Janine Chen: The epitome of embracing equity
“Being a mother means everything to me,” says the chief executive officer of Massy Distribution Jamaica Limited, Janine Chen. It is for this reason that she said goodbye to her travelling job and set her sights on a more grounded and wholesome approach in the corporate world. She admits that achieving a healthy work-life balance isn’t easy. But she does her very best with a supportive team at work and understanding family at home. From the leadership seat, Chen is happy to be making positive contributions to the company’s growth and success. And behind the scenes, she is overjoyed at spearheading improvements in staff relations and appreciation.
“I have enjoyed my career that started over three decades ago and I have no regrets,” Chen told Flair. She never saw herself pursuing a career in distribution. Growing up, the young scholar wanted to become a doctor, just so that she could focus on getting people healthy.
During her studies, she switched lanes to fuse the sciences with marketing and business – an unlikely marriage. She is currently a certified and registered nutritionist, but she doesn’t practise in the field. “I left university to become a medical representative, which allowed me to market products to help people get better. That was 32 years ago,” she said.
Her journey did, however, take an interesting turn when she landed a job that had her based in Costa Rica. Chen would also go back and forth between there and Jamaica. Although her role in the company was fast-paced and exciting, and the country bore similar markings to that of her homeland, priorities began to shift the moment her daughter was born, “Family first is what I always say.” And so, she returned to Jamaica with new vigour, ready to make her contribution in a business that stood for honesty and integrity. For her, Massy Distribution Limited was the perfect fit.
Here are a few more facts that many may not know. The CEO is the only girl and the last of three children for her parents. Her mother was a secretary and her father was a civil servant, and they both instilled genuine love and care that she has kindly bestowed on others. “I had a wonderful childhood. I come from a close-knit family. There was a lot of laughter and fun in our household. My parents set great examples of working very hard for the things you wanted to achieve,” she explained.
And achieved, she did. Encouraged by others who told her that she would be the ideal woman for the job (some were even competitors), Chen applied for the position of CEO when she was back on the island. Since embarking on that new chapter six years ago, she has implemented an open-door policy. “We are very deliberate on diversity when it comes to our employment, hiring persons with different skill sets who are passionate about what they do and about helping others as well,” she shared.
Because honest communication, consistency, and empathy are essential to the company’s productivity, Chen can be seen walking the floor and the warehouse daily, making conversation with her engaging personality, to ensure that all the needs of her staff members are met. This is a necessary step to make certain that her staff is well and can perform at an optimum level.
“I put on my walking shoes, grab my helmet, I walk this compound and I talk to people. I ask them how they are doing and I really listen to what they have to say. You have to make the time and sit and talk, in order to understand perspectives,” she admitted.
The mental and physical health of her team members is paramount, Chen highlighted, especially during the pandemic when many were working remotely. The company was able to, despite the distance, grow closer and stronger during that unprecedented time. “It’s important to recognise that everybody brings something to the table. So I don’t hesitate to show how much we appreciate the integral roles they play in the scheme of things,” she added.
With the company celebrating its 100th anniversary, Chen is happy for the opportunity to leave an indelible mark at such an incredible organisation.