Tell me about your mother.
My mom had big dreams - huge dreams. As a child I remember thinking her dreams were too big. She dreamed of us speaking multiple languages. Being educated, traveling to Europe and China, living in beautiful homes. We lived in a really small home in Jamaica, and we had very little. She dreamed of us not being as impoverished as we were. Dreams about us having healthy fulfilling lives. She dreamed about her business, owning a pharmacy, our family having multiple businesses, which are all now a reality. She built a pharmacy, and it did really well. They took that money to buy a pharmaceutical supplier, and now the business is a major pharmaceutical player in Jamaica. I wish she was here to see it. She dreamed of us working at the World Bank. I worked at the World Bank. I've worked at J.P. Morgan and Wall Street. She had those dreams and spoke them, and they became an audible vision board that was ingrained in my mind as a young child. It guided certain principles that allowed me to get to where I am today.
What was the hardest thing you experienced with you mom?
When she died, I was in so much pain. I was working at the trading desk, but I was in so much physical pain that I went to the hospital. I didn’t know what to do. They checked me but I was physically fine. I was walking in the streets of New York, crying, and I saw this book in a book store: Motherless Daughter: A Legacy of Loss. It talks about what women feel when they lose their mother, the idea of their own mortality, feeling that they probably won’t live past the age that their mother died. That was a very emotional time for me, and I learned that the emotion that you experience when you lose a mother is unlike any other kind of loss that a women experiences. It’s very painful, but it’s also very significant part of the life of a woman.
How old were you when she died?
My mom was 48, and I was 25 when she died. She was an avid believer, and she went into death courageous. I told her, “I’m so scared of losing you.” She said, “Listen, one of us is going out. It’s either you or me, but one has to stay and keep the legacy. You chose who.” I just admire her strength, right up to the end. She loved her clients. She would deliver meds to the elderly in their homes, even while battling her own breast cancer, and those customers still come, remembering her love. That self sacrificial love has stayed with me. I love to serve. I spend a lot of time tutoring kids in math. I got a call a few days ago from Josh, inviting me to his college graduation. His father was paralyzed from the neck down, while trying to help someone with car trouble on the road. The family had four young kids, and needed help. I took on Josh and tutored him in math. Every Sunday, for a year and a half, I was with him, and he got a scholarship to the University of Maryland. He’s a big part of my life, and I’m a big part of his life. When he called me with that, I was just doing a happy dance.
How do your mom’s dreams influence your life now?
After she died, I desperately tried to hold on to the memories of her dreams. When you love someone, you try to do everything to make their dreams come through. She has been gone for almost 10 years, and we get to see her dreams coming true, but she didn’t get to see it, and I so wish she could be here to see it all happening. It’s interesting that many of our dreams might be for the next generation, and the generations that come after us.
What are some things that you do to bring these ideas to others?
I teach a class called Successful Women Think Differently. I teach it every two years, and at the end of the class we make a vision board. One of the girls who was in the class, she came back for a second class, and she brought back her vision board from before. Looking at her previous board, we realized that she had accomplished almost all of her goals. She was ready to make a new one. It is important to know that if you don’t make a goal, you will never achieve it. That’s what I learned from my mom.
What are you passionate about?
I have a passion for empowering women. I went to St. Andrew High School for Girls, so there were no gender barriers for us. I studied engineering, and financial mathematics. It’s predominately a male field. I’m the only woman building financial models at my job. I want to tell women that they are just as smart, talented, and brilliant as any man to get this work done. Society has told men and women that they can’t do something because of their gender. Men may be discouraged from being a nurse, and a woman from being an engineer. I want to help redefine that.
Studies in the developing world have shown that it changes communities and societies to educate girls, as opposed to boys, have they not?
Absolutely. Women are the first educators of a child. Even from the womb. My mom taught pharmaceutical calculations at pharmacy school - she was excellent in math. I remember she wouldn’t read us story books when we fell asleep, she had us sing the multiplication tables, and it had a beat to it. I scored a perfect math score on my SAT, and a 790 on my GREs; I definitely owe my affinity to math to her. Many years ago, I tutored a sixteen year old girl in the south side of Chicago, and she didn’t come one day. Her boyfriend and the father of her unborn baby had been shot in the head. He died a few days later, and it was such a hard time for her, but she rallied. When she first started with me, she was a junior in high school who couldn’t do long division, but she eventually went to college. When women get into a room and support each other, miracles can happen.