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For Garcia-Brooks, General Manager, Marketing and Communications at Republic Bank, the area of Communications is just the right niche, a place she has settled in after exploring many other career options, including information technology, advertising, insurance and accounting. “They didn’t provide me with the excitement and variety I wanted,” she reflects. “PR gave me an opportunity to write, which I love to do, and I had very good organisational skills. I was full of ideas.”
Her earlier stints elsewhere weren’t without value, though. “I was able to see business from many different angles.” Even though she hasn’t hosted the much-watched Windows to Republic Bank TV show in years, people still have that moment of recognition when meeting her, and her name rings instant bells. Yet, she doesn’t feel over-exposed. “I’ve never had anybody accost me nor do anything negative.”
Customers consider her the go-to guy for any problem they may be having, large or small, and she is routinely called upon to solve issues that would be better handled by someone in customer service. She takes each of these requests seriously. “I don’t have a problem with that. As far as I’m concerned, that’s my job.”
Garcia-Brooks was also quick to discover that, as far as Trinis are concerned, to know you is to own you. During her early media training, entertainer Errol Fabien offered this advice: prepare yourself for people thinking they are your friend. She accepts their casual familiarity with grace. “When I’d just had my last son, a woman walked up to me in HiLo and asked, ‘Oh, my goodness, what did you have?’”
She’s acutely conscious of the responsibility such familiarity and trust places on her shoulders. “I realised the impact you can have on people, and the importance of being credible. The television doesn’t lie. If you’re saying something that isn’t true, the audience won’t buy it. So whatever we say has to be the truth, whether it’s a nice truth or an ugly truth. In the end, all you have is your reputation; you have nothing else.”
As a woman who wields a lot of power in the corporate world, she doesn’t fall into the trap of believing she has to think or act like a man in order to succeed. She embraces her femininity and the advantages it holds. “Women bring different values and attributes to the table, different ways of approaching the issue. Men try to resolve a problem in a logical fashion. Women also consider peripheral issues, which can have a long-term impact. You can’t divorce emotion, especially when you’re dealing with people. It’s an important part of the human psyche.”
Surrounded by some of the most influential executives in banking, however, she has never sensed any masculine impatience with her more intuitive, feminine approach. “There are six women on our executive team, and we have quite a voice. And the male executives are very good listeners.” She has never felt the need to play down or even ignore her femininity. “If you try to act like a man, you’re going to fail. You’d be doing a disservice to your organisation, because you’d be depriving them of the benefits you can bring as a woman.”
Of course, an important aspect of being female for many working women is motherhood. As mother of three sons, ages 12-19, Garcia- Brooks doesn’t feel she has to compromise one to have the other; it’s more a matter of finding balance. Many a time she has accompanied her sons to football, gymnastics or swimming with a sheaf of documents under her arm, going nearly cross-eyed trying to watch them perform while getting her work done.
“I’m a soccer mom. My car trunk has a chair, an umbrella, a cap and a cooler.” And, presumably, a mountain of files.” As loving as she is toward her sons, she draws the line at the type of indulgence that can become a cancer in the children of the privileged. “Most of us don’t have silver spoons in our mouths. The children of the middle and upper classes feel entitled to the things their parents worked so hard for. You need to work for what you get. Your parents’ achievements are not yours. You need to go out there and put out the effort and energy. You need to contribute to society.”
A lesson she drives home to them every chance she gets. Of all the many jobs Garcia- Brooks has had, and challenges she has overcome, she sees motherhood as the most rewarding. “It’s important for my sons to make a contribution to society, respect themselves, and to respect women. My objective is to produce responsible, honest, God-fearing men. That’s what I want.”
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