In July, the Community team decided to award the Community Member of the Month title to Erick Chwallah. We’re happy to share the example of a person striving to help others, supporting growth, and with a strong desire to look for and build win-win relationships.
Please, read the article about @echwallah that is not only a dive into his work and topics related to Dynatrace, but is a story of personal and life success.
Can you tell us how it happened that you decided to work in IT and about your career so far?
I went to a City Council basic Primary school and qualified for a National School having attained perfect grades under very basic resources compared to other high-end schools. High school is where my love for Computers emerged at Form 2 (Second Level – High School) where we learned to code in Borland Pascal. God, I remember the excruciating effort it took just to code a While Loop in the Blue Screen. In high school, I attained a perfect grade whereby by design my choice to do Computer Science at the University of Nairobi was accepted by the Joint Admissions Board (Dream Come True).
Though initially my Parents based on our family background coming from a medical professional History expected me to be a doctor. Anyway, I sailed through the University and ultimately graduated with a BSc. in Computer Science and entered the harsh world of Job Hunting whereby in this frontier it’s normally about who knows who not what is it that you know.
With a lot of rejected applications, I started coding for small-time companies in OOP Java and C++ and this is where I was noticed by a close friend of my parents to join the Institute of Clinical Research – KAVI as an IT-DATA Officer (relief – now I can pay my bills and a couple of drinks on the weekend without struggle and of course send my folks a few gifts every once in a while).
With exemplary performance in KAVI I through a grant selection by IAVI and WHO I was sponsored to do an MSc. In Bioinformatics and Molecular Biology (I renew my reputation in the family heritage by marrying my previous qualification with the medical field).
With this training, I became a Research Scientist focused on Computational Biology and designing algorithms to make inferences into strands of Huge DNA Data using in – silico techniques and ultimately contributing to designing Clinical Research Protocols and was selected to write a research paper in “Paperless – Research in Clinical Trials which was published in Research-Gate and was presented an annual Conference and Scientific Symposium by the University of Nairobi also published in Research-Gate (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Erick-Chwallah)
With this divergent and varied professional background, I was well equipped mentally to use my skills in any field interchangeably. Soon enough donor funding ended and as a result, ongoing projects were stifled for grants. This had an impact on some of the existing employees going back to the drawing board in terms of job hunting. I used the opportunity in our rural area – Kitale (Western Kenya) where my family comes and hails from to do odd jobs and elementary mathematics, physics, and science at Community Schools for free (pro-bono) without pay thereby empowering my Community and its disadvantaged children with the same skills and values I had learned in life and my career while juggling farming at our maize plantation, rearing Cattle and Chicken for subsistence. Of course, this turnaround made me learn a lot about basic human values like sacrifice, humility, patience, and respect for one another among others.
Coming back to the city to seek better opportunities later on since the current struggles seemed to not work for me, I met a friend who introduced me to a friend (long story) and then resultantly met my CEO for an evening cup of coffee. That evening become a turnaround for me to whom I am today.
What is your role in the company and what do you do in your job?
I started as a technical Consultant at Nathan Claire Africa working with the end-to-end deployment of Dynatrace for East and Central Africa (Sub-Saharan Africa). Conducting Demos and all the technical activities of deployment, configurations, customizations, and integrations. Moved to Senior technical consultant with a smaller team, basically at this level delegating the basic routine tasks of Dynatrace deployment while ensuring we have the right expertise and resources for our clients.
Our client base got larger regionally and we grew to a larger team where I became Chief Program Manager. At this level, my team was competent enough to handle basic tasks regarding Dynatrace and I focused on ensuring providing and Ensuring Business Value is realized for our customers beyond the technical value.
Of course, one can’t exist in isolation in the world or any reality. There are always factors, people, and variants that make us who we are. It would not be fair to not mention for any of my personal achievements the consistent support to the strong expert team from Mediro – ICT (Leon. Kelvin du Toit, Leon van Zyl) and of course a good friend of mine whom I always look up to (Kelvin Klein).
I would like to recognize our vibrant expert team from Nathan Claire Africa and of course the humble leadership and guidance of our CEO, Mr. Chibuzo Ene for his mentorship for always giving us the drive to always go beyond limitations to provide an “edge” in all dimensions of life.
What do you like the most about the Dynatrace platform? What parts of Dynatrace do you use?
Coming from a Computing Background, I always seek any situation that does not limit oneself to creativity, extensibility, and innovation. Dynatrace comes within its observability pillars like distributed tracing, logs, metrics, and user sessions a holistic platform that can be leveraged using APIs and various Integrations to provide this extensibility.
Coupled with the philosophy of “Ensuring Software that Works Perfectly”, I am currently focusing on optimizing the environment to drive business including but not limited to features and pillars like auto-healing, auto-remediation, AIOps strategies, chaos engineering to ensure resiliency, open feature tagging to accelerate Application feature delivery without underlying code changes.
