Three years after she left office as chief executive officer of the Universal Service Fund, Suzette Camile Buchanan was back at an event held by the State agency last week.
This time, though, it was to bring words of encouragement to the graduating class of the Technology Advancement Programme (TAP) 1,000 — a project that she conceptualised and implemented while she headed the agency. In her capacity as guest speaker, she urged the regional batch of over 160 individuals out of a national group that exceeds 600, to go into the world of work with a basketful of positives that will ultimately advance themselves and their country. Training was effected through the Caribbean Maritime University, and the HEART Trust/NSTA.
Buchanan, who has represented the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), unsuccessfully, as a candidate in one general election (2011), and who served the Gregory Park Division in the then St Catherine Parish Council as a JLP rep, left the agency which falls under the management of the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology on August 17, 2018, after she was accused of hiring her daughter to work in the organisation. She was also deemed to be 'unqualified', as she was not the holder of a master's degree, which was a criterion for sitting in the CEO's chair.
She has since earned her master's degree in international business with law from the University of Salford in the United Kingdom, and in an appearance at the graduation ceremony for unattached youth through technological advancement, at Faith Temple New Testament Church of God, in Portmore, St Catherine, last Wednesday, she implored graduates never to stay down even when things got rough.
“Graduants, you are amazing, and I am extremely proud of you for taking this step, staying on course, believing in yourselves, your dreams, and most importantly, for trusting the process. What it basically means is that you might be going through your storm, but ride out the storm. You might be down in the valley, but you will get to the mountain top. Just have a plan and stick to it,” she suggested to leavers of the one-year training programme.
Buchanan, in 2018, defended her stewardship at the USF, when she appeared before Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) during a scheduled sitting, following her exit from the agency as head of day-to-day activities.
She said that while she did not possess a master's degree, her experience in public and private service that at the time exceeded two decades was good enough to achieve the success that the agency set out to gain. She also said that apart from the others interviewed for the job, the board of directors were convinced that she had the best vision for the assignment as CEO.
The job had asked for the holder of a master's degree, or “suitable work experience” which was not clearly defined in advertisements.
She told the committee that she had intended to complete the paperwork in her quest to improve her qualifications by enrolling in the master's programme right after she started the job as CEO at USF.
“I applied for the position. I was shortlisted. I was interviewed, not once, but, in fact, twice,” she told the committee, chaired then by Member of Parliament K Wykeham McNeill. “In that (second) interview the observation was made that there was the absence of the master's. However, on the other side, after having over 20 years in running businesses, having served a total of three years as director and chief executive officer of Caymanas Track Limited; served on several boards, including the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission; running my own business and having to handle my finances; serving 14 years combined in representational politics, and having the affairs of an entire division to handle at the parish council level, I, and the board, made up of largely private sector individuals, believed that I was qualified based upon experience.”
Last week she told graduates to dissociate themselves from self-pity, relating how she left the USF, and how she was able to balance her life and remain relevant in the society.
“You must take responsibility for your action, or lack thereof, even when others refuse to do so. When you blame external circumstances, you are relinquishing all power to naysayers, and remember that power resides within us. You are going to fall a thousand times, but I beg of you to be prepared to rise up at least a thousand and two times, get back on course and trust the process.”
She also urged the graduates to keep their word, never break a promise made to themselves, do not fold when disappointment sets in; strive for greatness, and always maintain a hunger for more success.
“The stock market will fluctuate, and so will your personal journey. Sometimes you will be up on the mountain top and at other times you will be down in the valley, stay the course, trust the process, stay with your investment, and your patience will reward you greatly.
“Since this is about Technology Advancement Programme, let me remind you that technology is man's greatest invention. Use it to your advantage, and use it respectfully. It's now time to clean up your social media pages. Remember, this is a reflection of who you are and what your brand represents.
“In the name of Jesus don't 'Dun No Baddy' on Facebook today and turn up for an interview tomorrow, because it's your page, your life. Yes, employers visit your social media pages too. Be brave, be bold, keep tapping on those doors...tap until you get an answer, keep tapping into yourself and find your true potential,” she told the young Jamaicans.