Haitian Heritage Month Spotlight: Dade Institute of Technology

Donard St. Jean CEO Dade Institute of Technology

Donard St. Jean, MBA
BSIT-CEO-President -Compu-Design USA

MIAMI – Donard St. Jean, MBA, BSIT-CEO-President -Compu-Design USA d/b/a Dade Institute of Technology shares some key advice about being an entrepreneur.

Q: What do you know now that you wish someone would’ve told you before you started your first business?

A: Surround yourself with the right people. When you network with the right people in business, your success becomes less difficult. Start small to build a big and strong foundation, and expand later. Your beginning size no matter how big or small doesn’t matter .. your vision, will make you conquer the world.   

Q: What are the key attributes that make a successful entrepreneur?

A:  Persistence, Self Confidence, Discipline and goal oriented. You will fail more often than succeed, but since you’re shooting for success therefore you will never stop when you fail. People will always tell you that you can’t do this or you’re not ready yet. Make sure you believe in yourself and be an organized entrepreneur and you will prove them wrong. 

Q: What advice can you offer to people who want a career in the technology industry?

A: Always follow the technology trend, because this is a very versatile field. Today you might be up and tomorrow the tech industry might leave you behind. Make sure you have a specialization, don’t try to be a one size fits all because it is a very broad field. Don’t just go for the money, do something that you like and something that you think people will need in the next 20 years or more.  

Q: 3 Business Lessons You Learned the hard way.

  1. You will receive a lot more, when you give a lot. I could not make the difference between expenses and investments, most people don’t realize that some business expenses should be categorized ad investment. 
  2. Your professional appearance matters. Some people will be willing to invest more in you, once they see that you invest a lot in yourself. They will trust you with bigger task when you look, sound and act big.
  3. Know how to mix business and politics. I come from a country where getting involved in politics was the most dangerous thing in the world. Whereas in United States, a good businessman should have some good political acquaintances. A good businessman is someone who invests in his politicians.   

Q: How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

A: I was born and raised in a tough environment, with a single mother who was determined to make me someone special. The family education and orientation that I have received from birth to my teenage life, has built some strong principles and disciplines in me that helped me to manage my life from my teenage life to my adult life.

I’ve been taught to be independent because my mom has left me very early to go to United States and I was responsible to guide my little sister, myself from middle to high school and go to college.

When I came here to this great country, I was ready to face all the challenges, and I was prepared to bring some people in my community to light.       

Giving 110%”, “Push the envelope”, “Take it to the Next Level”, “Step up to the plate”, “Game changer” are all clichés, naturally though, there are clichés because in existence there are examples of such clichés.

The life of trailblazer,Donard St. Jean is a great example of one of the more inspirational ones. What if I were to tell you that a young boy born in extremely hard economic times, in a country that was being plagued by coups and as such unstable governments and violence, and a country, that was regarded by many as the most economically challenged in the world was able to rise from that reality, move to what is regarded as the richest country in the world and become the CEO of the Dade Institute of Technology.

You would say I was telling a fairy tale, right?

This is no fairy tale, this is the true-life story of an amazing man from Haiti who is a success story. The story unfolds in Haiti in the early 90s when a series of coups would occur to usher in great instability in the Caribbean island, there was great economic upheaval and the people of Haiti were the ones that were most affected.

In the small town of Carrefour enters a young man, barely 20 already motivated to find better for himself and his family. His mother had already left for the USA to find work to try and find better. She was an entrepreneur who although worked in factories would use the money to buy products to sell in Haiti. This was an example that inspired the entrepreneurial fire that St. Jean now exhibits.

By his early twenties, he and his friends had already started their own music entertainment DJ company in order to provide.  He used the money made from the music business in order to go to school to become an engineer. At the same time, he also went to computer school.

In 1995, he asked his mother to buy him a computer, this allowed him to start a computer business in Haiti which would all lead him to be employed as a network administrator and then by the Ministry of Education.

He formed his company Compu-Design in 1996, which provided services such as Desktop Publishing, Computer Training and Graphic Design.

After getting married in 1999, the ten-year application process started by his mother garnered positive results. 2000 would also welcome the birth of his first child. Donard came to the states on September 11, 2000.

He immediately began the process of getting his certifications so that he could work with computers in the United States, and began the process of filing for his wife and child to legally be able to bring them to the US. This time period also saw him achieve a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology at Barry University.

In 2009 Donard achieved his MBA. A dream he had since he was in Haiti. Donard achieved all this during the economic depression that the United States went through between 2001 and 2010.

Donard found work as a network engineer and administrator for various companies. However, it would not be long before the entrepreneur side of Donard became present and he decided to rebrand Compu-Design to Compu-Design USA/d/b/a Dade Institute of Technology. He used his house’s equity to finance this venture in 2007. The company provided IT training and consulting.

Donard was able to bring his family from Haiti in 2007. The housing crash of 2008 triggered the most economically challenged epoch Donard and his businesses had faced since leaving Haiti.

In 2010 after he graduated from UM (in the MBA program) he tried to raise money from multiple investors, they all loved his plan but they did not want invest. Donard found ways to raise the money needed to move forward. One of the ways was through the income tax industry.

By 2012 Donard raised enough money to reinvest in the business and the business grew exponentially and consistently. Donard increased space and staff for his business so as to have more students for computer training.

Donard is now training more students, and more efficiently. Donard has also found ways to help students pay for school. After a long process to get the school licensed by the Florida Department of Education, he was able to do business with entities like: CareerSource South Florida (Formerly South Florida Workforce), Vocational Rehabilitation and VA (Veteran Affairs).

Donard has been able to align the school with several chambers of commerce to create the platform to enhance the school’s goals to focuses on the education and certification of students in technology. The Institute does not serve only the local Miami community but has a global reach with their online classes.

Committed to developing and inspiring the next generation of leaders, Donard’s community involvement is just as impressive. He sponsors computer classes throughout the community for young people and seniors.

Donard also serves as the Vice Chair of Haitian American Chamber of Commerce, sits on the board for the Sant La(Haitian Neighborhood Center) and most recently was appointed by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime to the Miami-Dade TPO Freight Transportation Advisory Committee.

Donard’s mission is to get the people in the community get a better education in technology because “we know for sure technology is the present and the future.” “There is no way you can be successful if you do not know how to use the computer!” states Donard.

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