THE NAME Kamal Wood when we first heard it back in 2004 and then in 2006 for the Prime Minister’s Award was synonymous with intellect. Some 17 years later Kamal continues to excel and in his chosen field of Technology, he has indicated that his ultimate goal is to be able to positively impact St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the region with the experience he has gained working for companies with operations around the world.
What has Kamal Wood been up to since receiving the Prime Minister’s Award in 2006?
“…15 years…I worked at GECCU for a year and then I went to Cave Hill where I did a double major in computer science and pure maths. At the end of that I won the Rhodes Scholarship and I went to Oxford University from 2010-2012 where I did two one year masters; one in applied statistics and another in computer science…I then joined Deloitte and went into technology consulting.
When I left there I went to a health tech start-up…and then I [recently] switched to a remittances start-up that is primarily focused on Africa where I work remotely…”
In the years since you’ve left SVG what would you say continues to be one of the biggest challenges to someone interested in tech?
“…I think one of the biggest challenges is that there are not many opportunities for that [software engineering] in St Vincent and the Grenadines and the region in general…In terms of software engineering I know of a few places in the region, and I think you occasionally get some of the bigger companies having in-house developers but it’s not a big industry and I think it is much smaller than the number of computer science and other STEM graduates you get who will be interested in that type of thing…It is also difficult to migrate to countries with computer science related jobs. Until recently you had to go to a UK university or be transferred from another company…I work with very capable people but they are also getting opportunities that people at home are not getting just because of which passport they carry so I think there is a lot of frustrating stuff there that prevents people from realising their true potential… ”
Why do you think SVG has not embraced technology wholly?
“…I don’t really know why it’s like that. I think there is a lot of talent in the region, we have a lot of people if we give them the chance they would do a decent job and over time and with experience, they’ll do better and better…I know one big difference, working with a second start-up, the availability of money is a big thing. We know big start-ups like Google and Facebook which were not profitable for a really long time but because they had investors with really deep pockets who were willing to bet on them for years…While in SVG and the Caribbean in general I am not aware of anything like that. I have seen small grants given to developers but that’s not enough to get you started off the ground.”
We often hear that our men are increasingly vulnerable in our society, what do you think that can be done to assist our young people?
“…I think we need to do more to create opportunities for young men and women…we need to create opportunities for people to make a living in ways they are proud of and in ways that they can look forward to. I know one of the problems we have is with the very academic focus, and all the scholarships focused on academics, and I know that sounds strange coming from me, those things are good, I’m not saying we should stop that but I don’t think they scale well enough. You have more people who didn’t go to the community college then what about the majority of the people? Maybe we should be prioritising trades, or maybe we should stop prioritising academic success and start prioritising arts and crafts and trades earlier on instead of just putting those as the things we only put children in when they don’t show promise in academics. These are the kinds of things we should expose children to at an early age to see if they show promise in it, to see if they like it and get people loving the thing and wanting to be good at it so that later on, regardless of academic success, they can choose it as a career to go into or something to develop, and when we do all those things we have to do them in a way that is aware of the economic situation in St Vincent…”
Part two of the interview “Let’s Tech!” with Kamal Wood will follow next week as we continue to discuss his experiences in the technology field and his goals for the future.
Let’s Tech is a part of the written series ‘political incorrectness’ by Heidi Badenock.