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Neil Lawrence: Using technology to establish smart cities

Published:Tuesday | December 11, 2018 | 12:00 AMKeisha Hill/Senior Gleaner Writer
Neil Lawrence of GrowthTech Limited.

Neil Lawrence has a firmness of purpose and the resolve to achieve any goal he sets his mind on. His fixed intention and resolute tenacity laid the foundation for his successful career as an information technology specialist and now the current chief executive officer at GrowthTech Limited.

With over 13 years experience in commercial business and process management in leading organisations in Jamaica, including Digicel Jamaica and National Commercial Bank, Lawrence's well-rounded business knowledge and keen attention to detail have worked wonders for him.

While growing up, he was the typical child, playing basketball and football in his community, while finding other ways to have fun. "I wasn't a sheltered child, and my parents took good care of me in the best way they could," he said.

Fiddling with a monochrome computer and having access to a laboratory while attending Wolmer's Preparatory School cemented Lawrence's desire to pursue a career in computer studies. "I saw myself getting a very structured job, and earning a living mainly in the technical field. This led me to an interest in computing," he said.

After graduating from Wolmer's Boys' School, Lawrence went on to fulfil his dreams, completing a bachelor's of science degree in computing and information technology from the University of Technology and a master's of science degree in computer-based management information systems from the University of the West Indies, Mona.

It was while at the National Commercial Bank's Information Technology Division that Lawrence delved deeper into programming and worked as a programmer/analyst and technical support officer. There, he maintained the bank's main access systems islandwide and developed script to automate file server space availability checks at all branches.

Lawrence then joined Digicel Jamaica as part of the project management office team and spent close to nine years at the management level. "I was able to maximise the opportunities at Digicel that propelled me into entrepreneurship. They were always empowering young people, despite your age, to be successful," Lawrence said.

Throughout his tenure at Digicel Jamaica, Lawrence also served as in-country diaspora manager, senior in-country diaspora and head of products manager. "You learnt more each day and you were always able to move to the next level, and there were multiple levels there. I was fortunate enough to work closely with the chief executive officer's office and this gave me insight into different aspects of the business which were important in my development," he said.


Top job


With his plethora of experience in information technology, Lawrence was recruited for the top job at GrowthTech Limited. "The job required telecom experience, and during the interview process it was thought that I was a good fit for the job. Since then, I have been working to bring the company to life, with First-World-type experiences, to Jamaica," he said.

The view of GrowthTech Limited, he said, is to make Wi-Fi connectivity more accessible to all Jamaicans. A technological company conceptualised in 2016, the entity was formalised in 2017, with the initial objective to install Wi-Fi services in public transportation units as well as high-traffic locations.

GrowthTech has signed an exclusive contract with the Jamaica Urban Transit Company to roll out Wi-Fi services across their entire fleet by the end of 2018. They will also be working with a number of other key partners in alignment with their vision.

"It's a start in the right direction for us. We are implementing ways to make things better for all Jamaicans. It is making more of an impact in the technological sphere, as we are always trying to find ways of applying technology. Connectivity creates business opportunities and is like oxygen, where you are kept connected," Lawrence said.

Lawrence has also been able to apply his entrepreneurial skills to lead the start up of Musgrave Pharmacy Limited in 2015, which is now self-sustaining with over 30 per cent year-over-year growth.

"I started the pharmacy business to prove to myself that I can start a business and do it successfully. It's a big step for me, coming from a non-entrepreneurship background," he said.

The father of a young daughter is also family-oriented, and spends most of his free time with his significant other and other family members.