Gregory Skeete making a leadership presentation to members of the Rotary Club of Barbados West. (GP)
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Author, entrepreneur and life engineer Gregory Skeete didn’t exactly know what he wanted to be growing up, but he drew inspiration from his grandfather Selwyn Edwards, who raised six children on a modest salary.
“I see him as one of my biggest inspirations of all time,” Skeete told EASY magazine. “He never had the chance to get an education at primary school. He was the son of a plantation owner and a black woman who died when he was three years old.”
“But regardless of hardship, he had one goal – to ensure that all six of his children had an education and he worked for cents per week to accomplish his goal.”
Skeete said his grandfather raised animals and grew crops to feed the family and pay for his children’s education while working as a sugar cane cutter and truck driver. He recalled that he was able to obtain a vehicle in his latter years and worked as a chauffeur, including collecting him from school some evenings. His grandfather used every opportunity possible to teach him about the sacrifices a man should make to provide for his family and the importance of hard work, determination and education.
“He is a big part of my belief that if you put in the work you could achieve unrealistic things.”
Skeete gained his first job experience during a student internship programme at the Barbados Light & Power generation plant in Spring Garden, St Michael, while he was studying mechanical engineering at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus.
After earning his Bachelor’s degree he was initially unable to find employment in the power generation industry and tried to find a job in HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning), where he was also qualified, but this was also unsuccessful.
However, he was able to land a job at Banks Holdings Limited in 2010 as part of a graduate engineer programme, where he underwent extensive operations management training and mentoring while working for over five years between production supervision, production planning and process engineering.
Though he was pleased earning a stable income, he wanted to do more, but there were no opportunities to grow in the company at that time while facing the personal challenges of working in the shift system.
He had two options: seek another job or work for himself. Skeete chose to take a risk and become an entrepreneur. He was able to further develop and invest more in two of his business projects: Life Engineer and Pilly the Pelican, which would change his life in a way he never imagined.
Life Engineer is a business that acts as a positive force in the improvement of people, enterprises and agriculture. Skeete uses engineering principles as a life and business coach to empower and equip people to design and build their ideal lives while helping entrepreneurs and organisational leaders to develop and optimise their enterprise operations and teams as a corporate trainer and speaker.
Pilly the Pelican is a creative venture which extends the reach of “Life Engineering” to children and focuses on their development through books and educational activities while promoting literacy and Caribbean culture.
Skeete has published two books; one about dairy production and the other featuring basic life lessons as Axel the Engineering Ant explores a typical day of life in Barbados. He believes that positively influencing children from a young age is one of the keys to creating a stronger future. He is currently leading a national project to help children imagine 50 years ahead, and apply their education to build their dreams.
The 30-year-old, who is also a consultant, E-business specialist, and a globally certified coach, teacher and speaker with the John Maxwell Team, the world’s premier institute for leadership development, was recognised as one of the Western Hemisphere’s most promising and socially conscious young leaders, when he was selected to attend former United States President Barack Obama’s inaugural Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Programme in 2016.
Last year he was also nominated in the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World Programme by Junior Chamber International. He was selected as a Top 20 global finalist, and was the only English-speaking nominee from this hemisphere to receive that international accolade.
Skeete has delivered so many presentations at a number of organisations across the world, one would think he always had a knack for giving speeches, but that is not the case. When he was a child he had to recite a two-line recitation at a church function, but his nerves got the best of him and he forgot the second line. After that experience, he had sworn to himself that he would never go on stage again, and in subsequent years, he would gladly limit himself to backstage roles. He said this all changed in his early 20s when he discovered his dream and purpose and saw the need to face his fears.
One of Skeete’s main aims is to encourage young people to be more creative and innovative in their career fields, whether employee or entrepreneur, and inspire them to become the best versions of themselves to better serve Barbados. He believes that we each have a duty to pave a way for those who will follow, just like older generations, like his grandfather’s, often did for us. (SB)