After graduating from the University of the West Indies, what led you to PwC? What were your career goals at that point?
PwC was appealing because of its reputation and training, and to top it off, they offered to pay off my student loans. At that point, my career goals were not fully formed, but in a short period, I became interested in business and pursuing an MBA – after designing and coding banking systems. Now, I pursue careers based on three questions: is it challenging, can I add value, and will I have fun.
Back in high school, all roads led to a career in medicine. However, when I went to college, I really couldn’t afford to be in school for that long, so I chose a field that would get me out of college in three years. I didn’t have a planned career path; the decision was sort of a mix of affordability and subjects that I liked. I decided to study math and computer science. Given the advanced classes I took in high school, I could finish the program in three years. Altogether, it made the most sense.
I spent two years at PwC doing a lot of intense programming and project management work. I decided to make the switch to CIBC for a couple of reasons: to gain more exposure to finance and to earn more money. When I got accepted into Columbia’s MBA program, I could not afford it and had to defer acceptance for two years. Being a critical thinker, if I was going to delay for two years, it made sense to make the most of those two years. CIBC was a logical step.
After finishing your MBA, you were in Financial Advisory for PwC before moving to UBS. What drew you to UBS? How were you brought into the Industrial group, specifically?
I consider my decision to move to UBS as a “do over.” In Business School, I interned at Bankers Trust for the summer, but I hated it. Landing an investment banking internship was very competitive and difficult. Given my background in technology, Bankers Trust hired me for their technology group but agreed to provide some exposure to mainstream investment banking.
As it turned out, I ended up doing two jobs which involved many sleepless nights. At the end of the summer, my eyes were red and swollen, and I was exhausted. That experience did not leave me with the best impression of investment banking, so when I considered full-time positions, I chose to interview with consulting firms, such as McKinsey and Booz Allen. In the end, my strong desire for quantitative work led me to the Financial Advisory Services group at PwC, which provided a mix of strategy and number crunching. I thought of it as a hybrid of mainstream management consulting and investment banking.
While I was excelling at PwC and gaining good exposure to many issues and industries, I was not sufficiently challenged. That concern made me decide to go back to investment banking and really do it right this time around. UBS was growing at the time, and within a growth organization, I saw the opportunity to learn a lot and gain significant responsibilities quickly as well as leverage my entrepreneurial spirit. I have always had an entrepreneurial side to me, and I like the accompanying sense of accomplishment – of problem-solving, scenario planning, and driving change.
As for joining the industrials group, that was completely unplanned. Given my technology background, I saw technology banking as a logical fit. However, after learning about different groups and meeting the respective teams, I was drawn to the industrials group. I could relate to the industry and its products, and as an added bonus, there is actually a lot of technology involved in the processes. At first, I was more of a generalist, and then as I climbed the ranks, I began to specialize in metals and mining.
What were the biggest challenges moving from a Management Consulting firm to Investment Banking?
The biggest challenge was making the decision to start over. Even though I had done a lot of financial modeling and client work, investment banking is so specialized in terms of how they do things and how you move through the ranks that it became necessary to go in at the Associate level. On the plus side, being part of a class where you experience training and initiation together helped with networking and leveraging resources.
After seven years at UBS, you decided to leave for Newmont Mining Corporation. How did that opportunity come about?
The Newmont opportunity came through an executive search firm. It was unexpected, but looking back, it would appear as if it was meant to be.
When I went back into banking, I knew that I would be starting over, but I also knew that I didn’t want to do it forever. What I’m doing now in terms of running an operation (business) is what I’ve always wanted to do. Investment banking is one of those fields that provides you with a lot of exposure and experience in a short amount of time because you literally give your life to it – and I was willing to make that sacrifice. However, after I made it to the Executive Director level, I became significantly more involved in sales and marketing, traveling around the world to meet with clients. That is when I realized it was time to make a change. It was still challenging, and I felt that I was adding value, but it wasn’t fun.
My decision to leave banking provided an opportunity – a logical point in time to take a break, something that was a foreign concept to me, given my humble beginnings. All my life I had been very responsible and practical. I never had enough money, so I was always trying to figure out ways to save and earn extra. After several years in investment banking, I had that financial security to explore and just be. It was during my time-off that I first learned about the Newmont opportunity.
