Mon | Jul 22, 2019

The Mastermind Mark Clarke

Published:Sunday | February 22, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Mark Clarke: The mind makes the body rich
Mark Clarke at work

According to Mark Clarke, vice-president in charge of infrastructure and technical services in the Group Information Technology Division at Sagicor, it's OK to feel fear. 'It's OK to feel fear, but it's not OK to be a coward'. In a recent interview with Outlook, he revealed this as one of his mantras. Clarke explained that it is inevitable for individuals to feel fear, but it's not OK to run or allow it to stop you from doing what you want to. He has lived by that - not running away from the challenges he has faced.

His achievements were not accomplished overnight, but instead, through many years of toiling, which, he said, has positively impacted his life today.

His Journey

Clarke revealed that he spent most of his childhood in what many would describe as the typical Jamaican home - absentee father and his mother playing both roles.

The eldest of four children for his mother, two brothers and one sister, he has more than 10 siblings on his father's side, most of whom he does not know.

As such, Clarke values the relationship with his mother and stepfather, who after entering their lives, became the sole breadwinner. "I have a deep relationship with my mother, and my stepfather, for what he did for the family. I am very appreciative of that, because he didn't have to do it. I don't have a relationship with my biological father per se, except for occasional 'Hi, how are you?' calls."

After relocating to Braeton in Portmore, he attended the Braeton All-Age School, before his family moved to Passage Forth, and he started attending Spanish Town Primary before moving on to St Jago High School. While at St Jago, he represented the school in chess, debating, football, table tennis, and was a member of the School's Challenge Quiz team.

With hard work and dedication, Clarke received a scholarship to attend the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, to pursue a bachelor of science degree in computer science. Clarke said he was hoping that the scholarship would have lasted three years, but though he vaguely remembers what happened, he recalled, "Inflation went through the roof, so the scholarship only lasted one year."

"At the time, I toiled with the idea of becoming a doctor, but then there were so many things happening in my life. My stepfather went off to find a better life for us in the United States, and there was no money coming in. My mother was a housewife, so I had to find a way to continue sending myself to school, while paying the bills," he recalled.

While still attending university as a full-time student, he also began teaching full-time at Holy Childhood High School. "Paula-Ann Porter was among the first set of students I prepared for GCE A Levels," he tells Outlook. This experience caused him to dig deep and do what was necessary to make both work. "This means that I would have missed 70 per cent of my classes. I left Holy Childhood, and had to rush back to campus to finish classes. This meant that while other people were sleeping, I had to be up trying to catch up." This, he said, has had a positive impact on his life today. "I sleep about four hours a day. I am accustomed to doing it that way. There is no other way, I can't sleep past 4 a.m., no matter how tired I am," he confessed.

But through this difficult time, Clarke triumphed and went on to obtain his master of science degree in computer-based management information systems.

After completing his masters, he said that he thought of doing a doctorate in business administration, but instead, he became a chartered financial analyst (CFA), which he thought would have given him more options if he had migrated. He told Outlook, "I was always interest in investment, portfolio management and numbers. I was never an accountant person, because I am more of a free-thinker, I don't like regimented, restricted thinking, so I went to do financial analyst instead of accounting."

Move to Sagicor

Before he received the call from Sagicor (then Life of Jamaica), Clarke was actually on a construction project in Montego Bay renovating a store for Mainland International. He recalls getting to the office and seeing everyone 'clean' and dressed in suits, while he was in his 'dirty shirt'. "Although my outfit was not ready, my mind was, and that's all that mattered to me," he explained.

Clarke joined the Sagicor family in May 2005 as an assistant vice-president in the Shared Services IT Department. Since then, Clarke has led a number of IT projects and initiatives, including the infrastructure integration, following the acquisition of Blue Cross; updated information on security policies and procedures; upgrading of the IT Disaster Recovery Plan and, most recently, the IT infrastructure integration following the acquisition of RBC Jamaica.

Powerful mind

His method of relaxation is quite the opposite of what most people would consider fun "It's the mind that makes the body rich," Clarke said convincingly, noting that he is relaxed when his mind is engaged. Since 2009, he has been spending his spare time coaching the St Jago High School's School Challenge Quiz team, which he describes as a pleasure. "It's about taking young minds, that are not sure of themselves, shy, no aggression and start pumping information into them, and then one day you see them walking with a swag," he said with a proud smile.

Clarke also enjoys Taekwondo. "I love taekwondo, but then, my body gave out, but I still do my push-ups, sit-ups and other taekwondo techniques in the mornings to keep in shape."

Clarke now resides in South Borough, Portmore, with his wife, Emily, and son, Tajim, with whom he spends quality family time on the weekends.