By Kevon Browne
St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Mechanical engineer, Mark Pennyfeather was the featured speaker at the annual Prime Minister’s Independence Lecture Series.
The Lecture Series is one of the featured activities on the calendar for the 37th Independence celebrations. Due to social distancing protocols currently in place as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the address was delivered virtually this year.
Pennyfeather, a graduate of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada and currently the Assistant Manager at KDP Enterprises & Air Express Incorporated, focused his presentation on innovation and what it means for people, young people in particular, to pivot and shift their focus, and to help the country shift its focus and diversify our economy by utilizing the platforms that are available online.
Pennyfeather expressed that this year’s theme, Resilience, Innovation and Security for Independence 2020 encouraged him to deliver the lecture.
As a young child Pennyfeather he would take apart radio control cars to inspect the contents and as a teen he sketched wild ideas and concepts no doubt inspired by his love of science fiction movies. However, he went on to express that because of the lack of practical experience in designing and building machinery throughout his earlier education he was not prepared for the culture shock he would face when stepping into the world of his tertiary education.
Pennyfeather’s university journey presented him with what he described as a hyper-competitive environment where students had to secure internships every four months. He admitted his doubts about continuing his higher education because of the lack of experience he had.
“I managed to close this gap by joining a team that built small hybrid race cars. I am forever thankful for that experience because it gave me the opportunity to grow. I exercise knowledge I learned in class, I developed my problem-solving skills, learned how to work as a team member, and most importantly how to contribute towards achieving a common goal.”
One of the biggest takeaways he took from his university experience was the ability to accomplish a goal as a collective. Through this he understood what it meant to be resilient; facing and conquering culture shock, his doubt about belonging, competitiveness and achieving one goal through a collective effort, and through this, he made the comparison to the resilience of St. Kitts and Nevis.
“As a society, being resilient means working together like when the federation acquired independence and brilliant minds and charismatic personalities paved the way. Or like when the federation rebounded from the great recession and hundreds of jobs were created at a rapid pace.”
He commended the response the federation has had in combating the COVID-19 pandemic as another show of our resilience. We should not dwell on past failings and the focus should be shifted towards the future.
“The only thing that matters is, how you adapt to you to your circumstances and the only question you should ask yourself is what are you doing today to make tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year better. Not just for yourself but your community and world at large.”
Pennyfeather went on to express the potential he sees within our federation in Healthcare, Biomedical research and development, offshore data security, exclusive agriculture, digital learning and entertainment as veins of innovation ready to be accessed. These veins are even more prevalent now as with the economic setback brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the proof that the tourism industry is not a sustainable economic model with this ongoing example of how a global pandemic can bring it to a halt.
He later said that innovation cannot work without change, without disruptions, and this pandemic provides the necessary disruption for St. Kitts and Nevis to pivot its economic focus. We should use this time to increase our expertise whether it is in technological development and security to compete on a global market or putting focus on agriculture and fishing for food security and revitalizing our export capabilities by offering exclusive tropical goods and byproducts of those goods.
“So we can sustain our economy amidst a crisis that cripples another sector. So let us pivot and talk about how we can generate foreign exchange in other fields and how our youth can get involved. Liamigua fertile land, Oualie beautiful waters, this is where we live this is what we have to offer the world…”
Pennyfeather ended by reminding us that securing out intellectual properties, the minds of our youths and the innovations that will come should be paramount in pivoting and diversifying our economic future.
“I am here to remind you, to inform you that all you need to help this country pivot; that all the information you need to help this country pivot is at your fingertips. Next time that you’re at home or on a lunch break browse the internet, start a course, talk to a peer, an elder, figure out what people do around here, refine your skills, demonstrate to them how you can use your skills, research what people need beyond our borders that we can offer remotely, get involved, test your skills, hurt your brain, fail, try again, fail again but never give up. Invest in yourself, be resilient be innovative and help secure our nation’s future.”