Kenny Johar - Part 1

Be aware of what you think about yourself, your success outside depends upon your success inside.

(This is the first part of a two-part story)

PART 1

Kenny JoharKenny Johar is a rather brilliant and charming young man who currently resides in Australia. He began his life in Patiala, a city in the Punjab state in the north of India. When Kenny was 14 his parents moved the family to New Zealand where several years later he attended the University of Auckland. His father and his father's siblings are doctors. Carrying on the tradition, Kenny tried medicine, law and science at university; he settled on science. In 2004 his parents once again packed up the family and moved, this time to Melbourne Australia, which to Kenny, is now home. I recently had an opportunity to meet with and interview Kenny when he was in Toronto Canada for a DAISY Online Project meeting.

When I asked Kenny why he has been so interested in computers and computing he described some of his experiences following the initial signs of vision loss due to Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP); he was 19. His father, being a doctor, knew what the diagnosis meant. Kenny was and still is very much an extrovert. When his vision began to deteriorate, it completely changed his life. He experienced an intense period of social isolation during which he thought his life would be dismal. This "dark" feeling lasted six to twelve months; he tried to pretend it wasn't happening and to hide the fact that he was losing his sight. Kenny could not access the information he wanted and was not able to access it in the way he previously had. His self-confidence was shaken.

Then Kenny was given a laptop with JAWS (screen reading software) and he found out about Zoom text. Both of these changed his life - for the better. They helped him to regain his confidence. He was able to access the Internet, he received electronic books from the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) and read them with JAWS. This was an information revolution and a turning point in his life. Since the age of 20 there has not been a moment when Kenny thought life's journey would be difficult; the barriers had been lifted. And so, against advice to avoid courses such as computing which would contain a great deal of visual content, Kenny enrolled in a double degree - Bachelor of Science, and, Law, at Auckland University in New Zealand. In his first few years of university he used audio cassettes (narrated by a woman who spent entire days reading his materials for him) JAWS and Zoom text in tandem. "I was determined to do well in my studies, and refused to let my eye condition be an obstacle in any facet of my life" (Vision Australia, Our Stories). Kenny completed his Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Computer Science, and three years of his Law degree. He hoped to make software development his career.

Vision Australia logoSometimes dreams do come true. In August 2005 Kenny was hired by Vision Australia as their Web Coordinator, a new position in the VA IT department. "Never before had a person with low vision been employed in our IT department and this paved the way for new opportunities within the team," explained Kenny in Vision Australia's Our Stories. "The IT Managers are exemplary! They go out of their way to be supportive and sensitive to the needs of staff with low vision". In the recent DAISY Planet interview with Kenny, he stated that it is "a joy to work for Vision Australia". Parliament House, Melbourne, Australia Not a great deal of time passed before his natural abilities and potential were identified. Kenny's current position title is Manager Architecture, Innovation and Accessible Solutions (Enterprise Architect) in the Corporate Services Department.

Until about a year and a half ago Kenny was a software engineer, now he manages software engineers. When asked "What is most challenging about your current position with VA", Kenny had to think for a minute. There are ten people on his team and many things "intrigue" him, "but doing justice to all the work I do on the international level and what I do for VA - keeping the two balanced and getting everything done is the most challenging". The position he has is strategic, defining technology for Vision Australia going into the future. Kenny absolutely loves it, and finds it very fulfilling.

In response to the question "To what do you attribute your 'high career aspirations'?" Kenny replied, "I attribute my high career aspirations to the ardent desire inside me to not let my vision impairment decrease the quality of my life in any dimension. I don't believe I would have been able to achieve what I have achieved thus far if my vision impairment was not bestowed upon me ten odd years ago." While in the employ of Vision Australia he enrolled in, and in six months time, completed Microsoft's top-level certification for advanced software developers (Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer.NET - MCSD), followed by Microsoft's MCPD Enterprise Application Developer certification. Both were completed with high distinctions. Kenny is the first person with low vision to receive these certifications, and as of July 2007, only 1,433 people worldwide had received the MCPD certification.

This summer Kenny received a Most Valuable Professionals (MVP) award from Microsoft. This award is given to a highly select group of experts recognised for their commitment in sharing expertise and deep commitment and willingness to help others in the community. This is the first time that Microsoft will have presented this prestigious global award to a person with vision loss.

"Kenny Johar: Your success outside depends upon your success inside" will be concluded in the September issue of the DAISY Planet: Part 2 of the Kenny Johar story.