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The Honorable Symon de Nobriga (Class of 1991) is currently a Member of Parliament in the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and a Cabinet member with the portfolio of Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister responsible for Communications.
In 2015 he became the Operations Manager for the Diego Martin Central campaign team for the 2015 General Elections. He was nominated for and won the district of Morne Coco/ Alyce Glen at the Local Government Elections held in November 2016. He was then elevated to the position of Chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation in 2019, and was elected as the Member of Parliament for Diego Martin Central on August 10, 2020.
Q: Why did you select Fatima?
It’s funny. My father and uncles all went to CIC and I suppose that would have been a natural tradition to follow, but I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to attend Fatima. When the time came to select my choices for Common Entrance, I got some fatigue from my uncles but my father never imposed himself on the selection. My younger brother eventually went to Saints, so my father at least got one!
Q: Tell us about your time at Fatima. E.g. what was the worst mischief you got up to?
I wasn’t anywhere close to being described as a top student in Fatima! I can definitely tell you what the inside of the Deans’ and Mr. Moore’s Offices looked like! But I’ve realized now, through my own experience as a parent, that children learn in different ways…and not acknowledging and adapting to that leaves gaps that some slip through too easily.
As for mischief, that might be enough for another interview by itself! But I do remember the first time I got strokes from Fr. Girod: for tying together the lacings of the boys in front of me in French Class. I didn’t expect one of them to get called to the board by Mr. Brash…and the rest is unfortunately history.
Q: Any nicknames? Did you play any sports?
Thankfully there weren’t any nicknames that stuck and I won’t take the opportunity to revive them! I played most sports for fun. I ran in schools sports a few times for Fatima but never got an opportunity or was good enough to represent the College at the highest level in my time.
Q: Did any teacher(s) at Fatima stand out the most for you?
Quite a few. Even if I didn’t seem to take them on in class, they had a lasting impact on me.
Mr. Garcia was my Form Teacher for all but one year in Fatima. He was no-nonsense and you couldn’t slip anything past him.
Mr. Ramdass––for reasons that would be obvious to anyone that attended Fatima while he was there… An absolute Legend!
Fr. Mendes, who only taught for one year while we were in Form Five.
Q: How did Fatima influence your character and your career path?
I think the main Fatima influence on my character has been the respect with which I treat others. That is the single greatest impact that teachers like Mr. Ramdass, Mr. Garcia, Mr. Holman, Mr. Des Vignes, et al, had on me. To treat each person, and each situation, on merit.
Besides that, I’m pretty sure that the many lunchtimes ‘taking and giving talk’ outside the Hall or on the basketball court, served me well on the campaign trail! If you survived that, you could survive anything!
As for my career path, moving right up to the present, two major influences on my entering politics came from being a Fatima Boy. The first is Darryl Smith’s decision to repeat Form Five in my year. That led to a friendship that put me on a path to succeed him not only as the Chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation but also as the Member of Parliament for Diego Martin Central. The other is a conversation I had one night with onetime FOBA President Dwight Andrews on the field after a “Fatima & Friends” sweat. I won’t get into the details of that night but I probably wouldn’t be here now without those two inputs.
Q: What is the most valuable lesson you learnt at Fatima?
I actually think the greatest lesson Fatima ever taught me came after I left, and that lesson was Loyalty––the loyalty that Old Boys showed me simply because of our shared ‘Fatima Experience’, and the influence that had on me not only as a person but in the way I viewed the school through their mentorship.
Q: Have you been able to maintain friendships with your classmates since leaving school?
I have, not only with my classmates but with guys that were years behind me and years ahead of me. (I’m sure none of them ever thought that I would be in this position now though!)
Q: Your post-Fatima career is quite varied: Republic Bank Trustee Division; Director of Advanced Digital Systems Ltd (company specializing in IT infrastructure development); CEO of De Freitas Consulting Services Ltd (company involved in specialty coating field and fire-proofing of buildings). Why did you choose to enter politics?
I started my working life right out of Form 6, and I’ve been lucky to have worked across a wide range of industries. I think this was possible because I always maintained three guiding principles:
- Immerse yourself in whatever you are doing.
