Guyana Diaspora

'89 percent of Guyana 's graduate population live and work in the 30 relatively rich countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) -"Fruit that falls far from the tree",
The Economist, 03 November 2005'

It is estimated that there are as many Guyanese living overseas as they are in Guyana
They are spread out far and wide to almost every country on the planet
This blog was created to chronicle the news and and stories of the Diaspora

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Giving foreign students a reason to stay

Eknauth and Kafi Persaud are married left and right brains. He's a 34-year-old former Marine who specializes in artificial intelligence software design. She's a 32-year-old graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in psychology and a passion for how people think. She was born in Guyana. His parents immigrated to the United States from that South American country too. They met by happenstance in San Francisco.

Want to get someone in academia all riled up? Bring up the hot topic of "flight capital." That's the growing phenomenon of foreign students coming to U.S. universities for advanced degrees only to return home for more rewarding careers than they can find here.

Computer science and software engineering are particular vulnerable to the skilled talent exodus. Cheaper costs in India, China and Russia have ignited software production there and siphoned jobs from American companies.

Eknauth and Kafi Persaud believe they've found a local answer to this global issue.

The couple's tiny Ayoka Systems Engineering LLC is cutting the cost of software production by setting up shop within the nurturing confines of the Technology Incubator at the University of Texas at Arlington and hiring master degree students in computer science and software engineering.

The students get more experience than they would at a typical internship with an established company. With Ayoka, they meet with clients, create the software solutions and implement the systems, rather than writing just one "widget" in a software code chain.

"We have students from Taiwan, India and Thailand who've already had three to five years' experience in those countries," says Mr. Persaud. "We have a start-up feel where they're an integral part of what happens."

Ayoka has five students on board and needs two more. So far, 19 students have worked on projects as semester interns.

"A number of our folks have gone on to work at top companies, including IBM, Microsoft and SSA Global," Mr. Persaud says. "They see how a U.S. business operates and the importance of creativity and decide to stay."

Arlington resident Abdullah Jibaly, a U.S. citizen from Syracuse, N.Y., has a full-time job, goes to school part time and works off-hours at Ayoka because he enjoys seeing projects from start to finish.

"We get to work with the latest technology, and we're doing some really fun and interesting things," he says. "The teamwork is great."

Academic calendar

One client, Paul Nichols, vice president of MMI Internetworking in Fort Worth, is so happy with the results that he adjusts his company's software development cycles to fit UTA's academic calendar.

Ayoka recently beat out several larger firms to create third-generation Web site software for LookLocally.com, a Grapevine-based Internet marketing company that specializes in local searches.

And while Judy Luchtman, LookLocally's chief executive, considered price, she's far more worried about getting code that will actually work.

She's already spent 15 months and $35,000 with two different developers only to come up empty-handed.

"Basically, we've been burned."

So is she wary about dealing with students?

"Not at all. They truly know state of the art and what's happening in the development world.

"They are absolutely pocket-protector nerds who love developing code."

Eknauth (pronounced ache-not) and Kafi (rhymes with Kathy) Persaud are married left and right brains. He's a 34-year-old former Marine who specializes in artificial intelligence software design. She's a 32-year-old graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in psychology and a passion for how people think.

She was born in Guyana. His parents immigrated to the United States from that South American country too. They met by happenstance in San Francisco.

Eknauth selected Kafi's middle name for the company because Ayoka means "one who brings joy to all." That's the company's de facto mission statement.

In 2002, he was hired as an independent consultant for a systems integration project at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport's new international terminal.

After the airport gig wrapped up in 2004, Mr. Persaud set up the partnership with Geof Grant, director of UTA's technology incubator.

'Valuable asset'

"Eknauth's outgoing and entrepreneurial," says Dr. Grant. "I felt that even if his company didn't succeed, he'd be a very valuable asset to the area to develop university technology. He knows what he's doing and where he's going. That's critical for an entrepreneur."

Ayoka gets dirt-cheap rent and overhead. In return, UTA owns a 3 percent equity slice of the fledgling company and has a pledge from Mr. Persaud that he'll set up his company in the Arlington area once Ayoka is ready to leave incubation.

Dr. Grant says it's a perfect example of how the nesting system is supposed to work.

"UTA helps companies succeed and generate a workforce, which then builds a cluster of technology development in our local area – particularly technology that originates out of the university."

And in the process, it stems that troublesome flight of talent capital.

From DallasMorningNews

1 Comments:

Blogger Guyana Eldorado said...

I write for the Guyana Chronicle.

I would love to get in touch iwth the couple. Email addresses and/or telephone would be appreciate.

My address is...thestarneil@gmail.com

12:31 PM  

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