David Bennett: Jamaican roots run deep

Business reporter

Friday, January 12, 2018

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David Bennett has had a somewhat meteoric rise within Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). He is young, he is smart, he is talented, and he is Jamaican.

Currently based in Singapore as the corporate vice president and general manager of AMD, Bennett has been with the company for 10 years, moving to various parts of the world as his role requires. “I joined AMD 10 years ago at AMD Japan, and since then I've had different opportunities around the world running different parts of the business.” However, central to his identity, he remains true to his Jamaican roots.

“Jamaica is a very special place to me…,” he admits.

Before AMD, Bennett taught Japanese at the University of Toronto, then moved to Japan where he worked with the Japanese government. He then interned at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.

Next he joined the team at AMD Japan. “ I started out as a business development manager for the Japan office. I then moved to Vancouver, Canada, to run our consumer business there. Following that, I was promoted to director of sales based in Austin, Texas.

''I was then promoted to corporate vice president running our Asia Pacific operations out of Singapore.” He is now the corporate vice president and general manager for one of AMD's biggest accounts – Lenovo.

Bennett has accomplished a great deal. He is fluent in Japanese, understands Korean, and writes in Chinese. He is also the youngest person AMD has appointed to the role of vice president.

Although he was born in Canada, Bennett comes from a strong Jamaican family and was brought up with a firm appreciation of things Jamaican.

When his mother died, Bennett and his twin brother were adopted by their paternal grandmother Barbara McDonald and her husband Kenneth George McDonald. The couple had migrated to Toronto in the late 70s.

“I was born in Canada but my relatives are still in Jamaica – Deborah, Sean and Jason Garbutt. My twin brother and I were adopted by my paternal grandmother and her husband.

“Although he (Ken MacDonald) was my grandfather and not related by blood, I called him Dad, and outside of our family still in Jamaica, he was our strongest connection to Jamaica in Canada.”

Ken McDonald was a local businessman who made great contributions to business in Jamaica. He was a general sales manager at Wray & Nephew, and then went on to work with Appleton Estate. Upon moving to Canada, he opened a patty company and also got involved with the North American Gleaner for several years.

Bennett explains that while he was growing up, his home was always a very special place, especially for his Canadian friends and other visitors.

“…My house was always interesting. I'm very pale, but my parents have very strong Jamaican accents and we would always have Jamaican food at our house. My friends would call me and they'd come the next day and say, 'I called your house and got the wrong number, I got some Jamaican family.' And I was like, nope, that was my family. So we had a lot of episodes like that.”

Bennett's family members in Jamaica continue to play a key role in manufacturing and business on the island. His aunt Deborah Garbutt is HR administrator and operations manager at Parang industries; Sean Garbutt is director of marketing at Associated Manufacturers, Parang industries Ltd, and Jason Garbutt is the factory manager for the Walkerswood, Busha Browne and Jamaica Joe brands.

“David has done exceptionally well. He speaks a number of languages and is very passionate and high energy. He's a global citizen and tries to get to Jamaica at least once a year to visit family,” explained Deborah.

His other family ties in Jamaica are with the Duffuses, Hollinseds, Farquharsons and McDonalds.

Having a Japanese wife, Bennett explained that with so many cultures in one family, he still makes sure to cheer for them all.

“Every Olympics we sit around the television and cheer for Canada, Jamaica and Japan. The 4x100M relay was the perfect finish to our Olympics, as the Jamaican team, Japanese team and Canadian team medalled 1, 2, 3.”

He explained that although his children were not born in Jamaica, he ensures that “they know Jamaica is part of their identity. They also love to visit the country and see their family and friends. We've visited Jamaica many times and I have fond memories of going to Dunn's River Falls and visiting Montego Bay.”

Through his connection to Jamaica, Bennett has organised business conferences and events on the island, and has developed strong friendships with other Jamaican business leaders. He also makes sure to seek out Jamaican groceries and restaurants in every country where he has lived. One thing he jokingly claims he is particularly proud of: “I introduced pepper jelly to the world!”


It was this connection and his fond memories that motivated him to want to give back to the country of his roots.

“As I was working with Lenovo and we were looking at how AMD could help governments around the world, I wanted to find a way to give back. Jamaica is a big part of my identity and that of my family, so I kept wondering if there was an opportunity to give back to the country my parents came from. So it was just kind of an idea.” It was an idea he acted upon.

On a recent visit to the island, as part of AMD and Lenovo's partnership to give back, Bennett brought a team to donate computers to high-performing and deserving students who otherwise couldn't afford to own one.

The initiative, now in its second year, all started when Bennett, who follows the Prime Minister's Facebook page, noticed him handing out PCs. He then realised that these were Lenovo PCs running on AMD computer chips. Surprised and unaware of the business done in Jamaica and the Caribbean, but also moved by the act of generosity, David went into action to see how he could also give back.

The encounter culminated in AMD and Lenovo donating 40 PCs to primary-level school children last year, and this year the donation has almost tripled.

Bennett was pleased to see how much they appreciated the gift. “It seemed that they really needed them and could make use of them,” he shared.

He also admired the Prime Minister's digital and technical competence. “I was extremely impressed with the Prime Minister's understanding of technology and his commitment to really driving these kinds of digital initiatives. As part of my work I travel all over the world and I meet with governments all over the world, and it's very rare to find a leader who seems to be very hands-on.”

For Bennett this was an ideal time for such a contribution, and it was in fact a very important occasion for Lenovo and AMD.

“This is actually the 25th anniversary of Thinkpad. Lenovo Thinkpad is the premier commercial notebook in the industry, and to mark their anniversary, this is the first time they have taken AMD computer processors and added it to their Thinkpad product. So this product that we're donating here in Jamaica is extremely important to us, as it marks the first time that AMD has been inside this Thinkpad notebook…”

The AMD brand has been doing well worldwide, and has seen significant growth this year. According to Bennett, “AMD was the largest mover on the NYSE, with a 300 per cent share price increase, moving their market share from sub 10 per cent to over 30 per cent, and making our largest revenue gains in a decade.”

“We're very pleased to see where the PCs we donated last year went to, and we're very excited about how these PCs are going to be used this year…So I think with Mike's (Mike Abplanalp, Director of Channel Sales for Lenovo) involvement it's something that both AMD and Lenovo want to continue to do, and we do hope to be back next year,” shared Bennett.

As one who has lived in many countries and travelled extensively, Bennett acknowledges the importance of truly understanding and embracing one's identity. “From Canada to Japan, to Canada, to the US, to Singapore – I have lived all over the world for my work. It is important to have a sense of identity and who you are. Considering myself both Canadian and Jamaican has given me a grounding in who I am.”




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