Philanthropist, musician and mentor are just a few arms of Suzanne Stephenson’s professional portfolio. Her colleagues describe her as an ever-evolving and high-spirited being who pursues opportunities for professional development through the Sandals Corporate University (SCU) and is known for playing her part in improving communities through the Sandals Foundation.

Raised in Barnett Lane, Montego Bay, a young Stephenson witnessed her single mother struggle to make ends meet for herself and her five older siblings, while her father who was better off lived a lavish lifestyle. The drastic contrast between her parents’ lifestyles drove her to develop a hunger for success so that she would be able to offer the best to her future brood- a yearning that would follow her throughout her years at the Mount Alvernia High School and even presently in her role as administrative assistant in the engineering department at Sandals Royal Caribbean.

After graduating high school at the top of her class, Stephenson took a nontraditional route and chased a career in music. Her passion for this artistry led her to form a calypso and reggae band for which she sang and played the trumpet. After only a few months, the band’s popularity grew stronger and they received bookings from noted resorts across the island and were also affiliated with major acts like Marcia Griffiths and the I Threes.

“The band was really successful. We became so sought-after that we were getting calls from all over to perform and somehow I ended up managing our schedules, contracts and basically all other administrative duties,” Suzanne shared. This was no doubt the start of a new career path for the young musician.

Suzanne Stephenson (right) is always prepared to take notes when with her manager, Devon Gordon (left)

A New Path
In the heights of her musical career, Stephenson became grounded with the birth of her son. As a single mother, she quickly realized that her late-night jam sessions and occasional travelling did not offer her the stability she would now need to provide the best quality of life for her newborn.

Stephenson hankered for a change.

“I remember being sent back and forth to stay with my mom and then my father and I just wanted to make sure that I was in a position to always be present in my son’s life,” she expressed as she recalled her childhood.

A friend who was then employed to Sandals Royal Caribbean informed Stephenson of a part-time position as Administrative Assistant. Using her supervisory role in the band as her core experience in the field, Stephenson was declined the opportunity and deemed not qualified enough for the post.  However, three weeks later a determined Suzanne landed a space in the resort’s Hospitality Training Programme- a six-week programme that exposes individuals to various operations in the hotel industry.

Her diligence, responsible nature and quick grasp of operational concepts resulted in her being offered the very same administrative role in the Engineering department. Stephenson has since remained in her position as the Administrative Assistant for over four years.

Influencing Change

During her illustrious tenure, to date, Stephenson has completed SCU courses in Guest Services, Customer Service, Leadership and Management, Supervisory Training and more- all of which are accredited through the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Her work colleagues expressed that this aspiring manager never tucked away what was taught in these courses.

“After every training session, you could see that she became a renewed professional. She is always working to implement new methods for productivity that work best for her and her team,” advised Sandals Royal Caribbean’s training and development manager, Tracie Shortridge.

Stephenson (centre) always makes time to encourage the young men in her department. Here, she chats with her colleagues Lejay Lewin (left) and Santino Murdock (right)

One team member acknowledged that Stephenson also encourages her colleagues to get involved in the resort’s curricular activities and to make good usage of given opportunities for advancement. “If it wasn’t for her I don’t think I would have ever pursued higher education,” reminisced Joseph James, plumber and shift manager at the resort. He further added that it was Suzanne’s assistance in filling out his application to the SCU and her constant follow-ups that allowed him to be the recipient of a full scholarship to attend the Montego Bay Community College in pursuit of an Associate Degree in Engineering.

“In just four years, Suzanne has managed to make an indelible mark in the lives of the team. She is always on top of our schedules and encourages us to participate in resort activities and not be locked away in our tool boxes! I have no doubt that she will one day be an exceptional manager at this resort,” lauded Devon Gordon, engineering manager.