BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – SOMEONE once said that success is by no means an accident, but rather by sacrifice, dedication, perseverance, hard work, studying and most of all love of what one is doing or learning to do.
These contributory factors to success were echoed and endorsed by 33-year-old Tishon Thomas of St. Kitts, who has not only achieved his boyhood dream of being highly qualified in the field of Information Technology, but also successfully completing the 2016 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) hosted in the United States of America.
In an exclusive interview with SKNVibes, Thomas explained what the YLAI aims to achieve and how he became a participant of the six-week programme initiated by President Barack Obama.
“I was one among some 5,000 people from Latin America and the Caribbean who applied and was accepted in the 2016 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, which is an initiative of President Barrack Obama to encourage entrepreneurship and social development in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
He further explained that the YLAI would help to address the opportunity gap for youths by empowering entrepreneurs and civil society leaders with the training, tools, networks and resources they need to transform their respective society and contribute more fully to economic development and prosperity, security, human rights and good governance in the hemisphere.
“What they did at the interviews was to identify young leaders and match them with the host companies in the United States of America in an effort to expose them to better ways of doing business and to build leadership capacity.”
Duration, Attachments and Achievements
The young entrepreneur said the programme began in early October and ended shortly before the second week in November.
“I left St. Kitts for the United States on Monday, October 3 and returned on Saturday, November 12. We went to three cities in the United States. The first was Dallas, Texas in Addison County, where we had the Opening of the YLAI Summit. We met with the Mayor and leaders of some large corporations who spoke extensively on entrepreneurship, the purpose of giving back and what makes entrepreneurs different in terms of building economies and supporting their societies.
“One week later, I left for Atlanta and was hosted by a company called Excess International in Georgia. It is a global third party maintenance company that competes with CISCO. I participated in meetings with Comcast, Electronic Arts and Lockheed Martin. The host company treated me as a partner and they basically showed me the US way of doing business and negotiating. And so my company has now become a channel partner for Excess International in the Caribbean. In other words, it is almost like a franchise of that company, which already has franchises in Argentina, Brazil, Britain, Paris and China, and now one in St. Kitts.”
Thomas said Washington, D.C was the third city he had visited, where he and the other participants were hosted by the US State Department. “We met with the Under Secretary of State and a reception was held in the State Department’s Ballroom where President Obama presented us with certificates.”
Thomas is the founder and CEO of a three-year-old business establishment called SKN IT Solutions, which is located on Church Street in Basseterre next to Fancy Loaf.
Asked what he has planned for the future, the young entrepreneur said: “I intend to take my company throughout the region. Our focus is to be the IBM of the Caribbean, where we provide business solutions to different types of businesses. The other thing that we plan to do is to become ITIL-allied (Information Technology Infrastructure Library).
“Generally, my plan is to build up the IT Services Sector in St. Kitts and Nevis, seeing that we have moved away from a mono-crop to our economy and focusing on tourism. Along with tourism will come new businesses and my plan it to build the IT Services Sector because I think that Kittitians and Nevisians are as smart as anybody else on the planet. And coming from the United States, I now know for sure that we are as brilliant, innovative and creative as anyone else globally, because IT services go beyond borders as it can be provided without moving, without purchasing a plane ticket as the world has now become a global village.”
He claimed it is common knowledge that the Governments of the Eastern Caribbean, including St. Kitts and Nevis, have sought to focus on Information and Communication Technologies as one of their future goals and, “I want SKN Solutions to be a big part of that. With this in mind, I can see my company expanding and creating vacancy for 10 more employees within the next two years.”
In response to what motivated him to choose Information Technology as a career, Thomas reflected on his formative years.
“It stemmed from my days at the St. Christopher Children’s Home. I grew up in the Children’s Home and I was there from the age of six to 16 years. Around that time, employees used to visit the home to assist and encourage us in terms of our school work. The organisation had donated two Desktop Computers for us to use. One of Social Security’s employees had noticed my interest in computers and he gave me a book called ‘HTML for Dummies’. That is the abbreviation for Hyper Text Mark-up Language; it’s the language for Internet on what web pages are based.
“I was 14 years old at that time and from that book I started creating and writing my own web sites in Notepad without Internet access. That inspired me to learn more about Information Technology, knowing that I can create something just from code, and that commenced my love for Technology and computers in general.’
Born on September 24, 1983, Thomas is the last of Paulette Thomas’ four children, who was at the time residing in Challenger’s Village. He explained that due to circumstances he brembers living at his uncle’s home in Challenger’s Village and one Ms. Carty in The Village.
He also explained the main reason for being at the Children’s Home and emphatically stressed that it was not on account of the State, but that of his mother and he has no regrets.
“As an infant, I attended Trinity School, but at age six my mother took me to the Children’s Home. She had other options, but she thought it best for them to care for me as she decided to migrate to St. Thomas because of economic circumstances. In other words, she was in search of greener pastures and St. Thomas was her choice.
“While at the Children’s Home, I moved from Trinity School to the Roman School, and when I was in Grade Four I moved to the Irish Town Primary School. From there it was the Basseterre Junior High School thence to Basseterre High School.”
