Kadeen's comeback - 29-year-old cops JHTA Hotel Employee of the Year
When Kadeen Black got pregnant at age 17, many thought her future was totally lost. But little did they know that she would recover from that setback to become a winner worthy of emulation.
The 29-year-old front desk agent at Sandals Montego Bay recently copped the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) Hotel Employee of the Year Award for 2018. Earlier in March, Black received Sandals Montego Bay's highest award - Team Member of the Year 2017 - and went on to represent her resort at the company's grand Ultimate Team Member of the Year Award.
For Black, these two awards concretise the fact that she has made her grand comeback in life, something she has fought for since she became a teenage mother.
"I really didn't know I would be in this position today, winning all these awards. There were so many setbacks in my life that I used to wonder how I would come back, get back my life on track, and become the person I know I am meant to be," Black explained.
The setbacks she speaks of include the death of her father when she was only 14 years old, which later forced her to drop out of high school at age 16. She would later become pregnant at age 17 and experience the stigma and discrimination that comes with that territory.
"At that point, I felt like after my father's death, one bad thing kept happening after another. People would say, 'Your father must be turning in his grave'. That made me feel worse, and it was a very low point for me," Black explained.
Though others were sure her future was lost, Black found the courage to keep working hard. Using her son as her motivation to press forward, she pursued various training programmes and landed occasional small jobs. She continued to hope for a change, which finally came in 2012. That year, she started the Hospitality Training Programme at Sandals Montego Bay.
Silently, she vowed to make her grand comeback in life.
"When I started working at Sandals, that's when I knew things were turning around for me. I was so happy to be working here. They placed me at the bell desk, where I had to assist guests with information and help with arrivals and departures. I am telling you, I did the job with so much pride. The hotel manager and other managers would always pass by and tell me that I am doing a great job. That really meant a lot to me, because since my father died, I didn't really hear much of that," Black said.
Her stellar performance as a trainee soon landed her a job as a front desk agent at Sandals Montego Bay, a position she still holds today, in addition to being the front office department trainer mainly responsible for new recruits.
TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT
One of the biggest advantages that came with her job at Sandals was the opportunity to pursue learning opportunities through the Sandals Corporate University, which provides opportunities for employees to pursue studies in various areas of the hospitality industry. Throughout her five-year tenure at Sandals Montego Bay, Black has received certification in areas such as supervisory management, guest services, professional communication, among others.
"I didn't get a chance to attend university, so I was very excited when I learnt that I could do training programmes for free at Sandals. My philosophy is to sign up for everything. Sometimes they tell me that a small training or certification programme is running, nothing grand. I tell them to sign me up anyway. If the training class is in the evening, I will ask my manager to place me on the morning shift at work so I can go to class in the evening. I take advantage of everything because I am not losing in life again," expressed Black.
Sigourney Hasting, training and development manager at Sandals Montego Bay, lauds Black as an eager individual who has a passion for knowledge.
"She is very passionate about everything she does. She wants to learn and it shows in everything she does. I am very proud of her development over the years," Hasting said.
Amid her many responsibilities and constant studies, Black finds time to give back to the community through the Sandals Foundation and Sandals Earth Guardian Environmental Club, which both seek to improve the welfare of people and the environment.
Her undying passion for volunteerism has earned her company awards such as the Earth Guardian Award and Sandals Foundation Award. For her excellent customer service skills, she has received the Smile And Courtesy Award and People's Choice Award in the past.
"I treat all my guests the same. Whether they are internal or external guests, it doesn't matter to me. When the team members call the front desk and ask for help, I ensure they get the same treatment as the guests who stay at the hotel," explained Black, who continues to get constant commendations from team members because of the recent awards she copped.
But though she's being touted as a future manager at Sandals Montego Bay, she remains humble and more focused on mastering every area of guest services.
"I am in no rush to become a manager. I want to work my way up so I can know everything there is to know when I do become a manager. Right now, I know a lot because of my years at the front desk. Sometimes the guests are coming from afar, and just by the look on their faces, I know the problem they are having before they get to me," Kadeen said.
With all the confidence in the world and her children as her motivation, Black is confident that she has made her comeback in life. Of course, she has her prestigious 2018 awards to prove this. But she is not stopping there.
"I am telling you, there are many more awards to come. My two kids will always see me as a winner, so I have to keep working hard. Hard work has always been very kind to me, Trust me, the best of me is yet to come," Black said with smile and a look of determination in her eyes.