Kenrick — A Conversation with Kenrick Mark Coleman Features Kyle Shal
The Kenrick Mark Coleman Foundation
“Intelligence, Discipline, Wisdom, Excellence”
Kenrick – A Conversation with Kenrick Mark Coleman Features Kyle Shal
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Kyle Shal. I was born and raised in Belmopan City, Belize. Currently, I live in Canada, pursuing my undergraduate studies in Computer Engineering. I have been away from Belize for 4 years, and I plan to return soon to visit my family and friends. I spend my days working, working out, networking and exploring various opportunities for fun.
I am a disciplined individual who is driven and works best under pressure. I have a strong work ethic and constantly strive to improve and challenge myself in all areas of my life. I believe that every moment is an opportunity to learn and grow, and I try to approach every experience with an open mind and a positive attitude.
One of my defining characteristics is my sense of responsibility. I understand the importance of accountability and believe that we all have a responsibility to ourselves, our communities, and our planet to do our best and make a positive impact. I take this responsibility seriously and strive to live my life with integrity and purpose.
I am excited about what the future holds and eager to see where life takes me.
2. You are pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in North America. What do you believe is important in this role?
I am pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. This program is both challenging and rewarding, and I believe that there are several important qualities that are necessary for success in this role.
From a technical perspective, keeping up to date with the latest trends in technology is crucial. This field is constantly evolving, and it is important to stay current with new tools, techniques, and languages. Additionally, having a solid understanding of logic and spatial intelligence is essential to solving complex problems and developing innovative solutions.
However, I believe that success in this program goes beyond technical skills. Mental resilience is a critical characteristic because the engineering program in another country is challenging throughout its five-year lifespan. There have been many hardships, including being away from family and friends, adjusting to a new culture and lifestyle, and being self-prepared for situations that would typically require the aid of other people, like medical emergencies. It is imperative to me that I’m always accountable for all my actions as I understand the consequences of pursuing the wrong things or not pursuing the right ones. In addition, being responsible enough to know that I must be consistent and constantly on the lookout for better opportunities is another important characteristic of someone who is successful in these work-intensive roles. Sometimes it might be hard to do something once, but it’s even harder to be consistent.
3. Tell us more about your academic life at this University? How did you receive the scholarship/financial aid? Why did you choose this particular University? When did you commence your studies? What subject areas are focused on? What’s your relationship like with fellow students?
My academic journey at the Memorial University of Newfoundland has been quite an exciting one. When I first arrived at St. John’s, I was not living on campus but in a house with other senior students who showed me the ropes on how to navigate life as an international student. It was a great opportunity to learn from them, and I appreciate the kindness and generosity they showed me. The university is known for hosting various Macro and Micro events, making it easy to get sidetracked from academics. However, I always placed a high priority on my studies and learned how to balance an active social life with a studious lifestyle.
In terms of the scholarship and financial aid, I was fortunate enough to receive a bursary from the university a year after starting my studies. Memorial University provides small bursaries to students who excel academically and could use financial assistance. I applied for various such opportunities because I believe in taking advantage of any financial aid available.
I chose the Memorial University of Newfoundland for its engineering program, which has mandatory work terms/internships for degree completion. These are paid work terms/internships in tech-based roles, allowing me to pay for my degree and other expenses as I go. Before leaving Belize, I made sure to estimate the total academic and personal expenses and planned accordingly. I worked part-time jobs during school, participated in work terms, and became financially literate to account for these costs.
I began my studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland in September 2019, and I have been focused on engineering courses since then. The university has a strong engineering program that emphasizes practical experience, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from knowledgeable and experienced professors.
My relationship with my fellow students has been positive, and I enjoy learning from students with diverse backgrounds. I have developed strong relationships with many international students like myself due to having similar lifestyles. However, due to the pandemic and the subsequent shift to remote learning, I did not have much interaction with my classmates for two years. Since most of the students I had a relationship with were international students, and due to the pandemic, most returned to their respective countries, mainly in the eastern part of the world. As a result, relationships became stagnant, and I had to focus more on individual coursework.
4. Describe your transformation process from Belize to North America?. Can you describe classic culture and cuisines you have experienced so far?
My journey from Belize to North America was an exciting and enlightening experience. I had to adjust to a new environment, climate, and culture. I settled in Canada, specifically in the province of Newfoundland. The transition was challenging at first, as the weather was colder. However, I eventually acclimatized and embraced the new environment.
In terms of culture, I have been exposed to the classic Newfie culture, which is distinct from the rest of Canada. The locals of Newfoundland, known as "Newfies," are known for their hospitality, warmth, and unique dialect. The Newfie culture is centered around family, community, and tradition. I have come to appreciate the unique aspects of this culture, such as their love for music, storytelling, and folklore.
