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South Florida Sales Manager Kenia Carmona credits family, Tropical for academic success

By Hilary Reeves

When Kenia Carmona was seven years old, she moved from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, where her parents had been attending a local university, to Miami.Kenia Carmona smiles and crosses her arms in front of a Tropical building.

“I was overjoyed, but it didn’t last all that long. My parents wanted to speak English fluently, and they discovered over time that the only way they could learn was to move up north, away from the familiarity of the Caribbean. I lived in Florida for two years before we moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Within a few weeks of our arrival, I was helping my dad shovel snow off our front walkway,” she laughed.

Two weeks after her 15th birthday, her family moved back to Florida, where she’s lived ever since. Born in the Dominican Republic, Carmona is the eldest of three siblings. She graduated from Florida’s Hialeah High School in 1989 with dreams of becoming an obstetrician.

“Don’t laugh – my dream was to bring babies into the world,” she said. “I would read book after book about hospitals, nursing, and anything to do with the medical profession. My perspective changed when I had to visit my grandfather at a hospital. I discovered quickly that I don’t do well with blood and the whole hospital scene.”

Carmona joined Tropical Shipping in December of 1997 in the Sales Department. In 1999, she was promoted from sales secretary to sales coordinator, where she assisted with various accounts and familiarized herself with the cruise industry. In 2006, she felt the urge to go back to school to complete her Associate of Arts in Business.

“When I expressed this desire to my husband, Luis, he was onboard immediately,” she said. “Thanks to the Tropical Educational Assistance Program, I graduated in October of 2009.”

Before graduating, Carmona became an outside sales representative for the company. Once she completed her AA, she was encouraged by her superiors to keep going.

Carmona, looking at the camera, rests her head on her hands at her desk. A wood block with the words "DO SOMETHING GREAT TODAY!" sits on her desk next to her.“Again, I spoke with my husband, and he said, ‘Let’s do it!’ I was soon back in school. My daughter, Kayla, made dinner for the family every night while my son, Gabriel, and youngest daughter, Joanna, created a chart to break down and cover the household responsibilities so that I could concentrate on my studies. My mother-in-law, during a six-month stay with us, also made it a point to hold down the house so that I could study.”

In 2012, Carmona achieved her goal, earning a Bachelor of Science in Business, with a concentration on Integrated Supply Chain and Operations Management.

“I really wanted to continue my studies, and my husband told me ‘Don’t stop now – complete your MBA.’ Once again, I reached out to Tropical, and even though the Educational Assistance Program was no longer functional, (the company) made it happen and my journey continued.”

Carmona was awarded her MBA on Nov. 30, 2014.

“It was one of the happiest moments of my life,” she said. “Even though the road was rough at times, I completed what I had started. I sat down and cried tears of joy.  I truly did not want to walk on graduation day, but my husband and family felt that such an accomplishment could not go unnoticed. My mother’s family all showed up that Saturday morning, and I had the honor of receiving my diploma in front of 62 family members. What a blessing!”

In November, Carmona became Tropical’s South Florida sales manager, the head of a team with a total of 85 years of combined experience.

Tropical is a company of great values,” she said. “Family plays a key role. For us at Tropical, nothing is impossible. We as a team can always come up with solutions to exceed our customers’ needs. We make things happen!”

To this day, Carmona remembers all the sacrifices her family made so that she could get her education, and she counts them as her biggest blessing.Kenia Carmona poses in front of a Tropical shipping container.

“My husband, Luis, is my motor, my biggest cheerleader. Originally from Mendoza, Argentina, he is Caribbean at heart. Kayla is now 24 and currently attending Florida International University, majoring in social worker. Gabriel is 20 and attends Broward College. He is finalizing his Associate of Science in Network Administration. Joanna, my youngest, is 16 and in high school. She is currently enrolled in the Global Logistics curriculum. Even though she envisions herself as a plastic surgeon, sometimes she feels that she will end up following in my footsteps.”

When asked who has influenced her life the most, Carmona’s answer was emphatic.

“My parents,” she said. “They each influenced me in different ways. My dad is a man of integrity who is extremely responsible and showed me to take pride in whatever job I was to do. My mother influenced me with her strong will.  She is a woman of great determination to succeed, but always giving priority to her family. She taught my siblings and me to love God over all things.”

Carmona said she plans to continue her journey as the South Florida Sales Manager, working together with her team as they continue to flourish. Someday, she said, she’d like to work her way up to a top management position at Tropical – and complete a Doctorate in Business.

For fun, she enjoys photography.

“It’s my opportunity to capture the smiles of the old and the young. Life is fragile,” she said. “I also run 5Ks. Truly this is not my forte, but my husband enjoys them. It allows us to spend quality time together.”

Carmona also loves to travel, but coordinating family vacations has become difficult as her children have gotten older. On her bucket list: Australia and Greece. When asked if there was anything else she wanted to share about herself, Carmona was all smiles:

“Three things: I’m a third-generation Seventh Day Adventist, and my family values have allowed me to never lose hope. I rarely watch television. And even though I’m from the Caribbean, I have two left feet.”