RBC International Women’s Day 2012 – Career Snapshots

Joann Gomes

Joann Gomes

Head - Market Coordination and Optimization - Trinidad & Tobago
Personal and Business Banking Units


Why did you decide to enter the financial services industry? Was there a particular person or moment that influenced you?

When I joined the financial services industry 37 years ago, bankers were considered among the pillars of society. They were highly respected men and women who belonged to an esteemed profession. I was honoured to become part of this industry. Today, the industry holds the same appeal but on a much broader base. For example, the challenge of applying scientific skills developed by the production industry to improve the level of service in the financial industry is exciting. In addition, there are immense career possibilities.

If you were talking to someone who’s never worked in your RBC business group, how would you describe what you do and what you like best about your job?

The Head - Market Coordination and Optimization (HMCO) is one of the three leadership positions in the Trinidad and Tobago market. The HMCO acts in support of the Regional President, Personal Banking and Regional President, Business Banking, and works alongside the Market Head Personal Banking & Business Banking, in their aim to achieve sustained client loyalty. The HMCO is responsible for ensuring that all operational elements are managed effectively. Such elements include: effective implementation of all transformational initiatives, ensuring that Service Level Agreements are committed to and achieved and building a culture of compliance by managing operational risk and instilling effective controls.

What's been the greatest challenge of your career to date and how did you deal with it?

The greatest challenge has been the implementation of the core technology application in five former RBTT Financial Group (RBTT) markets. The former RBTT units are an amalgam of several acquired banks with different technology platforms, operating procedures and cultures. While everyone recognised the need to standardize the banking platform, actually getting people to let go of the old way of doing things was extremely challenging. Great focus had to be placed on change management. By applying this methodology in the early stages, the foundation was laid for the transition to even more sophisticated methods adopted from RBC after its acquisition of RBTT.

What’s your definition of a great leader?

A great leader must first earn respect by demonstrating integrity. She is able to convey a vision and purpose to a team credibly and can convince the team to move from their comfort zone and commit their hearts, head and hands in setting a new path. She is discerning in recognising the diverse skills of her team and uses these skills effectively in the achievement of goals. She provides feedback and encouragement to keep the team's passion alive and recognizes and rewards team members at the achievement of each milestone.

How about a great employee?

A great employee is someone who brings enthusiasm and a positive attitude to the workplace. She is someone who is a team player and is passionate about excellence. Once these basic qualities are in place, everything else is coachable or trainable.

If you could travel back in time and speak to your younger self – what’s the best career advice you could give her?

I have no regrets about my past but in the spirit of continuous improvement, I would advise my younger self to spend more time on honing her coaching skills and less time doing. If we are to help the younger members of our RBC family, coaching has to be an integral part of our DNA. I believe I could have been more effective if I had developed this skill earlier in my career.

A lot of our readers have told us they would enjoy hearing a little bit more about your life when you’re not at the office…

Aside from spending time with family and friends, what’s your favourite thing to do when you have time to yourself?

I am an avid reader of thrillers and suspense novels. Some of my favourite authors are David Baldacci, James Patterson and Jeffrey Archer, to name a few. I also enjoy walking. I find walking to be invigorating, giving you time to reflect and enjoy all the beauty that nature has to offer. Over a year ago I took up Latin Ballroom dancing. It is also a good aerobic method and very enjoyable and allows for socializing. No, I am not trying to get onto Dancing with the Stars. In addition, I am actively involved in the Past Pupils' Association of my alma mater. The Association is involved in fundraising for the school as well as planning other social activities for both present and past pupils.

What book is on your nightstand right now?

While I do have a novel, I have another book that I am particularly proud of. It is called Leadership - Promises for Everyday - A Daily Devotional by John C. Maxwell. This simple book gives very good advice to leaders using stories from the Bible as illustrations. It is a very practical book for leaders that reminds us that leadership is not a new science and is all really about engaging people and being a person of integrity.

Who’s your favourite singer or band?

I am a strong supporter of my national music - calypso and the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago - steel pan. My favourite "Calypsonian" (a singer of the calypso) is David Michael Rudder and I am an avid supporter of the Witco Desperadoes Steel Orchestra - one of the established steel pan orchestras, which has toured the world. I do appreciate all kinds of music and one of my favourite singers is Lionel Richie.

Best vacation you ever took?

Last year I went on a pilgrimage with a local community group to Lourdes, Fatima and Santiago De Compostela. The experience was unforgettable and very special not just because of visiting these historic sites but because of the opportunity for introspection and sharing. Although I barely knew anyone at the beginning of the pilgrimage, by the end I had developed several friendships. It was an ideal vacation with lasting memories and new acquaintances.

Finally, who has been the most inspiring women in your own life and why?

I have to start with the woman who gave me life and who has been my greatest source of inspiration. Without a tertiary education, my mother has instilled in me commitment to work; to giving my best regardless of the tasks I undertake. In addition to my mother, I must mention the women who held the leadership roles at my high school. These women were visionaries and pioneered several changes that helped produce young women who went on to become great leaders and professionals who are contributing to our local, regional and international society.

Any other comment, words of advice or favourite quotes you would like to share to inspire others?

To close, I want to share with you a snippet from an article "Occupy the Moment" by Simon T. Bailey. He is an interesting motivational writer who provides good advice to "be brilliant" in the challenging but exciting times in which we live.

"Welcome to the New Normal! This is the moment when you will stand up on your own two feet and make something happen. No one is going to hold your hand, babysit, and listen to lame excuses about why you can't grow the economy of your mind. This is the moment when you will have to kick out the mental tenant of wait-and-see, and invite in the new tenant, 'Go and Get it'. This is the moment when you send an internal IM (instant message) to your central nervous system 'I AM GOING TO MAKE THIS MOMENT COUNT!' - Simon T. Bailey