‘Never stop learning,’ says Nadeen Matthews Blair

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March 17, 2022

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Nadeen Matthews Blair has served over 12 years in both the local and international financial service industries. Today, she serves as CEO of NCB Foundation and the first- ever chief digital and marketing officer at the NCB Group, where she has been able to combine her passion for finance, philanthropy, entrepreneurship and the ever-evolving digital landscape. One of her main takeaways as a woman in business over the years? “Dream big. Never stop learning. Surround yourself with an amazing team, because you won’t be the best at everything.” Having a support system in one’s family, great mentors and her team is what fuels Matthews Blair as a woman in her field, and enables and empowers her to pave the way for future female leaders to follow. Flair spoke with Matthews Blair on what it is like to be a woman in business.

‘Dream big. Never stop learning,’ says Nadeen Matthews Blair, chief executive officer of NCB Foundation and chief digital and marketing officer at the NCB Group.
  1. What would you say is a popular misconception about women in business, and how would you respond/address that?

I am unable to think of a popular misconception. Fortunately, in Jamaica, with our high percentage of women in managerial positions, there is a lot of diversity within the pool of women leaders in Jamaica. There isn’t a single prototype. That said, board composition and CEO leadership is still predominantly male relative to the percentage of female managers; however, the mix is shifting. With so many talented and experienced women in Jamaica, boards have an opportunity to set specific goals around expanding their complement of female directors, executives and CEOs.

  1. What assisted the most in the building of your career?

I have benefited from my parents, who provided me with a strong moral compass, and from mentors, who have offered guidance and constructive criticism, nurtured me, challenged me, and created opportunities for my growth and advancement. Feedback from the teams that I lead has also been instrumental in shaping my growth as a leader.

  1. Was there ever a time that you felt stagnant in your career? If so, what was the source of movement from this place?

There have been times where I felt there wasn’t enough meaning in the work, or that the role didn’t align with my long-term vision for myself. In those instances, my honest self-reflection allowed me to start taking the steps to make a career change. In those scenarios, I shared my intentions with persons and that helped in the process of identifying opportunities and making the change. I encourage young people to share their goals and dreams. You will be pleasantly surprised by where help may come from.

  1. What advice would you give specifically to girls/women who have set limits for their career goals?

I would say no one rises to low expectations. Set high standards for yourself.

  1. What would you tell young women who have just started their career?

●I’m currently reading a memoir by Ursula Burns – the first black female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She shared this thought that resonated with me because as I reflect on my career, it has proven to be true. “Talent is evenly distributed. Opportunity is not. You are nurtured into greatness. Don’t just focus on the title when selecting career opportunities. Focus on putting yourself in situations where you will be supported and nurtured. That will enhance your capabilities and unlock even greater opportunities.”

● The Four Agreements is a great book with 4 simple lessons for personal and professional
peace of mind:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

● Share your goals and dreams with others. It increases the probability of them happening. Vocalising reinforces your commitment to achieving those goals, and you will find help and information in the places you least expect.
● Re relationships, ambitious women have two options: a supportive partner or no partner at all.
● Be flexible, take risks and don’t be afraid to fail.

  1. What is one thing you wish you knew earlier in your career?

My academic experience conditioned me to be an individual contributor. You are conditioned to believe that if you study hard and do well on your exams, then you will succeed. In the work environment, it’s not about being the smartest person. Your people skills matter as much as your technical skills, and the success of a company is a team, not an individual, sport. I have also realised that learning is continuous, because the world is continually changing. While I feel privileged to have attended one of the best business schools in the world, I have not been able to rest my laurels on that, because many of the topics I’m learning today did not exist in the curriculum back then. Alvin Toffler is credited with saying, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

  1. What message would you like to be received by any young woman watching your career journey from the outside?

It is important to read, and listen, and learn from others. But at the end of the day, make sure you define what success means for you.

  1. How do you balance work and personal life?

I focus on work life integration versus work-life balance. First, if there is nothing about your work that has personal meaning, you probably should consider changing careers. I have two daughters. I take time from work to ensure I can go to their sports day, recitals, Girls’ Day, etc. I include them in my work for the NCB Foundation so they can begin to understand the importance of giving back. I have also begun to introduce them to financial concepts, because it is important to me that they become financially literate and independent women. Similarly, through work, I think about how to empower customers financially.

Second, I accept that I can have it all, but not at the same time. At different phases of my life, different things have taken priority. When my children were younger, I gave up participation in a lot of volunteer committees because family and work were the priorities. As the girls become more independent, that has started to shift.

Third, I set boundaries, prioritise, and say ‘no’. I did a vision board for the first time this year and it has enhanced my ability to say ‘no’ without regrets, because I am constantly reflecting on how the asks fit into my bigger vision and goals.

  1. What advice do you have for women looking to grow either their own business or within the company they work for?

Dream big. Never stop learning. Surround yourself with an amazing team, because you won’t be the best at everything.

  1. What’s the greatest risk you have taken as a professional?

I left my ‘good job’ twice. I left JPMorgan Chase as an AVP to pursue my MBA full-time, with no salary. I left my job as a McKinsey consultant to move back to Jamaica for what has ultimately become my most rewarding professional experience.

lifestyle@gleanerjm.com

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