Regarding cuisine, I have had the pleasure of trying some classic Newfoundland dishes, including "Jigs dinner" and "poutine”. Jigs dinner is a hearty meal that consists of salted beef or pork, potatoes, turnips, and cabbage boiled in a single pot. It is typically served with gravy and mustard pickles. Poutine, on the other hand, is a Quebecois dish that has gained popularity throughout Canada. It is made up of French fries, cheese curds, and gravy, which combine to create a mouthwatering and savory flavor.
Overall, my transformation process from Belize to North America has been a journey filled with new experiences and opportunities to learn about different cultures and cuisines. I truly appreciate the diversity and richness of North American culture, and I look forward to explore and learn more.
5. What are the challenges you face as a student at university? Opportunities? Do you participate in fun activities in Canada?
As a university student, I have encountered various challenges that have tested my ability to manage my time and stay focused on my academic goals. One of the biggest challenges I have faced is the transition to remote learning due to the pandemic. While online classes have allowed me to continue my studies, it has also meant adjusting to a new way of learning and staying motivated in a home environment that is often filled with distractions. Another challenge I have encountered is transportation. As a student who lives off-campus, I often have to deal with traffic and public transit delays, which can be frustrating and time-consuming. Additionally, the long snowy winters, rainy days and hilly terrain do not easily permit the use of biking.
In addition, I have had some disagreements with professors over course material, assignments, and grades. These conflicts have required me to communicate effectively and advocate for myself, which can be uncomfortable and stressful. Finally, balancing my academic commitments with my personal life and work can also be challenging. However, I have learned to prioritize my time and manage my schedule effectively to ensure that I am able to meet all of my obligations.
Despite these challenges, I have also had many opportunities to grow as a student and a leader. For example, I have been able to take on leadership roles in engineering-based groups, which have given me valuable experience in project management, team-building, and public speaking. Additionally, I have participated in various competitions organized by the university and public organizations, which have allowed me to apply my classroom knowledge to real-world problems and network with industry professionals.
As for fun activities in Canada, I try to take advantage of the many opportunities available to me outside of my academic commitments. This might involve going on hikes or nature walks, exploring different neighborhoods in my city, attending cultural events or festivals, trying new foods, or simply spending time with my newfound friends. By participating in these activities, I am able to recharge my batteries and maintain a healthy work-life balance, which is crucial for my overall well-being.
Other fun activities include Hackathons. Hackathons in Newfoundland are local city competitions that occur over 48 hours. These events usually have about 100 to 150 participants who compete in groups of 4 or 5. They also usually have great prizes involved. I have participated in 4 over the years that I have been here and have placed 1st twice and 3rd once. The Hackathons I have participated in were organized by Bounce Health Innovation and Hack Frost NL, whose events have been sponsored by larger industrial organizations in Newfoundland. The events are also a great way to network with industry professionals and the directors and CEOs of local organizations. The idea of the hackathon is that they provide a prompt/problem within a specific industry (Health, Tech, Energy, etc.), and the groups are required to develop an innovative solution to the problem that is feasible locally and scalable in the proper business markets. These solutions range from apps, websites and physical prototypes to policy changes and increasing efficiency in governmental processes, depending on the nature of the problem. I have been fortunate to lead teams in these hackathons to victory, and I’ve even taken further steps to learn more about how these ideas can develop into reality or even companies.
6. Why is your major important to Belize’s National Progressive Development?
The major of computer engineering plays a critical role in Belize’s National Progressive Development. Its significance lies in its potential to foster digital innovation and advancements in various sectors of the economy, including banking and commerce. Through the application of software and other computer engineering tools, existing systems can be optimized for greater efficiency and productivity, resulting in more effective and sustainable economic growth.
As a student of computer engineering, I am keenly aware of the transformative impact of technology on society, and I believe that Belize’s development can greatly benefit from the utilization of digital solutions. Through my academic pursuits, I am learning how to design, develop and implement innovative digital solutions that can address some of Belize’s pressing developmental needs. I am also committed to staying abreast of emerging trends and innovations in the field to ensure that I can contribute to Belize’s National Progressive Development to the best of my ability.
7. What are three important lessons you learnt? Describe three experiences in Belize, work or extracurricular, which helped you to integrate the Canadian lifestyle?
Three important lessons that I have learned through my experiences in life are the significance of preparation, accountability, and self-discipline. These lessons have been instrumental in shaping my future and helping me achieve my goals.
