Student Profile: Erlin Kananaj

Durrës, Albania
B.S., Computer Science
Year Expected to Graduate
New York City
Student Profile: Erlin Kananaj

Coding Through Adversity

Erlin Kananaj is a freshman at New York Institute of Technology, planning to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science. “I have always loved technology, and growing up, I was influenced by obstacles my family faced,” he says. The Box sat down with Kananaj to learn more about him and his plans for his time at New York Tech.

Why did you choose to study at New York Tech?
I had a lot of friends suggesting that I check it out and, as soon as I did, I fell in love with it. New York Tech has so much to offer, and it’s also the perfect college for my degree, computer science.

Your family played a big role in your decision to pursue a degree in computer science. Can you tell us about that?  
It all started when I was 12 years old. It was the moment when my family found out that my little brother was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency (GHD). In Albania, this illness was not discovered yet and it was hard for my family to find medications or even fly my little brother to Italy [for treatment]. At the time, I was coding a game for a game competition held online, where we had to send our codes to the competition registration website. I had worked on that code day by day to perfect it and to make the game run with no bugs and play efficiently.

When I discovered that my family needed immediate financial help, all I thought about was to sell my game. It was a quick response from me, even though I did not fully understand the situation. My heart was telling me to help and support my family, and even though I was only 12, I understood that I wanted to be a big contributor to this situation. As soon as I sold the game to a developer, I gave the funds to my family. The next day, my mom and my brother purchased tickets to Italy and flew there after three days. Fortunately, my brother received the proper diagnosis and started his medications.

This experience also inspired you to spread awareness for GHD. Can you tell us about what you did next?
I also initiated a fundraising campaign and foundation for my brother not only to raise funds but also to raise awareness about growth hormone deficiency. Now, I understand that it was this obstacle that changed and formed me. It made me an individual who loves and admires to help others. It developed an inner love for humanitarian values and support for causes. It made me who I am today. I learned that after every sacrifice, in the end, everything is rewarded.

How do you think your New York Tech education will help prepare you for your future career? 
I believe New York Tech will help me prepare for my future in many ways, starting from the smooth transition to making lifelong friends to networking and to helping me achieve my dreams of being an innovator to the world.