Latoya Bisnauth-Thompson: Creating a path to career successMonday, June 01, 2020
LATOYA Bisnauth-Thompson admits that patience has never been her strongest trait, but she also reckons that had she been patient enough to wait until she saw the entire staircase to start climbing it, she would never have taken the first step.
It was solely her kinetic eagerness that propelled her ambition when she left Holy Childhood High School with no real career path presented before her, no funds to continue her studies, and no connections or family in Jamaica beyond her parents and brother. But because of her headstrong attitude, she has grown from being the desperate teenager selling bits and bobs door to door, to becoming the corporate relationship manager at one of Jamaica's leading financial institutions.
“When I graduated from fifth form at Holy Childhood, all my friends were ready to go to sixth form or go on to UWI, but my financial situation at home wasn't one in which we could afford even sixth form,” Bisnauth-Thompson, whose Surinamese family moved to Jamaica when she was a child, told All Woman. “I felt a little bit shattered but I knew that no matter what, I was going to get the degree, so I started working.”
So at 16 years old, while her peers were getting ready to begin their tertiary studies, 'Annie', as she is affectionately called, started working as a door-to-door saleswoman.
“I was one of those people who would go around with a box of novel items trying to sell them,” she remembered fondly. “I used to take public transportation and I would have the box on my hip with an assortment of things that people really did not need, and I would have to sell those things to make some money.” Bisnauth-Thompson still draws on the art of persuasion, empathy, and an eye for reading people that she developed as a peddler.
“The persistence that you need to sell, and the belief in yourself that you need to know that you are going to sell these things, I still pull on them even now,” she said passionately. “It wasn't my dream job, but when I started to earn and was able to help out and pay my way, it was a really good feeling.”
But after deciding to move out from her parents' home at 17, rent, food and other living expenses were demanding the lion's share of her salary. At 18 she applied for a summer job with the now-defunct Air Jamaica Express, which matured into full-time employment.
“But what I was earning was still not enough to pay for my degree, and we had no relatives here in Jamaica to be a guarantor for me to get a student loan. Also, I didn't know if debt was a real option for me at that time. I decided by the time I was 21 that I needed to get a second job,” she shared.
So everyday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm Bisnauth-Thompson would work at Air Jamaica, then from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm at Digicel's call centre. “And I used every penny from the Digicel earnings to help to pay for my degree,” she said proudly. “On Saturdays I would pick up extra shifts. It was challenging, and I was tired, but I set my mind to it and I did it.”
Bisnauth-Thompson thoroughly enjoyed working at Air Jamaica Express and, like her co-workers in the family-like work environment, she was devastated when it ceased operations in 2005. Her manager at the airline company, Dianna Fraser Campbell, submitted her resume, and Annie was called in for an interview at Paymaster, where she worked for the next nine months until she moved to Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB), where she has been climbing the staircase since.
“My friend who was working at JMMB in the call centre encouraged me to apply to be a telephone operator there,” she recalled. “To my surprise, after the interview they called me back and offered me the role of client care officer instead, and I was so excited.”
After six years of assisting individual clients with their queries as a senior client care officer, Bisnauth-Thompson ascended to the role of executive assistant to the head of group operations. In 2016 she once again levelled up to her current role of corporate relationship manager.
“In my role I get to manage the investment portfolios of large and medium corporations and government institutions, and we get to work with business leaders and recommend financial solutions that benefit their business operations and growth strategy,” she explained. “It's as if I am in their business.”
Reflecting on her journey, Bisnauth-Thompson is grateful for every challenge that she has been faced with throughout her life, because she can easily spot the lessons that she has garnered from each of them.
“I am still working on having more patience,” she laughed. “My team will tell you that I still want it all, and I want it all right now.”
But if she didn't learn it before, Annie would have quickly grasped since becoming a wife and mother that she cannot have everything in her own timing. She had to wait for nine months, just like every other mother, for her beloved 14-month-old daughter, Eva, to enter the world, and has had to now strike the delicate balance to make time for her career, her marriage, her child and herself.
“I felt like a big challenge before was not getting enough time with my loved ones, but COVID has totally changed that,” she said positively, noting that despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, she has been enjoying remote work.
She has also been able to take better control of her health and well-being, to the point where it has become a passion of hers.
“One of the things that I want to do is to be more mindful and to be satisfied with me, so I'm making healthier choices,” she beamed. “I'm active seven days a week now, even if it's just 20 minutes of online yoga, it is time for myself. That's how I replenish, and that's how I'm able to give to my loved ones.”
Facing forward, Bisnauth-Thompson hopes to someday obtain her doctorate, perhaps from the University of Amsterdam where she dreamed of studying at as a child growing up in the Dutch-speaking Suriname. She is also looking forward to doing a lot more globe-trotting when she is able to do so freely.
She is also very keen on strengthening the positive qualities in those she comes across by using her experiences to mentor and encourage others.
“Believing that you can do it and applying yourself are totally important,” she said. “I believed I was good and that I could do this, but the encouragement I got from the former head of JMMB, Damion Hylton, totally inspired me and made me a little bit more aware of what I could do. similar impact on the people I interact with.”
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