Kareen Thelwell creates a world of opportunities

Kareen Thelwell creates a world of opportunities

Monday, May 25, 2020

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LIKE many young Jamaicans with big ambitions but meagre resources, Kareen Thelwell dreamed of creating a better life for herself and her family.

Living in Smithfield, Westmoreland, was not always easy as her mother would sometimes face challenges while caring for five children alone. However, her mother knew the value of a good education and instilled that in Thelwell very early.

It was those foundational lessons that propelled her to always aim for excellence no matter the endeavour, and she applied the lessons with dogged focus through her primary and secondary education at Manning's School.

As a young girl she pictured herself as a gynaecologist, not mainly for the prestige of the medical profession, but so she could start a free clinic for the women in her community and provide support for their reproductive health. She had a heart for those in need, especially single mothers struggling to make ends meet with many mouths to feed.

“I saw so many women who had a lot of children and I wanted to be able to guide them and help them to actually plan for their families,” explained Thelwell.

But like many rural single-parent families, medical school was an elusive dream and so she turned her attention instead to the world of work to eke out a living. Her first job was at the Red Stripe distribution centre in Savanna-la-Mar where she worked as a settlement officer. Through training and development offered by the company she mastered the role within five years.

By the year 2000 when a permanent role became available at the Red Stripe head office in Kingston, Thelwell seized the opportunity and made the move to 'town'. This was, however, without the blessing of her mother who was wary of her daughter being so far away from home.

“Mommy was very protective and she was worried that I might get distracted,” recalled Thelwell. But she was focused and determined to succeed as she embarked on this new adventure that would transform her life.

Her first role at the company was distribution clerk at the newly established Kingston Distribution Centre. With skills carefully honed out west and a knack for logistics, Thelwell quickly earned a promotion to the role of stock controller responsible for inventory. Her responsibilities were later expanded to include logistics and auditing of all Red Stripe distribution centres.

In the last 20 years, Thelwell has pursued a master's degree in operations and supply chain management from the University of Liverpool. She has also earned other promotions in the business, including the role of logistics and distribution process manager; and engineer stores and raw materials manager.

“My current role as CAPEX coordinator was a bit of a challenge in the beginning. It was a first for the business so I had to learn what was required. But once I got my feet wet, it was very exciting,” she explained.

As the primary support for the project manager, Thelwell helps to manage budgets, process and keep track of the myriad contractors on site on a daily basis, and cover all administrative functions. It is a substantial portfolio, but her track record of awards and recognition has proven that she is up to the task.

“Kareen is dependable and challenges processes with a view to making them more efficient. She is a great support and has made my job easier,” said CAPEX Project Engineer Trecia Campbell-Sharpe, Thelwell's line manager.

For Thelwell, integrity means a lot, so she's very serious about work.

“People see me and think that I am very stern, and when it comes to the job, I am. But there's a fun-loving side to me that few people get to experience. I love drama and I've been told that I'm pretty good at doing impersonations,” she said.

When Thelwell is not working she is kept busy with not one, but two bundles of joy — Hanna and Heather.

“I have a pretty full life now. But in later years, when the kids are older, I see myself as a motivational speaker, encouraging young women, especially those who have had a rough life, to keep on striving. I have proven that with hard work and a lot of prayer, you can change your circumstances.”

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