DIANNE Tomlinson Smith does not fit the typical stereotype of accountants being stiff and stingy. Instead she is the total opposite, always seeking to inject fun wherever she is and giving selflessly to others in need.
Born and raised in Old Harbour, St Catherine, Tomlinson Smith, the first of five children, told All Woman she grew up seeing her grandmother, a Justice of the Peace, affectionately called 'Diddy', giving to others in need, even though they were not privileged.
“Every Christmas she and another lady would go around the community, collect money from individuals and business places, then she would go by the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation office and get the poor roll, which was a list of persons below the poverty line, and give them flour, rice, sugar, tinned food and things to make their Christmas a little better. On Sundays she would cook a lot of food and give to two different people in the community. We were not privileged, but I learnt to share the little I had. My father, known as “Brammie”, also gave a lot and helped to send others to school,” she said.
Witnessing these acts of kindness soon charted the course for Tomlinson Smith's life, which saw her immersing herself in student activism at Excelsior High and Wolmer's Girls' by virtue of student council and other extracurricular activities which allowed her to champion the causes of poor people.
However, the time came when she had to choose a career, and she decided that she wanted to pursue accounting. After sitting out a year of university, she applied to the University of the West Indies and commenced her accounting degree in 1989.
From there she spent her summers at Wray and Nephew before moving to the Port Authority of Jamaica; taking up a role as group accountant at a tour company in Oracabessa; working as financial controller with Sandals Resorts across 11 hotels in the Caribbean; financial controller at Grace Kennedy Remittance Services; financial controller then general manager of Guardsman Limited; director of finance for Jamaica and export divisions within Pepsi Cola Jamaica Bottling Company; group financial controller of six legal entities in four jurisdictions; before assuming her current role as senior vice president of financial planning and projects at Mayberry Investments in May, which recently saw her being promoted to chief financial officer there.
Though her accomplishments in these roles have been tremendous, Tomlinson Smith said the most rewarding is being able to see individuals under her tutelage grow in the profession.
As a result of feeling satisfied in this endeavour, Tomlinson Smith, through her church — St Andrew Parish Church — became involved in the St Andrew Settlement, an outreach programme within her church body that works in the community of Majesty Gardens.
She said the work is done through the St Thomas Mission which consists of a church, basic school, pre-school, dental and doctor's office and a programme for senior citizens in the community where they participate in art and craft activities and are fed.
“The aim of the programme is to ensure the community is covered and has an impact on the lives of the residents and their spiritual development,” she said, adding that other agencies like Grace Kennedy has a homework programme there and community activities where they play football, netball, and basketball with the youngsters.
Tomlinson Smith, a wife and mother of two, who is also big on mentorship, said through these programmes she hopes to impart lessons to her children to give back.
Influenced by her faith in God, her grandmother, parents, Indira Gandhi and Mother Theresa, Tomlinson Smith's message to young people is that there's always room for success. Pursue your passions, give back, and share the knowledge you gained to help others to rise instead of tearing them down, she said. Her philosophy is to put God first, work hard, play hard and not take life for granted.
“Be humble in your achievements. There can be failure, and failure isn't always bad. Success is sweeter when you have failed, as you will see your growth and have a better appreciation for the achievement,” she said.