When Learie Hercules was a young boy he loved to tinker with electronics at his humble La Horquetta home.
Little did he know then, his innocent hobby would decades later enable him to creatively cultivate over ten tech start-ups and catapult him to the position of chief technology officer at the helm of Smart Warehousing, a multi-million-dollar fulfilment and logistics company.
Hercules revealed Smart Warehousing's logistical services span from ordering and warehousing to fulfilment and transportation.
“We empower brands to have brand presence and we do ordering and the fulfilment direct to consumer as well as retail.”
In 2012, the company integrated with all the major e-commerce platforms including Amazon and Shopify. The 49-year-old oversees all things concerning technology at the company’s 34 locations across the US.
“I’m in charge of everything that touches technology.”
In the next five years, Hercules said Smart Warehousing has the ambitious goal to generate US$1 billion in annual revenue.
“To do that, it requires investment in people, equipment and processes.
“There are a lot of technological advances within the supply chain industry. All the way from IoT, streaming data volumes, lots of platforms being built on the cloud, machine learning and also leveraging in the near future blockchain technologies.”
Hillview old boy’s journey in tech
Hercules said his mother hugely influenced his decision to pursue a career in technology.
“Through my mom working at bmobile, I was exposed to tech. I just gravitated towards it and learnt a lot in tech. If my mother was a lawyer, I’d probably be a lawyer or a judge.”
With his mentor mom’s support, the Hillview College old boy enrolled at the John Donaldson Technical Institute and eventually went on to study at UWI, St Augustine where he earned his bachelor's degree in computer science and management. Shortly after, Hercules was recruited to work at TSTT by Professor Dr Stephen Gift, who at that time was the head of research and development at the company.
Hercules fondly recalled meeting Gift as a 14-year-old, saying he inspired him to think globally about how he could impact the world on a larger scale.
“This is the man who really sparked and raised my expectation level for myself.”
Hercules thrived working on a number of company projects but the excitement eventually ebbed away as he felt he was no longer being creatively challenged.
“I knew when I was working at bmobile that it was not the peak or the level that I was aiming to achieve. I knew it was just a step.
“I had worked in telecom design, 2G and 3G networks…but at the age of 26 I literally ran out of technical things to do that would challenge me.”
It wasn’t long after, Hercules then 29, armed with his unwavering drive to succeed, decided to take a leap of faith and migrated to the US where he felt he would have more opportunities in the technology field.
“When I migrated to the US, I knew that there are multiple steps within your career. I knew the job was to ensure that you learn at each step, what needs to be done and also learn what the next step should be and prepare yourself for the next step.
“Even as I came to the US as an engineer, I knew I wanted to become the best engineer that I could be and then move into a management role...then move into a CTO (chief technology officer) role.”
Before becoming chief technology officer at Smart Warehousing in early May, Hercules served in varying managerial positions at top technology companies in the US.
He served as the vice president of product development at Global Traffic Technologies, a leader in the public safety and transit space and also worked at Silicon Valley for six years as the senior technical director at AT&T’s big data division, where he led cloud platform technologies, roadmap and product innovation.
“I make it my business to ensure that wherever and in my daily conduct in my career, I create a safe and welcoming space for everyone. I build very diverse teams. I believe in the goodness of people and the ability of people, when they are in a safe space to really solve big problems.”
Faith and community made me successful
Hercules said growing up in La Horquetta with his parents and four siblings in what he described as a “lower socioeconomic situation” as well as his Spiritual Baptist faith forged him into the successful man he is today.
“Growing up in La Horquetta was a competitive advantage. You become aware of how social issues impact you. The things that weigh on you surround identity and validation. If you are able to have the community and the family I had, it makes the journey easier.
“The next thing that was a competitive advantage is me being a Spiritual Baptist. In Trinidad historically, the shouter prohibition ordinance made it illegal to practice religion but it also allowed the state to engage in psychological devaluation. So as a child you start thinking, ‘should I be ashamed to be a Baptist?’”
He said his mother taught him the reasoning behind the oppression of Spiritual Baptists — knowledge he weaponised to empower himself.
“I understood why they did it is because if I understand who I am and the power and the legacy I can lean on as an African, then anything is possible. And that’s why I choose to grow my hair in dreadlocks. It was a way of affirming my own identity to show that intrinsically, nothing is wrong with any of us.
“When you become so comfortable with yourself, you have so much mental space to think about what you want to do and achieve.”
Awarded an international patent
Hercules said one of the most rewarding experiences in his career was being awarded an international patent in 2018. He invented a method that can predict if a customer is going to add, drop, upgrade or downgrade a particular service thus allowing companies to take action before it actually happens.
“An organisation may only learn that a customer is planning to drop or downgrade a service when the customer contacts the organisation to make the change. At this point, any response by the organisation to change the customer's mind may be too little, too late.”
Hercules had his fair share of detractors when he was developing his revolutionary idea.
“It was in a field that was so crowded. The lawyer said, ‘you would not be able to patent or discover anything new.’ After I did my submission they came back and said no one ever thought about this.
“I understand what is happening in society. I understand what type of things need solving,” he said.
For the past 15 years Hercules said he’s made a conscious choice to give back and mentor young people in TT. His mentorship efforts accelerated in 2014, when his nieces (whom he mentored), sisters Kandyss and Petriann Tramcoso launched the Royallink technology incubator.
“Through that incubator I was able to have access to a lot of young kids and raise their expectation level as well. I’ve always been passionate about giving back and cultivating the next generation of talent that can create new economics for Trinidad and Tobago and really explore their potential.
“Over the years we have cultivated upwards of ten companies through the Royallink.”
Hercules said the education system in TT should be revolutionised to promote technology and entrepreneurship in schools.
“I would like the government to form a task force to evolve the education system, beyond what it is today to ensure that the study of technology and the study of entrepreneurship is embedded into kids from a very young age, regardless of economic status.”