PARRIS LYEW-AYEE is not your traditional businessman in spite of his Chinese heritage, he joked. Instead, he considers himself an academic entrepreneur. On his selection as one of the 50UnderFifty business leaders in Jamaica, he thinks "It's strange, because I've never done a business course in my life, but as an academic entrepreneur as opposed to a traditional businessman, it's gratifying."
Having been selected as one of the 50, Lyew-Ayee chooses to focus on the other 49, because for him, it shows an acknowledgement of the fact that one person alone cannot solve Jamaica's problems. "We are being touted as people who are going to shape Jamaica. That's a bit intimidating for me, but at the same time, I know that I'm not doing it alone."
Lyew-Ayee began working as the principal consultant to Mona Informatix in November 2004 after returning to Jamaica from the University of Oxford, where he completed his DPhil in two and a half years. Since then, he and his team have worked to revitalise operations at that facility, which was eventually restructured into an Institute of the UWI Mona campus.
Lyew-Ayee hopes to see a growth in academic entrepreneurs following in his footsteps. His lack of business experience has not counted against him because of his openness to learning, as well as the mentorship he has received from some local corporate giants. "From a personal point of view, it's a willingness to listen and to take advantage of the opportunities and exposures. You learn from your clients as much as they learn from you," he said.
"I'll tell you something straight up, I failed (computer science) in CXC," he said, explaining the difference between the scientists like himself and technologists. As a scientist, the application of technologies allow him to do his work better, and then the application of business principles allows it to be sold.
"Shine the spotlight on us and we have two choices, live up to the expectation or look like fools," he declared. "And we're going to live up to the expectations, just wait and see."