Essentially engaging our existing customers on how to leverage the observability that Dynatrace to optimize IT and digital Operations, Customer Obsession, and resultantly Business value and Revenue Assurance. As a result, customers are happy, our clients are happy and we’re all happy because of the “Single Source of Truth”
Have you ever had any interesting use case for the Dynatrace platform that you found to be particularly intriguing? Could you tell us about it?
Remedy Integration through Apigee API Proxy for a huge telco client in East Africa. Was quite a challenge since Apigee API Proxy has an authentication token that expires every 60 minutes. This expiry made the problem notification stop working since the token was invalid every 60 minutes. After collaborative extensive discussions and workaround with a team of developers from Mediro ICT – South Africa, we finally managed to develop a workaround by use of a synthetic monitor that runs every 60 minutes that calls the endpoint for token renewal, and receives a result the new token which is stored in a credential vault.
Therefore problem notifications reference the credential vault for the new token. (Thanks to Leon van Zyl – Mediro ICT and team for making this happen and fun too).
What brought you to our Community? What is your best memory about it?
I, from my initial description, have come from a very Scientific and Research Background and have an innate thirst to always discover more beyond the formally closed box thinking and bureaucracy. With this, I have always engaged in Open Source endeavors and crowdsourcing to gain new fringe knowledge that might not be discoverable within normal channels. As scientists from any background, we’re always born to be thirsty for new knowledge, new ideas, and new philosophies because of the instinctive nature for self-development and growth.
Communities in any field provide this open forum that is untethered and unbridled hence creating synergy for free-thinking and knowledge sharing. With this power given to the people, I have been able to make new friends, share my ideas for peer review and criticism, and more importantly have found solutions to problems I am encountering in Community forums.
What part or parts of Dynatrace Community do you like the most?
I like everything that is related to the Community 😊. I love its structure, / all parts related not only to the product but to the social part and people behind it as well. It's a great place where I can ask about everything, look for innovation, and provide my own, or my customer’s insights. The product ideas section and Dynatrace open Q&A subforum are places where you can see wins and pain points that come straight from the users, people who work with Dynatrace on a daily basis.
Why do you think it’s worth being a part of the Dynatrace Community? Why do you contribute to the Community?
I gain insights beyond the formal process of raising a ticket with Dynatrace. Some solutions, including extensions and integrations I have received from Community members faster than through the other Dynatrace channels. And basically, I can be myself intellectually regarding the product.
And how about your life outside the IT – what is your biggest passion?
In my free time, I love to travel. Travel takes us out of our comfort zones and inspires us to see, taste, and try new things. I like to explore new surroundings, but also engage with different people, embrace adventures and taste new food. 😊
Besides traveling I love to improve myself in different areas. I like to gain new knowledge and learn new things related to the IT world. I like to work out and keep fit as well. I go and visit the gym when I have time very early in the morning before the day begins and late evening after work.
I also enjoy after a long day an occasional cold beer with friends or watching a football match.
I love animals too. I am a dog person/lover but not a dog expert 🤣, and… I keep and rare chickens to eat. Luhyias - my tribe in our country are normally by tradition chicken people taken with Ugali.
In the past, I have used to play electric and bass guitar for a youth rock band called the Forbidden Fruit before we went on a hiatus to focus on careers. Would love to go back to music and play more, but at least when all my friends from other countries are around, we meet to spend some time and just play some music for fun together.
It would also be great if you could share with us your favorite movie, song and/or a book. Let other Community members discover something new and interesting to watch/hear/read.
I have a couple of favorite bands/musicians and it’s difficult to pick one exactly. I am head over heels for anything to do with Symphonic Opera Metal bands like Nightwish. I used to adore Tarja Soila Turunen and still do though she left the band. Floor Jansen is equally good but not as a powerful vocalist as Tarja. 😉 Basically, I am addicted naturally to Finnish rock bands.
On spiritual moments and days, I listen to Bethel Music from Redding, California. Maybe because I was raised Catholic and served as an altar boy as well.
And about movies, I can watch The God Father(movie) over and over again. Well, I can watch any Al Pacino movie because I really like it. 😊
Erick, as your focus is now on helping clients to optimize their environment to drive business effectively it’s great to see that along the way you constantly look to develop long-term, mutually beneficial relationships and use Dynatrace Community to support this process.
In life, in business, it’s all about sharing with others, committing to working together on gaining the maximum benefit of a product, of service, and the most important – the relationship. We all need to invest in the relationship and create a situation to be a partner, versus just a vendor. If we build a relationship and build trust through our actions showing our intent, then we can truly understand customers, the people with who we work, and at the end of that create a win-win situation to achieve success.
We wish you further success on the way to providing value to customers and to other Community members who definitely will be very grateful for your help.