Linda’s heart is in banking
ON A SOFA at her St Peter home, Linda Goodridge doubled over in laughter as she reflected on the turn her life took.
“My goal was to work a couple months at the bank and get back to going into the hotel industry. At that time I decided I was going to be in the bank, earn some money and get fired as quickly as possible and get back to the hotel industry.”
That was more than 30 years ago.
Linda is now leaving banking, not for the hotel industry, but for retirement.
In earlier years, she enrolled at the Barbados Hotel School but as the seventh of nine children, she soon discovered her choice of job was not an option.
When her mother, an agricultural labourer, heard of a vacancy for a teller at CIBC bank in Speightstown, this was the direction in which she pushed her 18-year-old daughter.
“I am a person that likes a lot of fun so I believe that any job you are in you should have fun. So at the time I saw bankers as a little bit stiff and formal and that was not me,” Linda said. Laughing again, she began to relate some of the “scrapes and tangles” in which she was involved, all for one purpose – to provoke her firing.
But her mother derailed her plans the day she turned up at the bank and put a sound flogging on her daughter for what she recognised as a deliberate misdemeanor that could possibly have resulted in Linda’s termination by her employers.
Looking back, Linda credits the influence and guidance of veteran banker Clennell Bynoe for her success in the banking field.
“He took so much interest in my career and set some really high standards for his people, in a bank where there were a lot of strong values,” she said.
Ambitious Linda had gone into banking at a stage of Barbados’ history when light skins and “good hair” were highly favoured for such jobs. But the girl from Diamond Corner, St Peter, with the dark skin and short hair refused to be put off by this perception.
“I was never afraid of being this colour. I always was a person that never bowed to peer pressure. I was a fighter in every sense of the word.
“When I was a girl at school, the minute you call me black and picky hair, you came in for a slap and with a slap it would end up as a fight. But I don’t lose fights because anything I set out to do, I honestly believe I can do it.”
This fierce tenacity saw her through all the way. While her school contemporaries were betting she would not survive in a banking environment, she was self-assured, fortified by the values inculcated by Edna Scott, principal of the Community High school which she credited for molding her personality.
Becoming serious for a moment, Linda remarked: “I always did me. It is Linda’s way. But I was a good listener and I like to learn things. When you listen you hear the unspoken word.”
This philosophy was applied throughout her career and contributed to her rapid rise from bank teller to director of southern operations responsible for the operations department of all the regional sites of CIBC [now CIBC First Caribbean] except Jamaica.
She had indeed settled for a job that placed her in a position to meet just as many people as she would have met in the hotel industry.
Her ability to get the job done at one time earned her the reputation as “the clean-up person”, since she was often the one selected to work with bank branches where it was felt she could help to improve the efficiency of the operation. I got a lot of difficult assignments,” said the mother of two.
“Coming up in the bank, you’ve got to be honest with yourself and the things you do and the people that you come in contact with.
“I like being true to myself. I worked with a mirror in my desk drawer from the third year in the bank. If I look in the mirror and I see you, then I have a problem. I must see myself at all times.”
This self-image weighed in heavily on how she was perceived in the bank. “For a long time I was known as a no-nonsense person,” said the now retired banking administrator.
She pursued banking qualifications, developing a love for study to improve her performance and knowledge at every stage of her career. An associate of the Institute of Canadian Bankers, she also secured an executive master’s degree specifically designed for bankers from the Wharton Business College in Pennsylvania.
It is that thirst for knowledge and self-development that led her recently to successfully complete another master’s, this time in strategic leadership in management, even as she was on the threshold of retirement.
“The study of people captivates me,” said the affable woman, hence the move at first to pursue Barbados Community College courses in personnel management, before taking advantage of education in Counselling Skills offered by Network Services.
Today her dress is trendy and she wears make-up. It is a radical about-turn from when, as an ardent young Pentecostalist she was in her words – “a good old-fashioned girl”.
The plain Jane image with the long skirts and no jewellery has given way to the fashionable Linda.
It is this image the congregation at the New Testament Church of God saw when she preached the sermon there last Sunday.
“I realise it is not only how you dress. It is the heart.” Underpinning it all is her unwavering faith in God that informs her approach to life. She has beaten lupus and survived three blood clots in her lungs. Through it all, just as she was doing throughout this interview, she managed to laugh, often heartily.
If there is any regret, it may be that Linda’s late husband Waldrick is no longer around to share the retirement years. “He was my rock,” she said of the husband to whom she continued to refer endearingly as “Wag”.
She was his “dove” and he her “wag”. In her most somber moment during the entire interview, she related the events of that fateful day four years ago when her beloved succumbed to a heart attack at age 56.
“That was my pain point. He was the real wind beneath my wings, my champion in everything.”
But with strength she has managed to flap those wings once again and is already planning in retirement to soar to new heights.
“I am looking outside the bank to build a good consultancy where I can use all the knowledge and skills I have gained over the years to make a difference in this society and to help young people.”