Hard-working, determined, serving with purpose, and committed to doing and being her best in both work and family are virtues that sustain Deidre Cousins, chief information officer at GraceKennedy (GK). She believes that the synergy between her values and the company’s culture is at the heart of her current success.
As CIO, Cousins has oversight of the local and international GK Foods portfolio. Her role also involves formulating strategies for the group as the chair of the IT Council, advising the group chief executive officer and other executives on the various IT initiatives, and managing shared services. From an operational perspective, she ensures that the systems and processes are working effectively and efficiently to reduce response time and ensure business continuity.
Cousins recounts joining GraceKennedy, in 2008, as the Group IT audit manager. She was thrilled at the opportunity to build on her prior experiences in IT in the critical areas of audit, risk, processes and business improvement. She would learn about the different systems utilised across the group, giving her further insight and an appreciation of information technology’s role and strategic purpose in the organisation. The experience broadened her scope and the opportunity to grow in her career, an essential aspect of GraceKennedy’s culture of investing in their employees’ professional development.
Cousins recounts that GraceKennedy’s strategic rotation programme, which allows employees to work in other companies within the group, was fundamental to her growth. While in the programme, she acted as business development manager of the Foods Division. The role saw her gain additional practical experience in business operations and further piqued her interest in more strategic positions. That chance came when invited to conduct due diligence on the newly acquired GK Foods USA subsidiary. As VP of IT Operations, Cousins used her core skills and experiences in IT auditing and business operation to implement, monitor and train employees to use its mission-critical system SAP as their enterprise solution.
After three years in the US, Cousins returned home and was appointed as the Business Development Executive in the GraceKennnedy Executive Office where she was assigned to First Global Bank and eventually became CIO of GraceKennedy Ltd.
Her team’s ability to solve problems with agility and in the shortest possible time gives Cousins a sense of pride. She is thrilled to lead a proactive team that implements robust IT infrastructure in alignment with the group’s diversification and ensures business continuity. The CIO also asserted that she is pleased to see the tangible results of executing and collectively achieving positive business outcomes.
Cousins noted that the company, pre-COVID, had been leveraging cloud software such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft 365 and upgrading their network bandwidth capabilities to work in a more automated and seamless way. The pandemic, however, further accelerated the adoption of these tools through training of their employees to support their continuation of quality service delivery in the new hybrid environment.
Asked about her vision of Jamaica’s technology landscape by 2030, Cousins sees more empowered users. She predicts that Jamaica can achieve this through greater adoption of the tools, software and emerging solutions such as AI, robotics, and machine learning. For her, access to technology is also crucial in closing the digital divide, an area that the GraceKennedy Foundation supported during the pandemic. She believes that an investment in skill sets is also crucial, as careers in technology are ever-evolving.
A proud community-builder and woman of faith, Cousins is focused on making an impact by improving the lives of others around her. As a Director of the GraceKennedy Foundation, she believes in serving the community through social initiatives, which she finds rewarding and sees as an avenue to fulfil her purpose.