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Confident 'country girl' turns mighty CEO

Published:Tuesday | July 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Jacqueline Mighty

By Robert Lalah

"Everyone knew each other there. My family was well known, and we as children felt like we were being raised by all the adults who lived there. If we did something in public, we would have to fret that someone would see us and tell our parents."

Jacqueline Mighty - Confident 'country girl' turns mighty CEO

In the simple days of childhood, there are few insults more egregious than calling someone a 'country boy' or 'country girl'. Many a fist has been cast upon still-growing noses as retribution for this vile verbal assault. But the youthful stigma of the term is temporary. In adulthood, people like Jacqueline Mighty, the affable head of City of Kingston Credit Union (COK), make 'country' cool.

"I'm a country girl, of course!" she laughed over a light lunch in New Kingston with me last week. "I'm proud of it. What I learned there has made me who I am today," she said. Mighty is a people person. She loves talking to strangers and has a knack for getting them to open up to her. It's a quality she attributes to growing up in Adelphi, St James. "Life in Adelphi was pleasant. It was a great experience," she said. "Everyone knew each other there. My family was well known, and we as children felt like we were being raised by all the adults who lived there. If we did something in public, we would have to fret that someone would see us and tell our parents."

working parents

Mighty's father owned some trucks that he rented out for haulage, and he also raised cattle. Her mother was a dressmaker, who at one point worked at the local post office.

"My mother would make all our clothes. That was how we got new clothes. Everyone in the community would come to her when there was a function and for school uniforms. I have two sisters, one older than I am and one younger. My mom made all of our clothes for school and church," she said.

Mighty grew up in an Anglican household. Church was a big deal. She attended services religiously, sang on the choir, was part of the Anglican Youth Fellowship, and even taught at Sunday school. "That was our life in Adelphi. It was fantastic!"

pressed to focus

Mighty said that her mother pressed her three daughters to focus on their studies. "She was very firm about that. She made sure that we always worked hard and did our best at school. We might have been living in a small town, but we were taught to think big," she said. "I never felt like I was limited because of where we lived. I always had a lot of confidence and was willing from I was young to take on big tasks and to aim high."

She attended Mount Alvernia High in Montego Bay, and when she later got accepted to the College of Arts, Science and Technology (CAST), it was time to leave Adelphi, and all things familiar to her, for the move to Kingston. "I still remember that trip coming into Kingston. It was as if the entire community came to see me off. It was a big thing. I packed all I needed to get ready to go live on campus at CAST. I travelled by bus with my elder sister. It was a memorable experience. I was still clutching my favourite teddy bear when I got to the school." She got her fair share of freshman ragging, which involved, in no small part, her beloved teddy bear. But she took it all in stride and quickly made friends with several other students who were moving into Kingston from rural communities for the first time. "Those were fun times. As I said, I enjoy meeting people and because of how I grew up in Adelphi, I made friends easily," she said.

She studied business at CAST and soon discovered what would prove to be a lifelong passion. "I always loved working with figures. I really got into accounting, specifically. I love the process of it. I love reviewing balance sheets and tracing all the data. I enjoy it very much."

You might struggle to find others who speak about accounting with as much passion as Mighty does. But that's really how she speaks about most things. She is noticeably excited about life and her spirit is infectious. "You have to love what you do. It ensures that you stay focused and committed to your tasks," she said. It's a good thing Mighty loves what she does.

long workday

Her workday starts somewhere around 8:30 in the morning and can go until midnight if there are meetings for her to attend.

She worked at PETCOM and the Jamaica Observer before joining COK as deputy general manager. She was appointed chief executive officer (CEO) in February 2009. She said the best part of her job is meeting people. "You get to interact with members from all over. I love that. Because of the structure of the credit union, you find that members frequently want to speak directly with the CEO. I don't mind at all. Some people say they don't know how I listen to people so much, but that's the best way to understand others. You have to listen to staff members and members, and ensure that you understand where they are coming from. If I were to describe my management style, I would have to say that listening is at the centre of it. I might not agree with you, but I will give you the respect of listening keenly to your point of view. That, to me, is essential," said Mighty.

Personally, she is looking forward to pursuing some entrepreneurial interests. "I want to look at starting something for myself and my family. Something that will be the family's legacy. I'm still thinking it through, but this is an area I seriously want to explore. I have a few ideas but nothing concrete just yet. This will be for me and my family after I retire," she said.

Her plans for the credit union include optimising efficiency. She said she and her team will be focused on tweaking some processes to ensure that in this tough financial climate, members get the best results from their investments. She also wants to make COK the largest local credit union in terms of assets. "There are exciting times ahead," she said, smiling.