Rupununi’s got talent: How Randy Austin taught himself ICT
Austin and family members
By Alva Solomon
If one is in Lethem and a computer-related problem arises, the name Randy Austin may be recommended by residents of the Rupununi township. In fact, his knowledge and skills are at a standard where the entities made him the ‘go-to’ person for technology-related work.
Austin, who was born and raised in the Deep South Rupununi village of Aishalton, told this publication that he was offered a hinterland scholarship to study in the capital city after completing primary school. However, after three years, he returned to Lethem and completed his secondary education at the St Ignatius Secondary School.
As for ICT, he said it all started out when a friend who worked for the Government around 2003 lent him a laptop. “Information and Communications Technology was new to the Rupununi in 2003 when I left school, and only those that were fortunate enough to afford a computer or classes was able to have any real education on it,” he said.
According to Austin, after familiarising himself with his friend’s laptop, a moment of glee came when a neighbour loaned him her laptop for a month-long period. “I practically lived on it from early morning to late hours in the night, even crashing it a few times and repairing it,” he said as he recalled those embryonic days in the field.
He said he became extremely connected to the computer, and soon after, he explored the internet. In those days, having internet was expensive, and Austin noted that since he spent many hours each day online, whatever money he made was spent on being connected to the internet.
“It was expensive at the time, $500 per hour for dial up internet service,” he said, and he noted that the internet was very slow back then.
Austin said that as he continued his journey into the world of ICT, he would utilise every opportunity which occurred whenever he met resource persons. “I also utilized resource persons any chance I got to ask questions and learn from them,” he said.
Austin noted that he also learned a lot from on-the-job training, which he did with companies such as Digicel, Lethem Power Company and IMON Wireless Service. He said he worked with those entities “as a low-level techie”, and he noted that this exposure ultimately contributed to his extensive knowledge of the field.
He said that as he gained more knowledge of computers, he started undertaking computer and phone repairs as well as programming and troubleshooting. “Since it was something I enjoyed, I found it easy, and any problem was like a challenge I needed to conquer for personal satisfaction,” the ambitious Austin noted.
Taking on the big jobs
According to Austin, after taking jobs for friends, they were very satisfied with the job and cost. He said when compared to others in the field in Lethem as well as in Georgetown and Brazil, he was recommended to persons like the Regional Executive Officer and the Regional Chairman, among others.
“After doing repairs and programming, they were also satisfied with my work, effectiveness and efficiency, and costings were commended, so they decided to make me the Go-to person for most of their tech work,” he said.
Austin noted that in Information Technology repairs, most times the faults are minor, such as a loose cable or a reset may be needed to a device. “Stuff like that I don’t charge for, and this is a major factor in creating trust with my clients,” he noted.
He credited his spirit of determination which has led him up the path of success in ICT.
“Being self-taught has boost my confidence tremendously, and it has showed me that if someone is determined enough, then nothing can stop you from learning and being one of the best in your endeavours,” Austin said.
Being in architecture
But while he may be a wizard in the field, ICT is not his main job. In fact, it is one of his “side” sources of income. He said architecture is one of his main sources of income. Austin’s name is also down in the history books at Lethem as he has been the designer of several notable buildings in the border town.
He has created dozens of buildings plans, and they have since materialised into popular structures in the town. They include the Pacarimas Golden Suites, Antai Store, WOW Store, the American Store, and Ori Hotel, among others.
He said he is currently offering affordable rates and a wide selection of choices of building designs for the newly developed Housing Schemes in Lethem, and Austin noted that he has also been self-taught architecture.
He said he was working in the capacity of Land Administrator with Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC) at Lethem when someone asked if he knew to design building plans. He said after answering in the negative, he was advised that he should give it a try, since not many persons were in that field in the town.
Austin recalled that art was always one of his hobbies, and as such, it was an easy transition to enter that field. “With the advice of senior officers in similar fields, lots of trial and error and lots of frustration, mainly from hand-drawn plans at that time, I was finally able to meet a standard,” he said.
Persons familiar with his work told Guyana Times that Austin is recognized as one of the best in the Rupununi, and as such he started obtaining jobs from small, medium and large domestic and commercial clients, both local and in Brazil.
Austin noted that there exists immense potential for Rupununi youths who wish to explore the ICT field. However, he said what is needed is affordable and reliable internet service providers.
He said, too, that there are some private individuals, such as Mr. Welcome in St Ignatius village, who offer free internet access to students so that they can get their school work done. “If more individuals like him, especially the larger businesses, should come on board to offer help to our youths, we can see a positive boost in that capacity,” Austin said.
Austin is a father of four. His eldest daughter recently graduated from his alma mater- St Ignatius Secondary – and she was among those who attained high grades at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exams. His youngest daughter is a year old, and Austin noted that she seems to be following in his footsteps, since she is exploring her first gadget, a children’s tablet.