Sophia Bernard-Fairman: Selling a brand she loves
Nashauna Drummond, Lifestyle Coordinator
Sophia Bernard-Fairman spends 90 per cent of any given workday in the field meeting with clients. Seems like a tough task, but she would not have it any other way.
"I'm getting paid to do something I love," she told Flair during a recent interview. Bernard-Fairman is the new regional sales manager at J Wray and Nephew. Her region (eastern) includes Kingston and St Andrew, St Mary, St Thomas and Portland. She revealed to Flair that she could never do a nine-to-five job, sitting in an office all day.
Born in Lucea, Hanover, Bernard-Fairman grew up in St Elizabeth and never envisioned a career in sales and marketing. A past student of The Hampton School for Girls, she had a number of career options, one of which was teaching. This would allow her to follow in the footsteps of her parents. She actually did a short stint in the classroom before deciding that was not the career for her. "I had a huge sense of satisfaction and accomplishment imparting knowledge. however, I did not have the patience to deal with the indiscipline when it occurred. Yes, teaching was an option, but I realised eventually that I could not be as committed as my parents were. They are true role models in the profession."
Joining the Jamaica Defence Force air wing, playing the keyboard in a band and becoming a psychologist were also on her list of options. But while working at IBM World Trade Corporation in the mid-1990s, she was intrigued by the operations of the marketing department. She realised instantly that suited her perfectly. "Marketing is exciting," she said with her trademark smile. After completing her bachelor's degree in hotel and tourism management at the University of the West Indies, she did her MBA, majoring in marketing. "I absolutely love the interaction with people as well as the sense of satisfaction I get from helping to strategise and implement ideas for our great brands."
Implanting those ideas isn't always easy. "Consumer taste has been constantly changing and thus their demands in terms of what it takes to satisfy them is even greater. This, therefore, has certainly called for a more innovative approach to marketing to find ways to identify, capture and maintain consumer interest with the ultimate aim for them to purchase."
But this is a task she is well suited to take on, having spent her early marketing years in the hotel industry. "A hotel experience is intangible which means you cannot actually touch it, whereas a product is tangible, thus customers have the benefit of look and feel. It, therefore, takes a lot more creativity and persuasion to market an experience." With her vast experience, it was also easy to make the transition from marketing to sales. "I enjoy being able to lead the very dynamic team that I have in the eastern region and offer my guidance with the skills that I have honed throughout the years. I also truly enjoy being in the trade - building and maintaining relationships with our customers."
Time management is one of the most important skills for her with a job that is not a rigid nine-to-five.
With seven-year-old twin girls and a nine-year-old son, her family is her biggest support system. "Time management is key to balancing my work and family life. I ensure that I spend quality time with my husband, Dave, and the children with every window of opportunity that I have. Dave is very supportive so he fills in the gaps for me when I am under pressure."
Her sincere passion for what she does also keeps her going. "You definitely have to love it and be passionate about it, and I am."