Kay McConney: leaving for other opportunities
Published in Pride Newsmagazine – June 29, 2005
By Donna Kay Kakonge
Kay McConney, the Consul General of Barbados, is leaving her post for other opportunities at the end of July. She has been the longest-running Consul General the consulate has ever had, beginning her diplomatic assignment on May 3rd, 1998.
“I think for me when I came to this job, even though I had not been in the diplomatic core before and was posted to Toronto, it felt natural for me,” says McConney. “I went into a place where in terms of managing relationships which is a huge part of what I do – but, it’s relationships with the private sector, relationships with institutions and partners, relationships with the government agency, relationships with the community people. It was all a business relationship management – and for all of my life, I’ve been in one way or another involved in that. So it was very easy for me to make a transition into that.”
McConney started out her career by earning a track-and-field scholarship to the States and studied international relations. She then went on to do her MBA in Belgium in international business.
“I think also the area of international business relations did something that made me very much able to deal with the business community,” McConney said. “When I was in Barbados prior to here, I was involved with private, public sector partnerships. Working with those sectors was something that I was once again very much at home with and I was in collaboration with others.”
McConney says in terms of the challenges of Canada, it was a new environment when she first came, but she saw that if you have the skills, as long as you’re adaptable, you can transfer that in any different situation. “It was a natural fit for me in terms of the experiences I’ve had. It was just another place in time.”
She says there are stories from all different sides to share from her experiences as Consul General. There are stories in terms of the coordination of the office. And then there are stories about the external relationships they have with their various publics.
“I would say one external situation that we’ve had to deal with was when Barbados felt we were being challenged by the OECD, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development – we were able to be demonstrating that people did not need to be concerned about taxation in Barbados. This concerned the international community, as well as Canadian investors. And that was a very exciting time in terms of continuing the kinds of examples of the challenges we have faced.”
McConney also notes the challenges on the internal side of the consulate. “We have got one of the four different departments integrated into one which we called the Barbados Country Team. And those departments are responsible for labour, investment and trade, tourism and foreign affairs – it’s important to integrate all of those.”
She takes special note of the fact achievements she has had as a Consul General were not made alone, but with a team effort.
“We have had some tremendous victories in that regard – not because of me – but because of the team. The truth is that solution has always been working with the team. I have been so privileged to have the kind of team that I’ve had.”
As part of the consulate team, Cheryl Carter is head of the tourism team, Kenneth Campbell is head of our investment team, and Marva Scott is retired from foreign affairs, but worked with McConney for years.
McConney’s last day of her term as Consul General will be on July 31st, 2005.
“I will be going to take a little bit of time off from the diplomatic service before going into other opportunities. Temporarily, I will relinquish the diplomatic service. People will continue to see my passion for Barbados and the Caribbean for whatever I go on to do right now and that’s whether it’s in Canada, or further a field.”
McConney notes she really and truly sees the world as her oyster. “I’m really an international citizen, very proud to be a daughter of Barbados, but a woman of the Caribbean and a citizen of the world. I have lived in the U.S. before, I have lived in Belgium before, I have lived in the Caribbean before, and I have lived in Canada before. In fact, for the last 15 years, I have been in this country. So to say that the world is my oyster, I truly believe in that. I am certainly going to follow opportunity wherever that takes me.”
She made her announcement of her departure from the diplomatic core at the 2nd annual Barbados Charity Ball on June 25th, 2005. The theme of the Charity Ball was “Safeguarding the Future.” The money raised went towards youth education and HIV/AIDS. McConney notes the ball was taking care of “body and mind.”
“One of the key things [about the ball] is that we had 15 organizations working together like a united front. And we had a coalition working together like they have never united to work together before. It’s a meeting place for bringing together people. A meeting place for our investors, suppliers and partners, our consular relations, our community, our government friends from Canada, as well as the Barbados government. It is a meeting place for all those who have an interest in Barbados and Canada, and what we can do then is galvanize financial support.”
“I think one of the other things that we are happy about the ball, is that we’re on the path to putting the infrastructure in place for the community to move forward,” says McConney.
Without McConney’s involvement, she says: “I really trust my community to be able to take it forward.”
“We have increased corporate support by 400 per cent – that is a phenomenal achievement and it is something that we are here to celebrate tonight… The RBC [Royal Bank of Canada] financial group was critical in our financial support… A special thank you to Canadian business,” said Kay McConney, at the ball. She is hoping that the corporate support increases for the future.
McConney notes the things she is proud about during her time as Consul General.
“We are expanding in the hospitality sector, new opportunities in our labour section, and our relationship with our community is something I feel proud about,” she says. “We launched the first Caribbean Canadian Literary Expo that was in 2003. That is something that I feel especially proud about. Roger McTair was one of the key consultants. It was a fabulous event and hopefully, that is something that will find a new life. What it did is to raise the profile of the Caribbean literary artists in Canada. When you can get the Dutch, French, English and Spanish-speaking Caribbean literary artists together – that is bringing together a family of literary people that have a certain feeling.”
“When I look back now on my years of Consul General I hope I was the kind that brought people together.”