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How I Got Here: Fidel Odeny Obadha

April 2024

Fidel Odeny Obadha, an IT Operations Engineer in Asia IT Application Support, joined us to talk about growing up in Kenya, the biggest culture shock he experienced moving to Japan, and his favorite thing about living in Tokyo.

Tell me about your role at Point72. What do you do here? How big is your team?

My role at Point72 is in Trading Application Support. We are the first point of contact for all issues related to several applications that our investment professionals and Investment Services colleagues use, from PMs, traders, and analysts, to Compliance and Operations. While I am based in Tokyo, we work as one cohesive Asia team. We also work very closely with other teams around the world, so it also feels like one big global team.


You’re from Kenya originally. How did you end up in Tokyo?

I ended up in Japan by accident or by luck, one could say. I attended high school in Kenya and was doing particularly well. I come from a very traditional African family – meaning they think everybody with good academic performance should be a doctor, so I applied for medical school. I had graduated from high school and had been accepted to attend medical school in Kenya. I had also received a scholarship to a British A-Level course in my town and was attending that school as I waited to join University.

One day, my uncle, who I was living with at the time, saw an advertisement in a newspaper by the Japanese government’s Ministry of Education recruiting students for a scholarship program to study in Japan. He tore the page out, brought it home and urged me to apply. This was the first time I had ever considered Japan as a place to study and live. We speak English in Kenya, and therefore it’s much more natural for people to move to the U.S. or the UK for studies.

I decided to submit an application through the Japanese Embassy in Kenya, and I received a scholarship to study engineering. I decided to take up the offer and have mostly been here since then.


You didn’t mind switching from a medical path to engineering?

Going through the application process made me realize that the only reason I was pursuing medical studies was because it was recommended by my family. The application allowed me to think about a career in engineering for the first time.

I also felt incredibly excited by the opportunity to live somewhere unknown to me. I had never pictured myself moving to Japan.


Where did you grow up in Kenya? In a city?

I spent most of my childhood in the countryside, where we had no running water and no electricity. We used to study with candles and oil lamps at night. To avoid traveling far every day – I used to live with my grandma, and she lived far away from my school – I sometimes used to stay at the school from Sunday evening to Friday evening. I would be studying in the classroom during the daytime, and then at night would sleep in that same classroom with a few other students who also lived far away.

Once I finished primary school, I moved to the second biggest city in Kenya, Mombasa, for high school. I spent four years there before eventually moving to Japan (Kenya’s education system is eight years in primary school and four years in high school).

When did you move to Japan?

I moved to Japan in 2001 and have been mostly here for more than 20 years. I spent the first year participating in an intensive Japanese language course, and then moved to university and earned my engineering and master’s degree. Sometimes I think my Japanese language course was the toughest time of my study in Japan as within a year, I had to not only learn the language to get by in the society, but also learn to become proficient enough that I could take an engineering course in Japanese. I really learned a lot during this time.


Walk me through your career. For my first job, I joined the graduate program with Reuters, where I spent three years rotating through different departments. My job at Reuters brought me to London, Hong Kong, and Singapore. I eventually moved back to Japan.

I mostly worked in the global markets department, working on different applications within the company that assisted various departments in the financial industry. In many ways, the role felt like marriage between finance and engineering. I used to do a lot of customer support, project management, and client relationship management.


What came next? How did you end up at Point72?

After that, I worked for the technology branch of the New York Stock Exchange. This allowed me to learn how the exchange business works. I then worked for BlackRock Solutions on their Aladdin business, which is their end-to-end investment management platform.

I joined Point72 in 2018, more than five years ago. I thought it was a great opportunity to have more responsibility rather than being a small part of a broader business. I was attracted to the job listing because it would give me more freedom and more responsibility.


What do you like most about your job?

The people, both my immediate team members and the people I interact with at the firm. I work with a really smart, dedicated, and collaborative team, and I feel like we are always learning from each other. We also have a manager who is very supportive and ensures we have all the necessary tools we need to help us work more efficiently, and we can always reach out for guidance when we are stuck. What more can you ask?

Another thing is the job itself. Every single day feels new, and there are always upgrades, new workflows, new requirements, new stakeholders who have completely different requirements, and new ways of doing things. I feel like I am always learning something new every day. Simply put, my job never gets boring, and I feel very blessed to be able to work with such magnificent people.


What keeps you busy outside of work? What do you like about living in Tokyo?

Outside of work I like to catch up with family and old friends over drinks and crack jokes about the days when we were in college.  A lot of my friends enjoy baseball, so we catch up over a game or two once in a while.

Tokyo is a big city, but it’s also very quiet and relaxed. There are bays around, and you can walk by the beach, relax, and read a book by the ocean. If you take a train one-hour outside of Tokyo, you’ll find yourself completely in the countryside with great nature and very warm people. There are so many things you can do, and I like the variety.


What was the biggest culture shock when you first got to Japan?

The Japanese people tend to be very reserved, which is a huge contrast to how Kenyans operate. In Kenya, strangers tend to just strike up conversations at random. You can be waiting for the bus and have a conversation with anyone. In Japan, on the other hand, when you take a train, you have to be really quiet. After living so long in Japan, I find myself doing that too now. I think I assimilated to the culture really rapidly.

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