“Women Wear Technology” 8th Edition Blog: Interview with Lisa-Maria Alexander, CMO of JMMB Group, Trinidad & Tobago
The blog, “Women Wear Technology”, features interviews with a diverse range of women professionals. I wish to tell the stories of successful, inspiring, innovative women working in all different sectors such as, technology, banking, marketing and others.
Enjoy, Embrace, Empower!
Lisa-Maria Alexander, CMO JMMB Group
This month I had the honor of interviewing Lisa-Maria Alexander, Chief Marketing Officer of JMMB Group in Trinidad and Tobago.
My immediate impression of Lisa-Maria was, “Wow!” “She has such a vibrant and fun energy. I just want to hang out with her all day and learn more about her”. She has this way of reeling you into her stories. I really loved her authenticity and openness. It’s not always easy to interview people that you don’t know personally. You want them to trust you and give you their honest opinions and discuss their beliefs.
She was awesome enough to give us some words of inspiration in the video below. I invite you to view it, as she gives us 3 great tips for the women of the world; 1) Self-Discovery 2) Authenticity 3) Purpose Driven.
Let’s start with the basics. Tell us a bit about yourself.
So I like to start at the beginning of Lisa-Maria with the family I was born into, it usually helps to explain who I am and where my views on the world started. I am the 5th of 6 children, 3 boys and 3 girls. Born in Tunapuna, Trinidad to educated parents, so early on there were values for education, learning and people. I’d often say that one of my biggest assets is that I was born into a “team”. I learnt early on, the importance of working together, laughing together, struggling together and also the importance of having your own distinct voice! Fun for me was reading in a quiet spot (lots of romance novels) as well as noisy board games with family (Monopoly and Scrabble to name a few).
Where did your interest in marketing come from?
Marketing was chosen for me before I chose it. My first degree was in Industrial Management Studies, and my first real graduate job was purchasing in a factory environment, but after a stint as a Quality Management Auditor at the Bureau of Standards in Trinidad and Tobago, I designed a booklet to simplify the QM Standards, I called it “ISO 9000 made Easy”, I wanted to design something to make it easier for consumers. When a marketing role then came up in the organization, I was selected for my first marketing position. I had had a background in public speaking since my school days, so consumer education became my main focus. For me it seems like it was always about the customer, that was in 1998.
How did your career path lead you to become the CMO of JMMB Group?
A creative flair mixed with a focus on customers made the path to marketing a natural one for me I suppose…but it was certainly not a direct road to CMO. In 2005, after having been in the marketing field for just about 7 years and in the financial sector (Insurance) for three of those years, I was selected from a field of way more experienced candidates, to lead the start-up of a stock brokerage firm in Trinidad and Tobago. I was appointed as the Country Manager for a firm called Dhering Bunting & Golding (today it is Scotia Investments). My new bosses were accustomed to taking risks; I was actually hired on the spot over lunch at our first meeting. At the time, they told me that I was chosen because of my passion for people and my network of relationships. I had been referred to by someone they trusted as “The Woman for the Job!”. They loved the idea that I had both creativity and passion for clients that would be needed to start a brand from scratch in an aggressive male dominated sector. They loved the fact that I was a natural relationship builder and that skill would build their business. They were not the least worried about my lack of Investments and technical financial skills at the time, they said, “Oh we can train you for that…but your passion for people can’t be taught”
“They loved the idea that I had both creativity and passion for clients that would be needed to start a brand from scratch in an agressive male dominated sector.”
That catapult landed me squarely in the Investment business in the financial sector. Fast forward close to 15 years later, even though I am still a licensed stock broker, I use my market/industry knowledge and financial skills, coupled with my focus on clients to elevate the role of Chief Marketing Officer at JMMB Trinidad and Tobago. I say “elevate” because its beyond marketing, and includes client experience management, some aspects of product development, and lead management as well. Somewhere in 2010, I graduated with a Masters in Management Studies – Marketing, having done my thesis in Customer Loyalty for banks in Trinidad and Tobago. So when the (Intercommercial Bank) offered me a position as Head of Marketing, I left investment management behind, and I took it with both hands and directed the bank’s rebrand to JMMB in 2016. Three years later, that brand has had tremendous impact in Trinidad and Tobago and in fact, our positioning is differentiated on our customer experience…so no coincidences there. The JMMB brand is well established in Jamaica and also operates in the Dominican Republic as well as Trinidad and Tobago, and is well known for its vision of love and client care…a great alignment with my personal brand.
