Kayon Mitchell: A diamond crafted under pressure

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April 26, 2022

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THE DISTINGUISHED — MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS

Steadfast in her commitment to impact and enhance lives, Kayon Mitchell, director of corporate communications and stakeholder engagement at Flow Jamaica and executive director of the Flow Foundation, gets immense satisfaction from empowering Jamaicans with access to and education in Internet technology.

“The most satisfying thing about my job at Flow is the difference we make in people’s lives daily through the work that we do,” shared Mitchell. “Through our technology, we are powering the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans – empowering businesses, enabling learning and partnering with the Government for national development.”

This became increasingly important when the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the transition to the online space for work, school, business and entertainment.

Commenting on how this impacted her work, Mitchell noted: “The pandemic allowed me to reset in many ways. It certainly challenged my creativity, both in terms of the work I do and in how I lead my team,” she shared. “Further, with persons working from home, and learning and socialising online, we had to pivot quickly to support the various initiatives that were being done by the company to support our customers and online learning.”

Highlighting the response of Jamaicans during that time, Mitchell added: “I’ve also seen, first-hand, the increased adoption of digital technologies by a wider cross-section of persons, including senior citizens and pre-teens who we’ve not only helped to get online, but also educated about online safety.”

A big part of her responsibilities also includes protecting the company’s image.

“I am proud of the work that I’ve done in reputation and crisis management over the years. I’ve worked in other industries such as tourism and bauxite, which provided rich learning opportunities and allowed me to further develop some particular skills that cover a range of crises,” said Mitchell. “I’m also proud of the work I’ve done in aligning business goals with social impact.”

Under her leadership, the Flow Foundation launched its digital inclusion focus in 2020 and, since then, has impacted the lives of thousands through various initiatives. These include its Skills for the Future programme, which provides digital and data literacy training, and its Training for Professionals programme, which allows persons to reskill or upskill for today’s and tomorrow’s job opportunities.

Under the Skills for the Future programme, more than 4,000 Jamaicans are benefiting while more than 3,500 persons are enrolled in the Training for Professionals programme, with nearly 12,000 courses completed and over 25,000 courses in progress. Both programmes are certified and provided free of cost.

Under its Internet in Schools programme, the foundation has upgraded the speed of over 250 primary schools to which it provides free Internet service. The foundation has also partnered with various non-governmental organisations to donate hundreds of tablets to students across the country.

Daughter to retired educators, Pauline and Donald Wallace, both past principals of Broadleaf All-Age School, it is little wonder that the Flow senior leader has a passion for such poignant initiatives as she was raised in a household that prided itself on “service above self”.

Mitchell, who has a younger brother, Khadeil, grew up in the small south-central Manchester farming community of Broadleaf, where she attended the same institution where her parents taught, before moving on to the Hampton School in St Elizabeth, where she boarded for all seven years.

A former Pulse Model Search finalist, the puzzle junkie, who now enjoys word games such as Wordle and Sedecordle, is still guided by the Hampton mantra, ‘With utmost courage and courtesy’, which numbers among three core principles. The other two are: ‘Quietly achieving goals’ and ‘Diamonds are built under pressure’.

In diamond-like fashion, Mitchell’s resilience underwent a severe test a few years ago when she was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

“I had little to no blood flow in my right leg. Fortunately, I was diagnosed before there were serious complications, but there were some urgent adjustments that had to be made, including immediate bed rest and then limited physical activity for several months,” she revealed.

Of course, this went against her character.

“I am typically very independent – doing things myself, on my own time and not necessarily asking for help. I’m always the one taking care of others,” she said. “With this diagnosis, however, I had to lean on others, both at home and at work, a lot. It was a bit of a struggle initially, but I had a great support system – led by my husband, Lissant.

“At work, everybody was accommodating and took care of me,” she added. “During that time, I learnt how to take better care of myself and that it is okay to be vulnerable.”

lifestyle@gleanerjm.com

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