Nadia Mitchell: discipline is key to success
When Nadia Mitchell stepped into her new office at GK General Insurance's Montego Bay branch in January, she knew she would have a lot to prove. Only a few days after the New Year's Day celebrations marking new beginnings for many across the world, the occasion meant much more for her on a personal and professional level.
The 41-year-old, who is considered a veteran in the local insurance industry, would still have to make her mark on the company after experiencing a number of personal challenges.
She would rely on her excellent track record in the field and her decorated educational background to propel her into mastering her current leadership role of heading the company's second-largest office.
She remembers, "Coming into this role was pretty much baptism by fire. On day one, I had the same targets as everyone else [from all the other branches]. I had to jump in head-first and get to know the team, the policies, the company, and its practices and procedures." Always one to be steadfast and resolute in achieving success, Mitchell welcomed the challenge.
The Glenmuir High School graduate had always pictured herself climbing this high up the corporate ladder, having been an A student throughout her time at the Clarendon-based institution and while studying marketing at the University of Technology. "I was determined that I didn't want to just get a passing grade in anything. I wanted to be counted among the best of the group."
In order to accomplish ranking among the top students, Mitchell took a very disciplined approach to her studies. "I would read, read, read. My love of reading really helped me a lot with studying, and close to exams, I would cram information and pull all-nighters."
She also had additional encouragement from her very strict and conservative parents, who prioritised getting good grades. "My freedoms were limited. I therefore learnt very quickly that in order to enjoy those freedoms, [I had to] make the most of extra-curricular activities in order to 'hang out' with my friends."
Since her schooling during her formative years, the Rotarian has also completed several additional courses in marketing and insurance so that she is constantly learning and up to date with her craft. To name just a few, she has obtained a Jamaica Insurance diploma with honours, a diploma from the Chartered Insurance Institute in London, and a diploma in psychology and behaviour from the University of the West Indies.
Today, Mitchell exercises her skills and knowledge as the branch lead at the Caribbean conglomerate's insurance arm, formerly known as the Jamaica International Insurance Company.
She believes her greatest accomplishment to date has been establishing herself and the branch independent of her predecessor as she spearheads her team of eight in retaining 85 per cent of customers and growing by 25 per cent since the last financial year.
She says teamwork is part of what makes her successful in her role. She said, "We nurture our camaraderie and team spirit with the shared objective of satisfying our customers. I am very fortunate to have a supportive team that I also learn from every day. Since my school days, I've learnt that no individual has all the answers; you have to have an open mind to be able to learn from those around you."
Mitchell acknowledges that women in the island and even within her male-dominated industry may not have this same advantage. Her advice for them is to "push the envelope, and push it as far as you're allowed to. Execute to the best of your ability, and don't be afraid to ask questions".
The newcomer looks to insurance industry icon Grace Burnett, who is head of the conglomerate's Insurance Division. "That's another thing that I appreciate about the GraceKennedy Group. They recognise the talent of brilliant women and there is no shortage of women, to inspire." Mitchell continued, "These women rely on their work ethic and don't feel that they have to aggressively assert themselves. A lot of Jamaican women feel that in order to move ahead, you have to be more aggressive and take on a male persona."
The job, which demands an almost 12-hour daily shift from Mitchell as she interacts with customers and manages day-to-day issues, has taught her more patience while she masters the balancing act of simultaneously maintaining a healthy family relationship, inner peace, and an impeccable standard of work all at once.