ONLY 15 years old and the holder of nine Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) subjects with distinctions, Dwayney Paul was approached by a drug dealer in his community, who offered to send him to university in the United States.
Born to poverty in Chateau, Clarendon, another in his shoes might have jumped at the opportunity. However, Paul wanted to know what he would have to do in return.
“You don’t have to pay anything; I can make it happen. But you know how it would go, you would just have to ‘facilitate’,” the man told him, indicating he would have to join in the illegal drug trade.
The teenager, raised in an extended family, thought about the offer.
“So he is telling me that everything that I learnt from my grandmother, from my parents, that I should just throw it away; [throw away] all my ethical beliefs and go and work for him?” Paul said he reasoned at the time.
He was not prepared to do that and turned down the drug dealer’s offer.
“He walked me down. He said, ‘you don’t know what you are doing, you are throwing away your life’. I said, ‘Okay, let me throw it away in a good way’,” said Paul, now 27 years old and Scotiabank’s manager of customer research for the English Caribbean and the Central American region.
Hired by the bank as a research associate when he was 22 years old, he soon proved his worth and, three years later, was promoted to his current position. Though based at the Scotia Centre in downtown Kingston, Paul has been leading research for 14 countries in the English Caribbean and also works with Spanish-speaking countries, such as Mexico, Chile, Peru, and Colombia.
In total, the young man said he works for and touches base with 23 different countries, reporting to Scotiabank’s heads of marketing and chief executive officers in each country.
“It’s not the usual research as we know it in terms of numbers and database work or secondary data analysis, but more from a strategic standpoint. So I look at customer loyalty and satisfaction studies and I look at brand and advertising tracking. It’s research of a different nature, including things such as new product development,” Paul told Career & Education.
According to Paul, he works in a high-pressure environment, dealing with people from different cultures and in so many different settings, sometimes travelling to as many as five countries in the space of a week.
“I have to be the champion that drives everything from start to finish,” he said. “You have to be so careful as you are dealing with the bank’s money and you have to ensure that you maximise shareholder value in every single decision you make. At the end of the day, you don’t want to hear that you didn’t follow the protocol or that you didn’t do the negotiations well.”
Paul enjoys his work despite the challenges.
“To be given the responsibility at such an early age — at 25 when most of my peers are enjoying life — [is tough], but this is my part of life that I enjoy from a professional standpoint. I am influencing strategy, I am influencing decisions and at the same time, we are doing work that is improving what we offer to customers,” he said.
Although he is today able to bask in his success, the Glenmuir alum’s story is one of hardship and struggle to rise from a community infested with drug dons, poverty-stricken families and uneducated youth.
After he completed sixth form, where he demonstrated his love for accounting and economics — even copping a Jamaican award for having the best grades in economics — Paul’s teachers encouraged him to apply for the a place at the University of the West Indies (UWI).
He did, but when he received the letter of acceptance, the then 17-yearold knew it would take a miracle for him to be able to take up the offer. His father Rohan was that miracle.
A grille-maker by profession, the older Paul didn’t have a steady income and jobs were few and far between. However, he had managed to save $94,000 and opted to use every cent to pay for his son’s first semester at university.
“It was in all hope that things would work out. I was going to UWI now, but there was no guarantee where maintenance money was coming from, as they couldn’t afford books and hall fees and so on. I remember he did that and he said he was doing that in faith,” Paul recalled.
At the time, he said his father was criticised by family members outside of his household.
“They said ‘Are you an idiot? Let the bwoy go work’ [and] ‘Why him feel him must go school?’,” Paul told Career & Education. “But I remember specifically [what] my grandmother [told me]. We were under the June plum tree and she said, ‘Listen to mi bwoy, if is one banana we have to eat as a family for you to go to UWI, you going to go to UWI’.”
And so he did.
“The first semester went extremely well; I had a top average. I said okay it’s possible, but where is the next set of money coming from to continue?” Paul said.
The money came from the Dehring Bunting and Golding (now PanCaribbean) Scholarship he had applied for.
But as fate would have it, only months after starting his second semester — in the middle of preparing for exams — Paul learnt his father’s mother had died.
“Remember, he gave me all his life savings and he was an only child. I don’t know who could understand the guilt that came on me, firstly and then on the family [as we considered] how we would take care of what would come next,” he said.
The family managed to raise the money for the funeral. But no sooner was as that out of the way, his sister — then three years old — became seriously ill and had to be hospitalised.
As the family became distraught, concerned over whether the little girl would survive the ordeal, and conflicted as to how they would be able to afford medical expenses, Paul got a call.
It was a call from Scotiabank. UWI had informed the bank that he was one of the top students in the Faculty of Social Sciences and they wanted to offer him an internship.
“I prayed, ‘Let it be a case that I get paid weekly so that we can afford to go the hospital and ensure she [little sister] is fine’,” Paul recalled.
He was paid $11,000 weekly and by the end of the three months of his internship, more than 80 per cent of what he had earned was used to take care of his sister’s medical bills.
Despite a daily struggle to survive on campus, Paul eventually completed a double major in accounting and economics, earning his first degree in both areas.
He thereafter made the difficult decision to go on to do a master’s in economics — plagued by guilt that his father had invested all his money in him and he was expected to now take care of the family.
“You are not allowed to work while doing a master’s in economics, but I decided to do the master’s [and] to find a job despite it being against the rules,” he said.
Two weeks after he started, he learnt that the university would be offering him a fellowship, but that he would be expected to work as a research assistant and tutor.
Still, the earnings from those duties were not enough to help his parents and assist his two sisters through school.
Paul found two additional jobs on campus.
He tutored accounting and was made lecturer in the Hugh Lawson Shearer Institute for Trade Unions by the head of the Management Studies Department. Paul was only 20 years old at the time.
Meanwhile, heartened by the support of all the persons who had believed in him, he made the decision to become a mentor.
“Every semester I selected one young man from UWI undergrad and started coaching him academically. I specifically asked for the ones from the inner city,” said Paul.
He continues to mentor young men through the ScotiaFoundation and has positively influenced the lives of up to 10 of them so far.
“Not even [my own success] is as fulfilling as when I see these same young men graduating with top-class degrees, going on to do a master’s [degree], or getting a job or even doing voluntary work,” said Paul, who completed his own master’s degree in April 30, 2007.
By the following day — May 1, 2007 — he had been given the position as research associate.
“For me, it is not about this ‘big’ job. I want men and parents to [know] that the family structure is still important and stick behind their children and motivate them. For the young men, it is not [good for you to] to fall prey to how a below-average Jamaican man is labelled. You have the opportunity; you can make a better life and you can use whatever platform you have to help and influence others,” said Paul, who is now able to finance his sisters’ education.
One of them is studying accounting at UWI and the other is attending Wolmer’s Girls.