Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Damian Harris making strides with Sterling

Published:Friday | November 21, 2014 | 12:00 AMDaviot Kelly
Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer Despite being from a less than idyllic situation, Damian Harris said he never saw himself as different from anyone else, and was determined to succeed.

Damian Harris only needed a chance, and Sterling Asset Management gave it to him.

The 22-year-old operations officer at Sterling gets high praise from the team because they know his journey. His interaction with the company started years ago, when, as a ward at Maxfield Park Children’s Home, he had to resit CSEC English.

“When I came in contact with them, they told me they could sponsor me to do the English,” he said. Sterling helped him attend evening classes and, in a few months, having developed a better grasp of the subject, he passed. Fully qualified for university, Sterling stepped in again with a full scholarship to the University of the West Indies (UWI), where he just completed his bachelor’s degree in banking and finance.

“I wasn’t expecting to reach university because the norm would be that you leave the home and probably you would find your parents or you get a job and rent a place,” said the former Norman Manley and St Andrew Technical High student. He was hesitant to apply because he didn’t think he would get in and then there was the daunting thought of repaying a student loan. First semester approaching, he got a call indicating Sterling’s interest.

“I was shocked because I wasn’t in a position where I could manage to fund my tuition.” Constantly getting encouragement from Sterling staff, Harris kept them abreast of his progress.

“I felt the need to show that their money was not going to waste,” he said. “I told myself I was not going to fail any subjects and I kept that promise. I tried my best even though there was no pressure on me. I just felt the need that I should do well and not drop back in any way.” Like Sterling, Harris believes in giving back. While at UWI, he became community service director with the Rotaract Club, hosting various children’s events. While at Maxfield he participated in debating competitions which helped his development. So he organised a competition among different children’s homes.

Transforming lives

“As part of our ‘give back’, we strongly believe in education. That is the thing that transforms lives more than anything,” he said. “So another ward might be getting a full scholarship next year.” There was a twinkle (and perhaps a tear) in the eye of vice-president of client services at Sterling, Pamela Lewis, during the interview. She directly interacted with Harris while he attended the UWI.

“He’s a much more open person now. He’s come a long way,” she said. “I think he has improved significantly.”

Settling into his new job, Harris is responsible for entering and processing daily client transactions and treasury management. He also assists with the investment and disbursement of client funds, among other tasks.

Harris is adamant that students can succeed regardless of the school they are placed in or the circumstances from which they come. But it requires focus and discipline. When mentoring current wards, his message is simple: when you believe, it makes all the difference.

“Once you believe in something and you put the work in, then it will eventually work out your way,” he said. “There’s a time for everything, there will be times you’re going to feel sad. But at the same time, you can make yourself a better person.”

daviot.kelly@gleanerjm.com