After almost a year of traveling, hiking, volunteering, and helping with my family business back in Jamaica, I decided to look for a job and fortunately, the position with Newmont was still available. The company was at a pivotal point as it had recently changed executive leadership, spun-out its merchant banking business and was looking to grow its M&A group. With my background, it was a good fit and mutually beneficial.
What were the most notable differences you saw transitioning from an investment bank to an industrial corporation?
The most notable difference was the culture. While the work, in terms of what needed to be done, was similar in a lot of respects, how it was done was different. Also, I was now a client of several investment bankers, some of whom were colleagues from UBS.
Investment Banking is more of a sports culture – very competitive. I thrived in that environment and didn’t think I was missing anything. However, at Newmont, I became more exposed to and involved in teaming, setting strategic directions, and developing people. Very early on I got into the Executive Leadership Program at Denver University, which was in partnership with Newmont. In that program, I learned a lot about leadership, organizational effectiveness, behavioral science, and psychology. It gave me more of an appreciation for the leadership side of business; not just getting results, but instead focusing on influencing people to get those results and in the process moving the business forward.
After only three years at Newmont, you were promoted to Chief Financial Officer for North America. Can you speak a bit about what led to that promotion and your growth within the organization in general?
I have had an amazing career at Newmont and for that I am grateful. I believe what has fueled my success is my curiosity, openness, and genuine interest in really learning the business as well as my work ethic. During my interview process, I recall telling the CEO that I would like to eventually move to a region and run the operations one day. I don’t think anyone took the investment banker from New York City seriously.
In my first three years at Newmont, I got involved in so many different areas of the business. For example, if I was buying a company for a specific region, I would be sure to understand every aspect of the company we were buying, the region itself, and how they would fit. I took full ownership of the entire business and not just the deal. I made a point to understand how we integrate businesses after we buy them and see the full life cycle of the deal. That helped me the most in terms of building relationships in a short period of time and learning the business.
When I was offered the CFO position, I was actually surprised as I am not a CPA. Coincidentally, in my very first year at Newmont, I met the CFO for North America and boldly told him that I would love to have his job one day. Of course, he dismissed my “pipe dream” and advised me to go become certified and work for an accounting firm. At the time of the CFO offer, I could have chosen a more lucrative location and package, but with my desire to run an operation, I felt that North America would give me more opportunities to gain operations exposure and be a part of a solid leadership team. And it did!
What professional experiences prepared you most for the CFO role?
My business school education and investment banking career prepared me for the role as they both provided solid accounting, finance, and analytical skills. In business school, I took more than the required courses in accounting because I saw it as extremely essential, although not necessarily interesting or sexy. I even thought about sitting for the CPA but embarked on the CFA instead.
Overall, I had a strong financial background going into the role… I already understood financial statements and how they are interrelated, I didn’t need to be taught. When I got into the CFO role, I took more of an interest in operations. Fortunately, I had a really strong Controller, so I never really focused in on the nuts and bolts of closing the books. I knew what questions to ask and how to read the different reports, but that wasn’t the area where I spent most of my time, and it wasn’t the area that needed the most attention. I focused on developing my people, streamlining the planning process, and partnering with operations to see how we could grow the business, cut costs and be more efficient. That really helped me in the transition to General Manager and running two operations.
After three years as CFO for North America, you were promoted to the General Manager of Phoenix/Lone Tree Operations at Newmont. Has your management style changed across these roles?
Yes. Each role demands something a little different. Overall, my style is more informal and open. However, I have had to tap into different skills and in some cases, build skills to become more effective. For example, in operations, you are dealing with a much wider variety of people in terms of educational background, exposure, and organizational leadership skills, so I have had to become more creative – and actually surprised myself in the process.
I am curious by nature and usually dedicate a considerable amount of time to listen and learn before I start fully directing. That approach has served me well in all roles. On the other hand, my natural tendency to be direct has not always worked and I have had to manage and adjust. I believe that I am more flexible than most, primarily because I am usually focused on moving the business forward and not so much on the personalities. I genuinely like people and enjoy finding different ways to motivate them – even if it involves doing goofy stuff or pushing them outside of their comfort zones.
