Career & Education

Owen Brown's deepest dive yet

Career diver attains master's in accounting; talks balancing demands of work, studies and family

Sunday, April 21, 2019

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They say opportunity knocks only once, but Owen Brown has experienced an anomaly; the certified scuba instructor has twice received full scholarships from his employer, Sandals Montego Bay, to pursue tertiary studies.

The most recent award came through Sandals Corporate University (SCU) and resulted in completion of a Master of Science in Accounting. But years before the formalisation of the corporate university, Brown accessed funds to pursue an associate degree in business administration.

“That was way back in 2004, long before there was Sandals Corporate University,” he told the Jamaica Observer. “[Back then], they just posted these things on the notice board and anyone who wanted to get higher education could just apply.”

Brown, who has been with Sandals Montego Bay for the last 20 years, reminisced on the the thirst he had for higher education when he started at the hotel, and how he took calculated steps to benefit from the opportunities offered by the 5-star luxury-Included« chain.

“I had five CXCs when I started at Sandals and needed only maths to qualify for an associate degree in business. So, knowing that Sandals was offering scholarships, I did CXC math and waited for the next scholarship opportunity to be announced,” he explained.

He was granted the scholarship in 2004 and, according to him, that's when his appetite for higher-level education really opened.

Using his own funds, he later completed a bachelor's degree in business administration and a post-graduate certificate in teaching. Then he heard the SCU was offering scholarships to pursue master's degrees, but he doubted his chances of getting a second scholarship.

“I had never really heard of one team member getting two scholarships but the first one I got wasn't through SCU, so I believe that's why they granted me a second one in 2015. This time I was bonded to the company for a few years, which I didn't mind, because Sandals Montego Bay is like home to me,” Brown told Career & Education, a smile forming at the corners of his mouth.

But little did he know that pursuing a Master's degree would be his deepest dive yet.

“I really advise young people to try and complete their education early,” he said. “When I started my masters I was 49 years old. By then I was a supervisor in the Watersports Department and I have a wife and child. Balancing my degree, work and family life was very challenging,” Brown revealed.

He recalls waking up early to meet the demands of his job and heading to school immediately after work. As he got deeper into his studies, there was less time to spend with family and friends and his sleeping pattern was disturbed, a condition to which many university students can relate.

“The doctor said my inability to sleep was because I was thinking hard about completing my studies. My doctor said, 'Owen, just press on. You will be proud you did when it's all over',” Brown reminisced.

“The programme I was in stipulated that I would be asked to leave if I failed too many courses, [and] my Sandals scholarship stipulated that I would have to pay for the courses failed,” he explained.

The stakes for acheiving success in his programme were made even higher by the fact that the same year he started his master's, his daughter enrolled in the Bachelor of Medicine programme, also at The University of the West Indies (the UWI).

“I wouldn't have been able to fulfill my dream and hers if I had not got a scholarship from Sandals, so I had to finish my degree,” Brown revealed.

Three gruelling years later, at the age of 52, Brown resurfaced from his three-year dive with a master's degree in accounting.

According to Sandals Montego Bay's General Manager Carl Beviere, Brown is a shining example of the vision the company has for all team members.

“Through our Sandals Corporate University, we are not only interested in developing hospitality workers, but we want people to achieve their full potential, whatever it is. If you are a bartender who hopes to be a general manager, we want you to know you can achieve that through the training we offer,” Beviere told Career & Education.

As for Brown, he is waiting for opportunity to make that third knock at his door so he can venture into the field of accounting.

“I love watersports but with my accounting qualifications, I would like to get some experience in that area. The thing is, it has to be at Sandals. This company has given so much to me, I wouldn't mind growing with them some more,” he said with a smile.

Sandals says Brown's scholarship is one of over 755 tertiary awards the SCU has made to team members since its inception in 2012.


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