For instance, I have learned that preparation is crucial for success and that if one fails to prepare, they are ultimately preparing to fail. By taking the time to prepare adequately, I can ensure that I have the necessary tools and resources to accomplish my goals. This lesson has been especially relevant in my academic and professional pursuits, where adequate preparation has helped me excel.
Additionally, I have come to understand the importance of accountability for one’s actions. While it is easy to blame external factors for my failures, I have learned that at the end of the day, I am responsible for my own actions and must take ownership of my mistakes. This has helped me become more resilient and motivated to strive for success, regardless of any obstacles that may arise.
Lastly, I have learned the value of self-discipline and consistency. By setting clear goals and holding myself accountable to a disciplined routine, I have been able to achieve my aspirations and create positive habits that have helped me maintain a healthy work-life balance. Current examples of discipline and consistency in my life include going to the gym five times a week, reading daily, keeping up with Belize and Newfoundland news, and of course, studying and staying on the academic grind.
In terms of integrating the Canadian lifestyle, my experiences in Belize have been essential in helping me adjust to life in Canada. For example, working while attending college at SJCJC taught me valuable time management skills that have been crucial to my success in Canada. By balancing work and studies, I learned how to prioritize tasks and manage my time efficiently, which has been invaluable in my professional career.
Moreover, moving from Belmopan to Belize City to pursue my studies at SJCJC helped me become more responsible and independent. Being away from family and friends forced me to rely on myself and make decisions that would impact my future. This experience helped me develop a strong sense of self-reliance and adaptability that has been useful in navigating new environments and situations.
Finally, the sense of community I experienced in Belize has been instrumental in my ability to make friends and thrive in Canada. Growing up in a close-knit community taught me the value of cultural diversity and the importance of connecting with people from different backgrounds. These experiences have helped me build meaningful relationships with people from all walks of life in Canada and have been crucial in my integration into Canadian society. As a result, I am now learning to speak Egyptian Arabic, French, Iranian, Bengali and Albanian in addition to my current Mayan, Spanish, Creole and English Languages.
8. What can your community and country expect from you in the next five years? What is your definition of discipline and excellence? What is your perspective on discrimination in Belize?
In the next five years, my community and country can expect me to contribute to their growth and development through innovative ideas and technologies. I am currently networking with individuals who share my passion and ambition to create positive change.
Additionally, I plan to focus on revitalizing and promoting the Mayan culture in Belize. My personal goal is to re-learn and explore as much as I can about the Mayan lifestyle and develop a foundation that would enable others to revive the culture themselves. Given the age of the internet, it is now easier than ever to share the Mayan culture with the world, and I believe this will help to bring to light the immense value of the Mayan people’s work.
My ultimate goal is to become an ambassador for the Mayan culture. Having lived in Canada for some years now, I have witnessed how things are created using factories and manufacturing techniques that are not man-made. However, many of the products created by the Mayans are more durable than what can be produced by machines. Therefore, I aim to preserve the Mayan way of life and ensure that the products they create are sold at their true worth rather than being undervalued due to poverty in the community.
Overall, my community and country can expect me to focus on preserving and promoting the Mayan culture and ensuring that their work is valued and recognized. I believe that the resourceful traits of the Mayan culture are instilled in me and have helped me survive in rough times. Therefore I am more than willing to give back to the community that raised me.
To me, discipline means having a strong work ethic, setting goals, and consistently striving toward them with dedication and perseverance. Excellence, on the other hand, means going above and beyond in everything I do, exceeding expectations and continuously improving.
Discrimination in Belize is a complex issue that requires our attention and action. As a society, we need to recognize and address the various forms of discrimination that exist and work towards creating a more inclusive and equitable society. It is important to educate ourselves and others about the harmful effects of discrimination and actively promote acceptance and respect for diversity.
9. Share a story of your past employment and volunteer work?. What impacts have you made?
During my time volunteering with the Canadian Federation of Engineering Students (CFES) as part of the programming committee, I had the opportunity to make a significant impact by contributing to the organization and planning of one of Canada’s largest student conferences. As part of my responsibilities, I contacted industry professionals within my network and secured a diverse group of panelists and speakers for the 2022 Canadian Engineering Leadership Conference (CELC). These professionals came from a range of disciplines and hosted informative workshops that allowed students to gain insights and learn more about their respective fields.
Through my efforts and those of the programming committee, we were able to provide students with opportunities to advance in their careers by connecting them with industry professionals who were willing to share their knowledge and provide guidance. These workshop hosts ranged from medical professionals to engineering leaders and mental health advocates, giving students exposure to a range of valuable perspectives.
The week-long event was a success! It also allowed me to develop meaningful and lasting relationships with professionals.
10. What three words do you have to say to young Belizeans?
Try, Fail, Repeat