It is often said that leaders are made, not born, but that is not always true.
For Naadia White, leadership is as instinctive as breathing. Indeed, this charismatic corporate executive has dedicated herself to moulding and motivating others.
As the vice-president, compliance for Scotia Group, Jamaica she is well accustomed to navigating boards and big business strategies, but her beginnings were as humble in nature as she is.
White (formerly Walker) always had big dreams, even though she didn't always know that they would take her to the pinnacle of an international banking organisation. The second of her parents' four children, she attended The Queen's School, where she excelled academically. She confesses that she initially wanted to become either a flight attendant or a teacher. However, neither would prove to be in the cards for her, as shortly after completing her Bachelor of Arts degree at The University of the West Indies, she heeded a call from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) with the introduction of their graduate entry programme and she made the totally unexpected decision to join the police force.
Unafraid to take the unbeaten path to achieving her goals, White admits to knowing back then that a career in law enforcement was not for the timid or for anyone that likes to punch a time card.
"The hours are long and the citizens served are often less than understanding. I felt privileged to have served Jamaica with the other dedicated men and women who have made the commitment to serve, protect and reassure," she reminisced.
For her, joining the ranks of the JCF was a development 'bridge' to the future she envisioned for herself.
Though initially her parents, Roy and Millicent Walker, were apprehensive — mainly because of the dangers that came along with being an officer of the law — they still supported her.
Upon graduation from the Jamaica Police Academy and Constabulary Staff College at the rank of assistant superintendent of police, White was assigned to the Organised Crime Unit, where she worked on several money laundering and financial crimes investigations, then moved on to leading the Fraud Squad team.
Though she was often knee-deep in what was both sensitive and time-consuming work, she also dedicated herself to helping her colleagues pursue dreams of higher education and training. She remembers during her tenure computers being scarce and she went out of her way to solicit computer donations for the team and then started to host classes on a Saturday morning.
"I am passionate about self-advocacy and personal development, and I was also keen on helping to secure the welfare of my fellow officers," said White. As such she became a member of the executive of the Police Officers Association (POA) and served as the secretary/treasurer up until leaving the JCF.
During this time White earned an MBA from Nova Southeastern University.
She shared that she also had many diverse areas of responsibilities, including being a director of the Training Branch of the Constabulary Staff College, a lecturer for management-related modules, and provided support to several foreign agencies in accordance with global treaties and legislation regarding international investigations.
After 8 years of service to the force White left at the rank of deputy superintendent of police in 2005, having met her best friend and now husband David White, who is currently a superintendent of police.
White's transitioned to the Compliance Department at Scotiabank in 2006. Her new role was void of handcuffs and raids, but it did entail some amount of "policing", White said jokingly.
"It was the extensive and varied training that I received from the JCF which enabled me to develop all the required competencies to move forward to the next phase of her career with relative ease. I think the JCF in general is an excellent professional cradle once you apply yourself," advises White, adding that the JCF also afforded her opportunities both locally and internationally.
"Those leadership skills that I fostered came from my interaction with diverse teams and groups daily, as well as people at all levels of society. In the force you learn to think outside of the box, as no two days are ever the same. You have to be able to think fast on your feet and be mentally agile in terms of strategising and being receptive to change," White said.
Her current job has regional scope and for her this means being able to immerse in diverse settings and cultures.
"Scotiabank, as a global organisation, has afforded me many opportunities enabled my further growth in another type of environment. I have been exposed to not local but internationally accepted standards and procedures in my area."
When White began leadership of the bank's Compliance Department she had responsibility for Jamaica only, but her role has since expanded with now responsibility for Cayman and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
"My main role is ensuring that the bank has an effective and efficient anti-money laundering/anti-terrorist financing and compliance programme which adheres to all the necessary regulatory obligations across all territories.
As a woman at the helm of a solid team of 13 individuals, she continues to be heartened by the unwavering support of the global and local leadership of the bank and not to mention the support of her immediate team, who she describes as very high-performing.
"I share a special bond with my team it is about us connecting as individuals, both on the personal and professional level. I really do believe in leading by example, and fair play. I try to ensure that, as a team, we build a work environment where people are free to express themselves, free to be creative, and truly enjoy what they do," White said.
Life, she emphasized, should be about constantly seeking ways for self-improvement, no matter how incremental it may seem.
"I strive to always grow and be a better person by tapping into my emotional intelligence, because as you go through life you realise that it really is about people and relationships. I try to always be understanding and empathetic with whomever I interact with, not just at work but generally, where people are concerned, whether family, friends, or strangers.
Asked about work-life balance White responds: "That continues to be a journey, and I try to be intentional where that is concerned. Family time is important, and I make a special effort on weekends to shut off and focus on the family. I have an 11-year-old son who keeps me busy and on my toes. I don't miss important school activities," White said.
"I also have a young adult daughter for whom time still has to be made for advice and counsel, fashion, and listening to the challenges of trying to make life as a young adult, not to mention relationship woes," she said followed by a laugh.
White expressed huge gratitude to her support team of "Grandpa and Aunty Kimmy" when it comes to school drop-offs and pickups, and who both are always just a phone call away.
While she is passionate about helping her own children to prepare for the unknowns that will come, she advises young people venturing out into the workforce to always be willing to learn new things, no matter how different it is from what they may be accustomed.
"You have to be willing to step out, do what has never been done before, embrace experiences and guidance. Even if you have to move on from all that you 've tried, it all comes together in the end as valuable experiences, building who you are," White said.