Leadership is a passion for me, and I am constantly trying to get better at it and more effective. People who don’t know me think that I was always this way. When I tell them that I grew up in investment banking where it is pretty hardcore and competitive, they have a hard time making that connection.
You were the first female and financial professional selected to fill an operational executive role at Newmont. As a Jamaican woman, what has your experience been like climbing up the ranks in these fields?
It has been an amazing experience! Being a woman and being a professional, there are a lot of expectations, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well. It’s not just for me, but to make sure that other people like me get this opportunity. I know that I have a responsibility to anybody who comes after me and I take that responsibility very seriously.
Landing this role was not straightforward. In the past, I saw what happened when a non-operations person did not make it in the GM role. So, of course, in my case, there were skeptics influenced by my background, gender, and origin. Luckily, I had a track record of success and probably more importantly, I had someone who believed in me.
All that said, I have heard many horror stories but don’t have one of my own. I have the occasional assumption or label. I think we all do, whether you are male or female. On the contrary, I’ve found both my experiences in investment banking and mining to be very gratifying. I build relationships and trust quickly which has helped me to adapt and excel in different circumstances.
I moved to Tokyo as an investment banking expat and was very successful despite people telling me that, “You know, you are going to have a really tough time in Japan. You are a woman. You are black. It’s going to be really difficult for you.” I heard something similar when I was moving to Nevada – something about cowboys, bikers, and guns. As a lover of people and an adventurer, I get involved and immerse myself in the culture. In Japan, I prayed to ancestors, and in Nevada, I branded calves.
I’ve gotten to a point where I know who I am and I don’t stress the small stuff. Even if there are hints of discrimination or hints of stereotypes, it doesn’t really bother me because I think I have a higher tolerance. If you think about it, we all have biases. We all have different leanings. If you take that into account, then you’ll probably judge people by their intent rather than their action.
How do you see Newmont promoting diversity and inclusion in their business and how are you working towards those goals within your own role?
Newmont is serious about diversity and inclusion and does not only talk a good game. The chair of our board is a woman. We have two other female board members and also a Ghanaian on the board. In our executive leadership team, we have three women. Although we have good programs and representation, I would say that we are a bit late coming to the party. Newmont, as a 90-year-old mining company, has never really focused on diversity and inclusion as deliberately as we are doing now, which is partly due to the people who naturally lean towards the mining field. I believe this increased focus on diversity and inclusion, to be the case for the mining industry, in general.
Now, we have several business resource groups, a deliberate approach to recruiting, and actual targets and goals for improving diversity and inclusion. As for me, I’ve promoted many training programs for our people, such as unconscious bias training. I also spend a lot of time sharing about how our brains function, the role of our subconscious, and what it means to be human – feeling people with thinking abilities – with flaws. I believe all this increased level of awareness has helped our people to be more open-minded.
It is important to talk about diversity in a broad sense and not restrict it to gender or race but more about backgrounds, experience, and thinking. When we have a diverse representation, we will more likely be successful at inclusion, one of Newmont’s five core values.
You have worn so many hats in many different fields across your career. What would you say is your secret to taking on new roles and challenges?
I would say my secret is just being open. I never go into a new role with an established agenda. I am always willing to listen, to learn, and then to lead. As you can imagine, I got a lot of advice before coming into this role, especially, given my background and ground-breaking situation. I listened, but refrained from forming conclusions.
After hunkering down for the first couple months – listening, processing, and addressing one crisis after another, I developed my own views and then tested them. I am a big believer in aligning around a vision and then mapping the path from current state to the desired state, where we realize that vision. The listening and learning process has always helped in coming up with a shared vision.
In retrospect, my advisors were familiar with the issues but not the cause. For me, spending the time learning the culture, history and the evolution of our operations has really helped me pinpoint the root of problems and not just the symptoms. I would say these things have served me well in everything that I’ve done: being open, curious but competent, and confident but humble. I think it is ok not to be the smartest one or not to have all the answers. However, I believe it is absolutely necessary to have a growth mindset and a bias towards action.