An integral part of the Imperial College MBA is developing the leadership skills that enable our students to become the world’s future leaders of business and society.
One of the Global Online MBA projects on the Personal Leadership Journey, Interview with a Leader, requires students to get into contact with top business executives and conduct interviews with them. For Candice Gray-Bernard, a current student on the Global Online MBA, this project was a transformative and inspirational moment in her career journey.
Candice decided to focus her project on women in leadership in Trinidad and Tobago because “women who have risen to lead within their perspective fields have faced a unique set of challenges….simply because they are women.” For the project, Candice decided to not just interview one outstanding business executive but four, including:
- Dr Deborah Thomas-Austin, Managing Director at the East Port of Spain Development Company and Consultant to the UNDP
- Catherine Kumar, Former-CFO at the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce
- Professor Rhoda Reddock, Professor of Gender, Social Change and Development at the University of the West Indies
- Cavelle Joseph, Head of Human Resources at the National Insurance Property Development Company Limited
When initially tasked with the project, Candice immediately felt trepidation about having to put herself out of her comfort zone to contact these leaders. However, her concerns were quickly mitigated and the experience became a meaningful personal journey for Candice. She said:
Hearing the journeys of these women and their advice it forced me to relook at what I was doing and my style of leadership. I’ve been trying ever since to focus on my leadership styles and really bettering it. I also feel a lot more confident now, especially when I’m in executive meetings to speak out and have my opinions heard.
Speaking to leaders they wouldn’t have access to
This highlights the success of the project that it forces students to get into contact with top executives they would ordinarily not have access to, also providing a great networking opportunity. In addition, it is an educational experience from them to learn from these leaders. As Candice said:
I’ve learned a lot in the Global Online MBA – from corporate finance to accountancy, strategy and organisational behaviour – but for me the biggest impact so far was learning about myself and leadership from others.
Candice noted that she learnt so much from her four interviewees but she was able to narrow down the three main learnings she took away from the project:
- “As leaders, we must remember that we are there to lead change, but that change is about being able to connect with people as well. We need to be flexible, empathetic, and we need to lead by being inclusive as well.”
- “When you are faced with an opportunity do not back down because of fear, failure or because you think you’re incapable. You should go for every opportunity and never think that you don’t have enough experience to do something.”
- “Find a mentor and network. It’s not only about doing your work, you need to be able to look to someone for leadership and guidance. Find support that you can really turn to emotionally and professionally.”
From project to blog
Candice was so inspired by what she learnt from these leaders that she decided to use the project as a platform to inspire other women. She created a blog called Leadership Essentials which documents her personal leadership journey. On the blog Candice has begun to publish the full interviews from the series.
However, despite the amazing advice she took from these female leaders, there are still many challenges that face women in business. She spoke from personal experience in her home country, Trinidad and Tobago. Candice identified that a lack of childcare solutions is a big issue, as well as the guilt felt by women who balance work and home, instead of solely assuming the nurturer role as is culturally expected. Candice has personally encountered these challenges. She said:
Balancing home, family and career has been challenging for me and has in the past caused an internal sense of guilt. That has been my challenge – recognising this issue. I recently spoke to a career consultant and looked at my vision in life and have worked on letting go of the guilt and recognising there is nothing wrong in asking for help to get things done.
The theme of International Women’s Day 2018 is #PressforProgress, a call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. As a woman in business in 2018, Candice shares her top tip to progress:
It does not have to be a big, grand gesture. Little steps and little actions can accomplish a lot. It could be something small like providing advice to someone who needs it at the time – if you’re in a position of influence giving advice can be really transformational. If you feel that you’re not in a position of power, it does not mean you cannot influence that change to accomplishing gender parity, it’s about taking the little steps within your communities and organisation.
Candice will continue to use her blog to document her journey and inspire future female leaders. As well as completing the publishing of all four interviews from the project, Candice will continue to feature more interviews with other incredible business executives from Trinidad and Tobago.