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US Software firm Eyes Trinidadian Developers

US Software firm Eyes Trinidadian Developers

Posted by Shanelle Weir on September 26, 2014

“We will love to get more Trinis on board,” says Lawler Kang, director of global people strategy and talent acquisition at Medullan, which describes itself on its website as a digital health innovation lab.

The company is based in Boston, Massachusetts and specialises in providing health care services to a wide range of clients. Seven years ago it set up a local office - Medullan Trinidad Limited and earlier this year it opened an office in Jamaica. 

The comment was Kang’s way of saying that Medullan remained interested in hiring Trinidadians despite a disappointing experience last year when it tried and failed to recruit local developers for applications for its offerings to the health care sector. Last October, the company set out to recruit 40 developers in the region but could only find three in Trinidad and eventually went to Jamaica where it found the talent it was seeking. 

In a telephone conversation with Newsday from his Massachusetts base, Kang said the recruiters had put equal time into both countries and Jamaica just came out on top. 

Although the company specialises in providing services to the health care industry he said it does “not expect developers to have health care backgrounds” and would provide whatever training was necessary in that respect. 

Explaining the difficulty with recruiting in Trinidad, he said, “Essentially the kids coming out of school aren’t trained enough for our needs. They are very smart kids but their technology skills and their overall readiness to work for us are for the most part just not there.” 

He hastened to add that Medullan does an extensive amount of training, but said of the candidates which the company saw in Trinidad, “there is still a gap there. There’s still a gap there in their overall skillset.” He observed that in Jamaica, “the skillsets of the students were just more advanced for the most part than those in Trinidad and they may be a little more entrepreneurial.” 

Kang said the company had a good relationship with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and had provided feedback to UWI on its recruiting efforts in this country. He said UWI was “quite receptive” but admitted he didn’t know what the university was doing about possibly changing its curricula. 

He said in order to close the gap UWI should bring itself up to date with the most recent languages and project management tools and processes. 

He said Medullan had been operating in Trinidad for seven years and had tried to recruit throughout the Caribbean and South America. 

The company’s experience was revealed by Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development, Dr Bhoe Tewarie during a speech on September 16, 2014, to a function celebrating 30 years in business of Digi-Data Systems Limited. The function was held at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain. 

Tewarie complained that although a lot of engineers were graduating from UWI and there were so many companies involved in information and communication technology (ICT) in Trinidad and Tobago, “yet we don’t have any ‘apps’ capability in this country.” 

In what Dr Tewarie no doubt hopes will be a solution to this shortcoming, this country is shortly to launch its first Microsoft Innovation Centre and Dr Tewarie said that a top executive of the Microsoft Corporation, Mark Day, its general manager –worldwide public sector - will be in Trinidad to formally declare the centre open. The event is scheduled for October 6, 2014 and Dr Tewarie said this will be the 111th Microsoft Innovation Centre in the world. 

In addition, he said the government had received a US$4 million grant from the World Bank for innovative solutions to climate change problems. He said the ministry’s i2i programme, located at the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute’s Centre for Enterprise Development at Freeport, had produced 145 innovators since it was established in June last year and that some of them had gone on to create businesses. 

Jewan Mohan, chief operating officer at Digi-Data Systems Limited said the company had achieved many firsts in the information technology (IT) sphere in Trinidad and Tobago. He also said the company’s technicians had equipped the first internet provider in Trinidad and Tobago and had slogged through mud and mosquitoes to lay the IT infrastructure at Point Lisas when the industrial estate was being established. 

He said Digi-Data would be the leader in some of the innovations to come and that the celebration was the first time the company had had all its valued assets, its employees and customers, in one place. 

He paid tribute to the founder of the company, Ulric Asiu, whom he said was an astute businessman, who had left a mark on the business landscape of Trinidad and Tobago. He said the founder was family oriented and encouraged, even ordered, his staff to put family first. He also praised the current managing director, Brent Asiu, one of the sons of the founder, who is also company secretary and chairman of the board. He said that through his ability to lead he had piloted the company to profitable growth and fostered development throughout the organisation. 

While he said the company would be categorised as a small and micro enterprise (SME) according to the definition of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce, he said that based on its financial performance, it could be considered a large enterprise. He said that in difficult financial times the company had refused to do what other larger organisations would do by cutting staff to reduce costs. “We just wouldn’t survive,” he said, adding that the company’s philosophy had always been that it “strives to keep the people that we hire” and Asiu had never been the kind of person to downsize because of unfavourable market conditions. Mohan said that Digi-Data “can boast of having one of the highest, if not the highest revenue per employee in the local IT industry.” 

In other remarks at the function, Dr Tewarie said innovation is where the world is headed. He said companies such as AnsaMcAl and Neal and Massy, now rebranded as Massy Holdings Limited, were very good in their time and evolved in a certain way and they have made a significant contribution, but he said “the companies of tomorrow are what you might call the ‘born globals’ or the ‘small multi nationals.’” 

He said this could mean two or three people who can start a company anywhere in the world and it is global in scope because of the internet and all the capabilities of ICT, or two or three people connected in the world “who can tap a market that would hitherto be forbidden, but who, by their collaboration, are able to create a multi-national with the fact of their intelligence and their competence and their ability. And this is where the world is going, those are the businesses of tomorrow.”

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