plan and model for his own startup, which is based on an app that he developed during his sophomore year. The app is a GPS-based physical address system for 21 towns in Kenya, which is needed because roads aren’t always clearly marked.  Tony’s favorite part of the internship is working on his own business, because working on something that will benefit his community, in the long run.

Tony applied to this internship through the Bulldog in the Bluegrass Program, a program dedicated to bringing Yale students to Louisville for work. Twenty-four students are participating in the program this year. Tony and his counterparts are staying at the Bellarmine dorms. “Other than interning, we get to tour around Louisville to get familiar with the city. This helps us develop an interest in coming back and working here.” Tony insists, “It’s a very engaging program, and it’s really made me fall in love with Louisville.”

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