What is your background?
I have a background in law, more specifically financial law. For the last couple of years I have been working in financial services and most recently, about 6 months ago, I started working in the field of Anti-money Laundering and Terrorism Financing.
What do you find is the biggest reason that people do not return to St. Maarten?
They do not know where to start. When most students are finished with their studies, they talk about wanting to return. But there is huge uncertainty on where they will be able to find work. The only place where they talk about working is for the government. So, I would say it’s not being certain of where they would be able to find work and secondly, finding work in the field in which they studied.
What do you want to focus on while in UPG?
I have 2 approaches. First, it is developing the platform of UPG, to a platform where (young) professionals and students can join and gain experience in a field that they are passionate about while building their professional network. Secondly, taking time out to really get to know the people of the islands, coaching (young) professionals, students and help them accomplish the goals they have set out for themselves on a personal level.
What goals have you made for yourself in UPG?
The main goal that I have right now is to make sure that the system works, to make sure that the platform develops! For the rest of this year, time is being taken to research what happens when someone gets the opportunity of a lifetime. As an example if a young professional or a students gets the opportunity to work doing the job that they have always dreamed of, what does that do to them? Where do they need to develop to handle the responsibility that comes with the job? Personally, when it happened to me, I could not really believe it until, I started myself. And then I began to realize that having my dream job was a lot harder than I imagined it would be. I needed a lot of coaching to help me build up skills that I did not have before.
When was this? When did you get this opportunity of a lifetime? Can you share more about that?
It started with the concept itself of UPG. A few years ago, after attending a project management workshop, I contacted the main speaker via Facebook. We quickly had a meeting with each other in which I had the chance to ask him, about his professional experience. During our meeting, we spoke about my dream of giving back to Sint Maarten. We then spoke about how this can be approached and before I knew it, UPG was a fact. It took awhile before everything could actually sink in. I’m going to make sure that UPG works. I saw what it helped me and it will do the same for someone else.
How did UPG develop your career? How did it take you to the next level in your career?
It taught me a lot about strategy. Whenever you want to do something, everyone always has an opinion or an idea of how it should be done, especially at work. Chances are they see it different than you. However, you were not hired to necessarily do things differently. You were hired to do a certain job and that’s it. Here’s is where having a thought out strategy comes in, you first have to find out how things work within your work environment. Once you know what works, you will see what you need to do to change things. You’ll also gain confidence when you discover that you can change things if you approach it the right way.
I’ve learnt that if you want to create big changes you get it accomplished with a lot of small steps. You need to understand the process of small steps, or goals. You have to learn how to accomplish goals quickly. It is possible to accomplish big things and it is possible to do things differently you just have to break it down into steps.
This has helped me tremendously now that I am working! Now when I enter an environment I want to know what is expected of me. I then break the expectations into smaller goals that others can see and manage. It makes it easy for those around me to give tips on how to improve what I am doing.
How did that help you get to another level?, Did you say to yourself, “Okay, I want a new job and what I did in UPG helped me to do that ? What did you do?
Well, it took some time to figure out what I wanted. I have a background in Financial Law. That is a broad field of law and doesn’t really say much when you apply for a job. It does show that you know about financial law, but that’s it. However during my study I did specialize in payment systems, so that helped with narrowing down what I’m good at. A payment system is a system that allows money to be transferred from one bank account to the other. Not much jobs are available in this field. In order to get a job in that field you first need experience. And I did not have that.
UPG helped me to understand that I have to find out what skills I need for my career. It can be that you need three main skills. You may not get the chance to gain experience with all three skills in one job, but you can select one skill and apply for a job that helps you gain experience with that one skill.
So when I was approached to work as an Anti-Money Laundering Analyst, I immediately saw how this job can be used as a stepping stone in furthering my career. The other skills I can learn through being active in UPG.
UPG has helped me to understand, when building a career, vary rarely you get a job that matches perfectly with where you want to go. Everything takes time.
How do you think your background will help you to accomplish the goals that you have set out for yourself in UPG?
My background has a lot to do with finances and financial systems. One thing that I want to happen is for UPG to reach to a point where people can work full time to assist our people with returning home! In order to do this I am working on ways to get us funded. So my background is helping me to see options that are available to fund our activities. I think compared to other people I have an advantage. when it comes to that.
How so? How do you have an advantage?
I studied how to set up financial systems. So if anyone should know how to get us funded, it should be me. But having knowledge and applying it are two different things. UPG has given me the chance to apply what I studied and I have gotten better at applying what I learned but I still have a lot of work to do to develop myself so that I can be useful to the people around me.
So I do have the feeling that I am busy with something important, everyday I’m learning something new. I have to be independent, work good within a team and at the same time a high level of responsibility has been placed on me.
What do you want others to know about UPG, if someone were to ask you?
I will break it down in 3 parts. For students, it’s a place where you can get work experience during your study. There is always room for new talent, you can apply and start working immediately. For professionals, it helps you use the work experience that you already have to see opportunities that are available on the islands. The goal is to motivate you to go back home because your island needs you. Lastly, for both groups, you can use UPG as a bridge to find your way back home!