Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Dr Cassida Jones – unstoppable female force in a male dominated world

Published:Monday | April 3, 2017 | 4:00 AMKeisha Hill
Dr Cassida Jones
Dr Cassida Jones at the GraceKennedy Limited, downtown Kingston.

Dr Cassida Jones

Unstoppable female force in a male-dominated world

Top jobs at big companies continue to elude many women across the globe. However, the tide is changing, and for those already in powerful positions, such as Dr Cassida Jones, group chief human resources officer of GraceKennedy Limited, the journey to the top, though challenging, has been quite fulfilling.

"What I learnt from (a young age) was that although your rÈsumÈ is an important determinant, apart from your educational qualifications, it is also important how you present yourself," she said. "Once you have poise, presence and posture - what I call 'The Three Ps' - the rest will come, including your passion and persistence to be successful," Jones said.

Despite the myriad challenges and obstacles she has faced over the years, Jones said her drive and ability to sustain her efforts on a particular course of action have helped her overcome and press through difficulties.

Jones began her professional career as a bank clerk at Citibank in the United Kingdom. Her defining moment came when the bank decided to invest in her and she was given the opportunity to pursue tertiary studies, while still on the job.

"This was something unusual for that era, both for gender and origin. Within the span of four years, I moved from the clerical level to senior management. I spent 12 years there, and on average, I was promoted every three years," Jones said.

While employed at Citibank, Jones attained a bachelor's degree in law and labour studies and a master's degree in human resource development. She was also allowed to rotate her senior management positions, and when she made the decision to return to Jamaica, she was named relationship manager for corporate accounts.

During her stint at the bank, she also had the opportunity to travel to other European countries, including Sweden, Norway, Germany, France, and the Netherlands.

She soon started working with another bank. However, after 18 months at the institution, the position she held was made redundant.

Her father also passed within the first six months of her return.

"A friend of mine saw an advertisement in the newspaper for a position at a company. I applied and went in for the interview, but, they felt I was overqualified for the job. However, they sent my rÈsumÈ to headquarters. I had no idea the company was a subsidiary of GraceKenendy when I went in for the interview," Jones said.

Perception is key

Initially, she joined as human resources manager in 1997 and was promoted to a series of roles up to chief human resources officer, GK Foods, in 2006. Since 2011, Jones has been the group chief human resources officer of GraceKennedy Limited - the first woman to ever hold this senior position in the 95-year history of the company.

"I was actually in shock when I was told I was selected for the position. It took me weeks to come to terms with the appointment. But after six months or so, I calmed down and accepted that I had to overcome all the challenges. Fortunately, I always did my homework and this placed me ahead of the game. All doubts vanished and I became comfortable in the position," Jones said.

Perception, she said, is a skill that is often overlooked, but it is a critical one. Successful people, she said have learnt how to look at things differently than others do.

"Sometimes when we receive negative feedback we need to remain professional and do not go on the defensive. Feedback can be a gift. We all have flaws that we need to work on. You have to learn to mentally brush and stroke people, whether they are for you or not," Jones said.

Jones is now a member of GraceKennedy's executive committee; GK Foods' advisory board; Grace Foods USA and GraceKennedy Foods Inc boards; GraceKennedy Money Services board; and an invitee to the board of GK General Insurance Company.

In the past, she was an invitee to the First Global Bank board. Externally, she is a former board member of the Human Resources Association of Jamaica, and was recently appointed to the Tax Administration of Jamaica board.

With a doctorate in the field of human behaviour, Jones is also a fellow member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, United Kingdom.

She enjoys sporting activities such as lawn tennis, Shotokan Karate and continues to enjoy singing with her former high school friends at private events.

Jones recently hosted 'Invitation to Tea' in collaboration with other senior female managers. More than 100 female leaders from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Ghana, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Turks and Caicos attended the event.

"On your road to success you will encounter countless obstacles. Many things will compete for your attention and get in your way. There will be many reasons, good reasons, to quit. But, if you give in to the desire to give up, you will never reach your destination," Jones concluded.