You are part of the AFETT – Association of Female Executives of Trinidad & Tobago; can you tell us a bit more about it and the impact it has on women?
I was the association’s President in 2009 and whist I am no longer active as a participant, I now play the role of a leadership resource, staying close to my AFETT sisters, my last engagement was sharing on personal branding for their International Women’s Day 2018. The impact of AFETT on Trinidad and Tobago has been tremendous, many young women have been mentored and careers and businesses all developed on the strength of this women’s network. A signature event “Suit Me Up” – the sale of “nearly new” business clothing targeted at women who are seeking to buy good quality work attire at reasonable prices, is one of my personal favorites – every year for almost 2 decades I get to clear our my wardrobe and make way for the new items.
On your Linkedin you wrote as a motto: “Making Women Winners!” Can you tell us what that means?
“Making Women Winners” is the motto of the Association of Female Executives of Trinidad & Tobago, not my personal motto. When Women Win – Society Wins! – it is my belief that female empowerment is the way to impact family and by extension society in a positive way. Career development, mentorship, child care, focus on the family are all ways that women contribute to both the economic and social/political development of a country. When women are empowered, there is an upward mobility for all, we do not leave children, elders behind. Men who support women empowerment also benefit from the economic and social success.
When Women Win – Society Wins! – it is my belief that female empowerment is the way to impact family and by extension society in a positive way. – Lisa-Maria Alexander
Name something unique about Trinidad & Tobago.
What a wonderful opportunity to tell the world about a twin island destination where the attraction is not just in the physical assets but truly in the energy and love of the people, we are known for our warmth. Trinbagonians are unique in their embrace of people of all races and cultures, we are truly melting pot, visible to even the most casual observer of a group of “Trinis” together. Come for a day and stay for a life time…that could be our tag, when you connect with a “Trinbagonian” no matter where you are in the world, you experience our natural warmth…we want to show you our islands – every taste and every experience. It has been said that Trinidad and Tobago is one of the happiest places/people on earth and I think it is true.
We are seeing that in the Caribbean, female professionals hold C-level positions, perhaps more than in other regions. Can you give us some insight as to why that might be?
This is an awesome question, I think it is true, for one, women are graduating in larger numbers in most fields from tertiary education institutes, with ratios in the vicinity of 2:1 from the University of the West Indies data. Women in the Caribbean are accustomed to being multi-faceted, much like women across the globe, we juggle careers, family and lives with success. In particular, I believe in the Caribbean we have been able to gain the respect of our male counterparts not just for our academic and technical competence, but women lead in the areas of creativity, engagement and determination, key hallmarks of leadership success. The “so-called” softer skills like engagement, people development, rewards and recognition are becoming more important “must-have” skills for today’s senior executive. There is a recognition of the importance of human resources/talent to financial success. I believe that Caribbean female executives to a large extent, understand and embody this.
When was your last moment of pride?
So glad you asked this, in all my doing, and based on what I shared before I saw the opportunity to developing “Coaching” as a core skill…some might say that is odd for a CMO, but not so for a Senior female executive who seeks to deepen her organizational and personal impact. I recently completed “Certificate in Behavioral Coaching” accredited by the IFC. The pride comes, from being able to coach a team member who is not on my team to personal and organizational success! Over the last few months, I coached her into a promotion and into starting her own coaching journey for the persons under her care. She recently shared this note with me…”Hi Lisa, thanks for the coaching to date, as of today (Month 4 in the financial year) my branch has booked our 6 month target, most of it new funds! I have been using some of the strategies to engage the team members which made accomplishing this feat possible….thanks again! ”I feel tremendous pride in being part of her success.”