Graduate Spotlight: Levi Kamara Zwannah – From Liberia via Kenya to the tech fields of Sweden


It’s quite astounding when you look at Levi Kamara Zwannah, a high school valedictorian and now an accomplished Informatics and Computer Science  first-class honours graduate from Strathmore University; he doesn’t reveal the half of his journey that’s worthy of a blockbuster movie-script!

Here’s someone from a financially underprivileged family of seven siblings, one who didn’t even know if he could afford the plane to Nairobi from Monrovia, Liberia. He’s a guy who ran scared from Microsoft Excel at 13 (admittedly, it can be terrifying) but plunged headfirst into programming. This plunge wasn’t just dipping a toe – it was a full nose-dive into the deep end of Java, PHP, and C++.

Despite his economic situation or perhaps, inspired by it, he zipped to the top, coming in sixth in the Liberia high school national exams and bagging an undergraduate scholarship from a mathematics contest sponsored by Strathmore University. It’s a journey he says he’ll miss for a lifetime for its air and pace.

From then on, there was no stopping him – not even a challenging plane ticket fare, or initial course choice confusion, could slow his stride. You know what they say, life never runs smoothly!

Plane ticket and accommodation expenses lingered like a stubborn bug in the code. But angels exist, folks! When the chips were down, it was Laymah Gboweee, the Liberian Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and Effua McGowan that held his hand, covering his expenses.

Despite having an innate fascination for Mechanical Engineering, Strathmore offered him an unexpected pathway: Levi found himself enrolled in Computing. Now the boy who was frightened by Excel, had to navigate the intimidating labyrinth of complex programming. Though initially clueless about programming – which he amusingly mistook as a campus event – he soon became so engrossed in it that he would learn a whole new programming language  in just two weeks…

“My lecturers answered my questions even when they didn’t make sense, but now they do,” he shares, glowing with gratitude.

Yet amid this rollercoaster journey, he says, “I have never let anything affect my confidence,” he says.

Despite initial fears, Levi found a refuge in the University’s abundant library, turning his fright of computers into a fascinating love story. Today, this erudite is not just a first-class graduate but also a self-proclaimed problem solver and a trove of programming libraries for his juniors.

A secret handshake here, a pact there, and before you know it, Levi and his newly minted buddy Gemeda are running ‘Carata,’ a thriving delivery service. That’s not all – there are two others in the mix as well!

Living on a strict schedule of ‘only’ six hours sleep, Levi worked his fingers to the bone. Who needs sleep, anyway! As they say, he wasn’t struck by lightning – he became the storm.

Levi is not just “another junior Software Engineer.” Oh, no. He’s a problem solver par excellence, a dedicated student, and a fearless leader as he takes his last few steps on Strathmore soil as an undergraduate scholar.

His advice to aspiring scholars? “Choose your friends wisely.” Friends, according to our wise graduate, can upgrade your RAM or slow your processor! As for romantic endeavors? He is not scoring an A unless A stands for admiration from afar!

Levi admits that this journey, with its swift-paced startups and demanding academics, was far from a catwalk. He often bit off more than he could chew, but through it all, he matured and found balance.

And as he steps away from a place he not only studied at but also called home, it’s fair to say that while he might be leaving Strathmore, Strathmore is certainly not leaving him.

So, that’s Levi, the first from his family to attend university, the once-bewildered programming novice, and now, a self-driven entrepreneur, a blessed scholar, and a cherished Strathmore graduate.

As Levi’s time at Strathmore University comes to a close, a new chapter in his incredible journey begins. He has been accepted into an exchange program at the prestigious Insticum Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, an opportunity for Levi to expand his horizons, learn from some of the brightest minds in the field, and further hone his skills in informatics and computer science.

This is not the end; it’s the next chapter of a thrilling  journey of making the virtual world a better place. Byte by bit, code by code.

This article was written by Keith Albert.

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