At Basseterre High, young Thomas gained passes at the CXC and decided to further his studies at the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College, where he wrote the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination’s Software Engineering Course. Reportedly, only three persons in the Eastern Caribbean were successful at that course and Thomas was the only student in St. Kitts to be among them. He also gained his Diploma and then decided to seek employment.
“In seeking employment, I had two options. The first was at TDC where I was offered a monthly salary of $1,400 in the Accounts Department, and the second was at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine as an intern in the field of Information Technology, where I was being offered approximately $600 per month. I however chose the latter because I wanted a career, and securing a job in any IT department without experience would be a very difficult task. So I took the internship and got financial support from a number of people who were sympathetic to my cause.
“That was in 2002 and I worked there for approximately four months. I then applied for a job at S.L. Horsford’s, which offered me $1,600 per month. But after notifying Ross University of my intention, management gave me the same offer and I declined that of Horsford’s. Horsford’s then said they would increase the offer to $1,800 per month and provide me with a cell phone and access to a company car. I then asked the University if they could have matched it and they responded in the negative, so I moved on to Horsford’s as a Network Technician and later promoted to the position of Data Base Administrator.”
After working with S.L. Horsford’s for approximately three years, Thomas went back to Ross University as a Senior Network Technician and shortly after acquired the post of Computer Programmer with higher remuneration. While there, the ambitious young man had done some consultancy work for Christophe Harbour and they subsequently offered him a job as IT Manager.
“I worked at Christophe Harbour for approximately four and a half years, during which time I built their entire IT infrastructure including the Fibre Optic Networks and the Camera Networks that extend to Port Zante.
“Following my tenure with Christophe Harbour, in 2012 I was employed at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort as the Systems Manager with a salary of over $10,000 per month. I however left that job in October 2013 because I was being overworked. I didn’t have the adequate amount of staff for the work load and I thought if I could work so hard for a company, why not have my own. So I decided to establish my own business, which is called SKN IT Solutions.”
The eligible bachelor explained that he singularly started SKN IT Solutions from his home without any capital, but was shortly after joined by his business partner and some three months later “we had our first employee. Today, we have a staff of seven, including myself and my business partner”.
Message to Youths
The crime situation in St. Kitts and Nevis has reached what many people termed “a crisis stage” with 29 homicides being recorded for this year, as well as a large number of housebreakings, larcenies, robberies and shooting at with intent. And according to reports, most of these crimes are perpetrated by the nation’s youth.
To this end, Thomas was asked what advice he would give to young people in the Federation to achieve their academic goals and his thoughts on the crime situation.
“I would like the young people in St. Kitts and Nevis to focus on what they want to achieve and to work on it. Do not just dream; dreaming alone will not do it, you have to put in the work. I came out of the St. Christopher Children’s Home where I am now one of the Directors on the Board of that home. While there and was at school, I used to be in the library until two in the mornings studying and they thought I was brighter than everybody else there. But I was also studying more than everybody else. So being intellectually brilliant by itself doesn’t do it! Even in my company I have to work harder than everybody else to achieve set goals.
“Therefore, my advice to young people is for them to focus on education. Education comes in two forms – formal and informal. Formal in the acquisition of knowledge by being taught, trained and directed research; while informal education happens in an amorphous way - shapeless in form – and is acquired outside of the standard school setting through one’s experience in life.
“Once you focus on education you will also have to put in the work required to achieve success. Put in the work and dedicate yourself. When you do that it doesn’t matter what happens after; the money will follow once you work hard.
“With regards to crime, I sincerely believe that those young people who are involved need to be motivated and loved. One thing that made a difference in my life is a scholarship that I got while at Basseterre High School. The name of that scholarship is ROC 90 – Reunion Organising Committee of 1990 – headed by Victor Williams of Williams Architectural.”
Thomas is of the view that love, respect and mentorship could play an integral role in moulding the minds of the young, thus deterring them from a life of crime. He also reflected on the main actor of the scholarship to emphasise his point.
“Words cannot express the difference the love they provided have done for us who were awarded that scholarship. It was where we had a mentor, one who you could have looked up to, to be accountable to and you would have said, ‘Hey, if I do this what am I going to tell Victor?’ And literally the love was shown because he would call and make regular checks to find out what you were doing and what were your needs.
“As soft as it may sound, children mostly need love, and if you look at most of those involved in crime, they don’t have anyone who they love who loves them in return to the point where they would say: ‘I need you to succeed, I need to see you doing well and I am depending on you.’
“When you have somebody who you love and who you respect, you will think twice about engaging in deviant behaviour even though it was not done in their presence, because you know it will get back to them. Therefore, it is my view that education and good role models are definitely the key to deter our young people from getting involved in criminal activities.”
The young CEO noted that all those who participated in the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative have been recognised by their respective Governments and he fervently hopes that he would be accorded the same, and also other young entrepreneurs in the Federation who might have the opportunity to be exposed to the said programme in the not too distant future.
The management and staff of SKNVibes take this opportunity to join with the family and friends of Tishon Thomas in congratulating him on his recent success and wish him all the best in his future endeavours as a young entrepreneur.