- Focus on building relationships.
- Be prepared to work harder than the next guy.
Moving from industry to industry was always a challenge, but those three have never failed me.
Why did I choose to enter politics? It wasn’t a conscious choice initially. I had been a part of too many conversations that only focused on the ‘problems’ and never seemed to get around to the ‘solutions’. I started assisting the Chairman of the DMRC (as I mentioned, was a former classmate) with different initiatives. And seeing the impact of those works gave me a sense of fulfillment that I never got professionally.
In 2016, I was asked to put myself forward for screening during the Local Government Elections of that year and I saw it as another chance to be a part of the solution. I was selected as the candidate, won my District in the 2016 LGE and that was my first real taste of representational politics. I’ve been blessed since then to be able to serve as a Councillor, Chairman and now as the MP for Diego Martin Central.
Q: How has your professional background prepared you in your current portfolio as Minister in the Ministry of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Communications?
Going back to the three guiding principles, this role is no different. Immerse yourself, focus on building relationships, and work hard.
Q: What are your primary duties as Minister?
As Minister I’m tasked with steering the Ministry responsible for leading ‘whole of Government communications’, which is distinct from the corporate communications function that exists within Ministries.
I’m also the Line Minister for TTT, NALIS, The Government Archives, Government Printery and The Board of Film Censors.
Q: Is there a major project you are working on or have been assigned to?
Quite a few, in particular across Ministries of Health, Digital Transformation and Public Utilities. The last major whole of Government project I wrapped was the End of Year Review for 2021; and the last major Ministry collaboration I was a part of was the updated Daily Medical Update Dashboard with the Minster of Health and his team.
Q: What is your typical day like?
As a Minister, MP, and father there is no ‘typical day’. But I do try my best to maintain a morning routine that focuses on: reviewing the newspapers, any trending social media stories, as well as the morning shows on television and radio. Throw in making breakfast for my children, making sure they are ready for school, and the occasional 7am virtual meeting…and most mornings are a blur.
The rest of the day depends on what day of the week it is. Wednesday is my Public Day in my Constituency and that starts from as early as 7am and goes until I’ve seen all my Constituents. On a Wednesday afternoon and a Sunday morning, I try to walk in an area of my Constituency. Other days I’m focused on the work of the Ministry and the projects we are working on at that time. Of course, there are also the Cabinet Sub-Committee and Cabinet Meetings to attend. Most days I get into the office, start work, blink and it’s 5pm!
Once I’m home, I have the typical Dad duties. And I have to prepare for any meetings I may have the next day, and I try to find some time for exercise.
In addition to that, I have Parliamentary duties, which include both attending Sittings of the Lower House and Joint Select Committees meetings.
Q: Any hobbies or interests?
In my downtime, I enjoy watching historical documentaries and podcasts. I also try to watch Liverpool whenever I can. I’ve suffered enough as a supporter so I take the opportunity as often as I can get it! Outside of that, I really enjoy cooking for my family. I used to be a voracious reader but I just don’t get the time anymore. That’s something I’m hoping to get back to this year.
Q: What would you say to a young Fatima student to encourage them to undertake public life/service?
I’d tell them: you are privileged to be a Fatima student. Most of you won’t appreciate how privileged you are until you’ve left. But when you do, be sure to give back to the school to ensure that another generation of leaders will have the benefit of the Fatima Experience.
With that privilege comes responsibility. A responsibility to be a flagbearer for your Alma Mater in your daily life, and to be an example of excellence. If that leads you to a life of service in any way, I hope you find the fulfillment in it, as I have; it is beyond description.
If it doesn’t, still be that example of Fatima Excellence…because you never know who you may inspire!
Q: Samsung or iPhone?
I work with both, but at this point I have to say iPhone.
Q: Any closing remarks?
Just to say ‘thank you’ to FOBA for asking me to do this interview. The 16-year-old version of me would never have imagined this. Years ago I saw the quote “Your present situation is not your final destination” and I thought it really complemented “Nitendo Vinces”
If I could tell any 16-year-old anything, it would be that. Strive on.