Tanya Menzies-Beckford is making it happen.
The 38-year-old Jamaican is a senior executive with telecommunications company, Digicel, who has steadily climbed the corporate ladder and is contributing to the growth of the company’s business in Barbados as commercial operations director.
She started her career with the Irish company in Jamaica almost 14 years ago as a call centre agent. Three years later, she was promoted to a management position and, as the company rapidly expanded, was subsequently given more management responsibility.
“Jamaica was the stepping stone. Jamaica was the place where Digicel started,” she recalled. “In Jamaica, there was a passion and drive and it was an amazing feeling to be a part of that. As you go into other markets and roll them out and share that experience, it only made it better every time.”
Before coming to Barbados, the Holders Hill, St James resident also worked for three years in St Lucia as the manager of sales and corporate care until February last year when she was promoted to her current role.
Pointing out that the Barbados market was more active than St Lucia’s, Menzies-Beckford said since moving here she has been “adjusting to constant activities”.
“Moving from St Lucia to Barbados, I have made good relationships and met a lot of good people. So transitioning from the St Lucia people to the Barbados people hasn’t been any kind of challenge. I find that I have been welcomed and it has been a good experience so far,” she said.
Prior to St Lucia, Menzies-Beckford was Digicel’s CEO for Tonga and Vanuatu from 2007 until 2011.
“Prior to that, I did a number of roll out markets because Digicel was on a fast pace track to get a lot of markets out. So we did a lot of travelling. So to date, I have supported about 15 markets in our portfolio of 32,” she said proudly.
Asked what her typical day is like as commercial operations director, Menzies-Beckford explains that it involves “quite a big portfolio” managing all the company’s commercial activities. She quickly emphasizes that no two days are the same.
“There is no typical day in Digicel. Every day is full of something new and something exciting. Because of the extensive nature of my portfolio, there is also our sponsorship activities, our public relations role, our community involvement, our planning for new promotions, meeting and greeting of customers, managing day-to-day operations, managing teams, being a mentor, providing feedback when required, continuing to identify areas of development, planning training sessions.
But what exactly is “it” that she is helping to make happen within the company?
“The ‘it’ is all about how the year ended. Every year, the challenges change. Every year, we are on the cutting edge of technology. Digicel is all about the new things. How we are going to develop this? How we are going to grow this? What we are going to put into the market now? What are the customers saying?
She added: “I do believe we make it happen. We have a strong market share. We have a strong presence in Barbados. We have a strong presence in the Caribbean and the South Pacific, and I believe that we make it happen every day even with the economic challenges that we face and the competitive challenges.”
Describing her time with the company as very exciting, Menzies-Beckford said she was never in a position where she felt uncomfortable because she is a woman. .
“We have a number of senior female executives in Digicel. There are still a lot of men but recently we had a number of promotions. So women are highly respected in Digicel. We have the same opportunities. Me being a woman haven’t made any kind of difference,” she said.
“When I became CEO a couple years back, we did several workshops where we looked at our strengths and weaknesses and planned training courses accordingly. Over the years I have done a number of them. I have done emotional intelligence, communication within the office, leadership communications and those have taken me far in handling day-to-day activities, a large organization, a lot of people and finding that time to have that balance to have relationships with everybody.”
Having been married for the past eight years, Menzies-Beckford knows of the struggle to balance work and family life as a busy female executive.
“There are challenges in day to day life and managing your work and home life. Digicel is very customer focused and one of my strengths is dealing with the customer experience to ensure that the customer is constantly happy. So you find that even when you leave work, you don’t shut down completely. There is always that question or that call. So to balance those two, there are some challenges but I am still married after eight years,” she said, with a smile.
Menzies-Beckford says she is comfortable where she is now in the company, expressing a desire to gain some experience “in the operations area”. “I love what I do. I enjoy coming to work every day. I enjoy working with my team and overall Digicel. I wouldn’t ever say that I am 100 per cent arrived. I still learn new things every day.”
Menzies-Beckford studied early childhood education at Shortwood Teacher’s College in Jamaica. She also did a business programme at the then Institute of Management and Production [now University College of the Caribbean (UCC)]. She has also pursued a number of courses to support her various areas of work over the years.
She said her role models include one of her former bosses in Jamaica as well as the founder and chairman of Digicel Denis O’Brien, describing him as an exceptional entrepreneur who has demonstrated confidence in her by providing opportunities for her climb the ladder within the company over the years.
Menzies-Beckford said her family has been very instrumental in providing unwavering support over the years.
Having spent close to 14 years at Digicel, Menzies-Beckford said she has never experienced any inequality.
“It could be the way I approach the situation or it could just be my personality. It could be different things but I have never had to deal with any kind of equality issues. I am fairly accepted in any kind of situation or meeting environment I have been in.”
She said it is always important that bosses consider their female employees, especially when they have children.
“There are situations where children are involved. It is difficult to be in a senior role and have children. I can’t speak on behalf
of a woman who has children as I don’t have. So my situation might be a little bit different. So the time I have to give is a little bit different than a woman who is in a situation with two or three children,” she said.
Menzies-Beckford advised young females to stay in school and plan their future.
“When you plan for what you want, start to work on the career path of what you are going to achieve. Believe in yourself! The opportunity is there for anybody. We need to find ourselves and find what we are good at. Whatever we are not good at, use our strengths to try to overcome those weaknesses and never give up,” she said.