Nearshore Americas

Finding Refuge in Code: One Man’s Uneasy Journey into Tech and a New World

Going from having no computer at home to being a core part of the development teams at Intellysis, one of the leading Nearshore outsourcing software development firms in the Dominican Republic, Ronald Lantigua has traveled a long road in two short years.  Always one to hit the books instead of hitting a ball in the street, or hitting on girls, like other young guys in Colorado Canabacoa, a lower income suburb of Santiago, Lantiguawas thought of as a nerd, a label that didn’t bother him as his was one of the few families that actually valued education, something that is rare amongst working class of the Dominican Republic.

“He was fortunate to grow up in a family that supported him,” observed Cristian Corcino, Founder & CEO of Intellysis. “There are very few people with Ronald’s story.” This is especially true, according to Corcino, when the majority of people get whatever work they can, or leave the DR for “easy money” on the streets of New York or other US cities.

A Will to Thrive

Lantigua’s father worked for a tobacco company, which paid him enough to provide the bare basics for family, but nothing more, not even maintenance of the house, which “looked pretty bad both on the outside and inside.” Despite such disrepair as a leaky roof, and insufficient electricity that caused him to study by candlelight, Lantigua was determined to overcome his humble beginnings and help not only himself, but his family. He was always attracted to technology and was a frequent visitor to his high school’s computer lab during the 9th and 10th grades, especially since his family was unable to afford to buy one for the home. The computer lab eventually broke down, and the school didn’t have the funds to repair or replace the equipment.

Undeterred, Lantigua, who is now 24, traveled to his cousin’s house as often as he could to use the computer there, even though it didn’t help much in the way of preparation for a career path, but it kept his interest in technology alive – and he decided to study technology in college. But, instead of entering college right after high school, Lantigua bagged groceries while he waited for a scholarship that never came through.

Having graduated valedictorian from high school qualified him for a direct loan from the Pontifica Universidad Católica Madre Maestra (PUCMM), the school that offered the best Telecommunications Engineering program. Entering university Lantigua knew he “had to study for real. Because in high school I had a reputation and teachers would give me breaks.”At the moment Lantigua was preparing for the challenges of college, things at home deteriorated when his father lost his job. The university became not only a place of higher learning, but also a refuge.

From Monday through Friday Lantigua worked at the university’s computer lab, and on weekends would travel to a friend’s house in Santiago to use his computer. “Without a computer at home, I wrote the algorithm in my notebook. I did a lot of programming this way while I was at university,” he explained.

He applied himself and graduated amongst the top his class from PUCMM in 2010. “I didn’t feel that I could add value to a company, that I didn’t know enough,” he recalled, “I started sending my CV because I expected that I would be trained on the job before starting to add value.” It was three months before he was offered a position with a call center, but it wasn’t what he was looking for.

Opportunity Calls

When he heard about openings at Intellysis from friends who work there, he arranged to take the company’s evaluation test. Corcino explained, “We always try to hire people but there are not enough talented or educated people [in the Dominican Republic]. But, it is very very easy to find people who went to a mediocre college or public college – they have the title but not the skills.”

That may be what he thought when reviewing the mediocre results of Lantigua’s test. However, his mind was open and curiosity peaked after he saw Lantigua’s name on a list of the top students from PUCMM, and getting an understanding of the aspiring engineer’s background from one of his friends.“I called him and told him that he got the job, but he couldn’t start right away because he had to get glasses.” Intellysis kept the position open for Lantigua and he began about two weeks later. “That is the type of company we are – we let things happen for people. We develop great people and figure out different ways in developing new technologies,” explained Corcino. “I am very unemotional about those things. It’s about risks, and what risks you are comfortable with picking. I would like us to be more solution providers in the future.We don’t want to be just an outsourcing company.”

Part of achieving that goal is hiring talented people like Lantigua who, even though he had some catching-up to do at the beginning, brought sound programming skills and a good sense of logic, “It was easy for him to grasp and apply new concepts. But it is different than when you have a computer at home; you become familiar with tricks and getting around the computer. And we sent him to school for that.” Intellysis also gave Lantigua a computer to “have at home to play with, hack and destroy,” said Corcino. As far as Lantigua’s progress is concerned, Corcino said, “The people we hire are the best of the best and I compare him to top students in terms of learning. That gap has narrowed to the point where you can’t tell the difference.”

“Intellysis has helped me a lot personally and professionally, and I will always thank them for that,” Lantigua said. “I think my skills have increased a lot from when I started. Personally, it has given me leadership skills and has helped me to manage my finances better.” This higher-level of management will help him, in-part, to pay for his sister’s tuition at a private university staring this year, and to continue helping with expenses at home.

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From Team Player to Team Leader

Given the way that Intellysis creates teams, explained Corcino, it is hard to recognize individual contributions, but Lantigua’s habits and focus has had positive effects on the teams he is part of. “We are very relaxed and he is one of the most focused and keeps the team in check and focused.”As an example of Lantigua’s honesty and integrity, Corcino recounted a daily scrum where the client was participating and Lantigua explained that he pushed something into production and realized that it was wrong so he fixed it and pushed it into production again. “His actions speak much louder than his words,” said Corcino.

Lantigua has also worked on projects for Noodle Education, one of the leaders in disrupting educational technology and on important projects where he has been the leader of a three person team. “We have a very flat structure so there really isn’t a boss, but when he is the Team Captain it is because of the respect people have for him,” said Corcino,“it depends on how the team is structured but he is more of a Senior Developer now.” Hard work and perseverance are the two factors that have driven the 24-year-old Lantigua to achieve what he has, and will continue to carry him forward.

Patrick Haller

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