Tue | Sep 18, 2018

Patria-Kaye Aarons | Jack of all trades, master's of none

Published:Tuesday | July 10, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Yolande Ramharrack, Petrojam's HR manager, has come under scrutiny for her $13m salary despite falling short of the qualifications.

You ever hear the lottery jackpot and daydream about how you would spend the money if you won? I do it every single week. I've apportioned my winnings down to the last cent. And it's an exercise I go through, whether or not I buy a ticket.

Winning would never catch me off guard. I thought only the lottery draws could give me that tingly feeling in my pocket- until I watched highlights of a Public Administration and Appropriations Committee meeting.

When I heard what the HR manager at Petrojam took home as an annual salary, I saw dollar signs. I got even more excited upon learning that she was not the only one of her kind. That she belonged to an entire government salary scale called M1 that spanned $9 million-$13 million a year.

I wanted a job like hers - more specifically, a salary like hers. I didn't want HER job. That would be red-eye and bad-mind. Besides, I wasn't qualified to be an HR manager. I wanted some other M1 job in communications or business development.

I'd give that post the best of me for a solid five years. Sixty-five million dollars would set up me and my unborn children for life. I'd invest in a couple rental properties, pay off some debt, take my mummy on a cruise, and treat myself to a brand-new car for the first time.

Accomplishing that to-do-list seemed more plausible via the high-paying profession route than through winning the lottery. I set out to get me an M1 job.

Heck, this is the information age! A list of M1 jobs must be available on the Ministry of Finance's website. I searched. I did find a classification list, but they seemed to have accidentally left off the M1 category. No worries, I would call the ministry.

 

Crestfallen

 

Me and my presumptuous, bright self called and asked the nice lady in the compensations unit to send me a list of available M1 jobs across all government agencies. To my horror, she responded that there was no such thing. I told her about what I had heard at PAAC, and she told me that she, too, had heard it and was wondering who had approved that salary because the Ministry of Finance had not.

I was crestfallen and baffled. Could a government worker really be paid a salary not sanctioned by the Ministry of Finance? Could everyone for weeks be talking about this M1 category scale like it was normal and it really wasn't? How many other M1 workers were out there?

The other interesting revelation for me was that the HR manager was hired without the master's degree stipulated in the job advert. No fault of her own. People bat above their weight all the time. She had the guts to actually apply, and the good fortune to get the job. She didn't employ herself (or give herself that 30 per cent raise while she was still on probation).

My problem is not with her. It's with her employer. What confidence had they that she could do the job? She must have given one heck of an interview.

It's a different situation when someone comes up through the ranks. When Harry Smith appointed me as Digicel's PR manager without a master's, it was because he knew my work. He had seen me progress from call centre agent to marketing exec to PR exec and had seen evidence of what I could do. I had earned that promotion with a series of increasing responsibilities.

In the absence of history, how does an interviewer vouch for competence? That's what the degree is for. Your university is your backative. I have UWI and University of Edinburgh back a mi vouching that I know media and communications and I know management.

In my humble opinion, hiring a stranger with insufficient academic achievement is no less risky than unprotected sex with a stranger. You may get what the duck get.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.