EDITOR’S NOTE: Shrivon Redhead joined DIGICEL in 2004, and today, after more than a decade of dedicated and committed service she is being rewarded with the job of CEO in Grenada.
Redhead hails from the village of Birch Grove, in the Parish of St. Andrew. She is young, humble in spirit; well-liked among her peers; passionate; eager to learn and achieve; and has a great love for people. Her greatest desire as CEO is to help improve the lot of the Digicel’s staff by assisting them to achieve more, and to continue to grow the company.
Mrs. Redhead, thank you for talking to Barnacle today. Today we want to talk to you about your Digicel experience.
You’ve risen through the ranks of Digicel to become its new CEO. How rewarding is this achievement to you?
It’s quite an accomplishment; I must say, I grew up with Digicel. I started way back in 2004. So to now be presented with an opportunity to lead the company and its employees in the direction that Digicel has put forward, it’s definitely an excellent opportunity for me to put Grenada and our women on the map. My journey to this accomplishment is surely something to be proud of, growing up in the small village of Birch Grove.
Are you the first local CEO of Digicel?
Yes, but not just the first local; the first Grenadian female to be recognized in that position of authority within the company.
You keep stressing female. What is it about being a female CEO in a male-dominated environment?
This is a good question. The corporate environment globally has a prevalence of male dominance. So I feel a real sense of empowerment, as a young female, to be recognized not only as responsible but also as capable.
Now that I’m presented with the opportunity, I think it is an excellent avenue to inform my generation that being female is not a disability, nor is it a limitation. Being female is an opportunity for us to influence cultural changes in society, as strong mothers and sisters, in our family structure; and for providing impactful leadership within our work places.
What made them choose you? Why did they choose you?
I always try to do the best that I can at anything that I do. Throughout the years, I’ve definitely shown the CEOs that I was willing to take on challenges and have proven my commitment with the desired results. This, I believe, influenced and aroused the company’s confidence in me and convinced them that I was capable of accomplishing the tasks that were set ahead of me.
What’s the task that was set ahead of you then and what’s the task that will be set for you going forward?
I remember the first thing that was placed on my plate, so to speak; I thought it was the largest responsibility I could ever be faced with. I was assigned the title of Products and Customer Care Manager. I felt as if it were too much to handle; I was taking on two portfolios and it was so new that I felt as if I was incapable.
I went into it and spent time doing a lot of introspection of my capabilities. It got easier as time progressed; as I dedicated time to learning and understanding what was required of me not only in the job but also as a leader in the role. Obviously, it turned out to be fruitful.
Who sets the tone for all that you’re planning to accomplish? Is it driven by you or is it something that is corporate that you work to implement?
This is the beauty of the dynamics that Digicel brings. As much as we take directions from our Board of Directors and our Group Offices, the island’s autonomy sets the stage for the island’s performance. So our directive may be to accomplish ‘x’ but the level of creativity, planning and strategies that fosters how ‘x’ performs, sits with the local market.
And do you have the expertise among your staff to accomplish those dreams and visions, aspirations and all those plans that you have?
Most definitely. For the last 6 months, what has been enforced throughout our 32 markets is the tremendous amount of skills and talent that sits in Grenada. Presently, we have persons who have moved on within the last 6 months to roles within our hub structure that sits in Jamaica, our hub structure that sits in St. Lucia. We also have persons who started off with us as IMANI workers, Shornica Peters, for example. She started off as an IMANI student; she is now our Marketing Executive. The skills and talent that sit in our local Digicel team are amazing.
You started in 2004…
Yeah, actually, it was 2003.
Take us through the titles and the responsibilities that you’ve held that have prepared you for CEO today? Where did you work in the company when you started in 2003?
In 2003, I started in St. Lucia initially and began in custom care, which I would like to say is the core function of what keeps the company going. I was a Call Centre agent, taking calls coming in from the OECS, dealing with customer queries, customer faults and so on. It’s probably because I started with such an intimate understanding of what customer expectations were, what customer reactions were, how to manage customers in terms of end result and expectation of end result, I think that has helped me throughout the various roles.
I moved on to the role of Customer Care Manager, then Customer Care and Products Manager. I also held the title of Head of Consumer/Head of Commercial. Then, I moved to Director of Operations and from Director of Operations, I was appointed CEO. So, because I’ve moved through so many different facets of the business, it’s given me an intimate understanding of what a customer wants and what the product is going to look like, and to answer the question, ‘how do we mesh both’? If we’re going to deliver ‘x’, what’s the strategy to accompany the delivery plan? It’s an interesting journey that supports everything that I’m sitting firmly on right now.
What do customers what?
Customers want to get value. It’s not just about putting a pretty product in a box on a shelf, but is the product or service designed to meet their needs. They want to understand that Digicel is moving with the tide of the digital wave; so they don’t need to walk into a store to pay their bills. I am able to go online, click on MyDigicel App or our web-based feature to get information and service that we offer.
Service is a buzz word these days. What does service mean to you and those you’re leading in Digicel?
We pride ourselves on service. We no longer refer to our agents as Customer Service Agents; neither do we refer to their department as the Customer Service Department. They are called Customer Care Agents within the Customer Care Department. It’s not just about delivering what is expected. When a customer leaves, our expectation is that they would have enjoyed the experience; they walked away with a memorable experience because we strive to personalize the service that we deliver.
What does Digicel really mean to you?
Because I grew up with the company, I think Digicel has allowed me to mature in multiple ways as I moved from being a young lady, a fresh face in the Call Centre, to become the leader of a team of 40 plus persons. Digicel has almost been like a parent. I started working here when I was 22, so I’ve learned the motions of life throughout the company.
You learned to be more responsible, you learned to take risks, and you learned to manage business?
Exactly; all of what you said.
Where do you see Digicel in the short term?
In the short term, obviously, we’re focused on delivering key products to customers. In the short term, we’re delivering Fiber to the nation. We’re maintaining a strong corporate presence by giving back to the community but, in the long term, we have bigger plans. It’s not just about being able to give one customer a service; we want to reach everyone in Grenada; we want to reach every household in Grenada. Obviously, Digicel is a household name to everyone; but, we want it to be meaningful not just from a mobile phone perspective.
A lot of people are just contended to be an employee in a corner. Were you aspiring to be CEO?
I always aspired to do my best in life; I don’t know if it takes the form of that sentence. I’m appointed to the role of CEO and I strive to always excel. I hold the title of CEO for Digicel Grenada presently but aspire to be the CEO for Digicel Group. If I want to accomplish a particular task, I will employ strategies to favour the result. At the end of this, my true hope is that I touch people and I inspire persons, regardless of gender. The importance of understanding that one can do anything he/she wishes is based on one’s mental capacity. A Customer Care Agent in a Call Centre or CEO of Digicel of Grenada has an impact in every role that you are placed in and better will come.
Why would you be the best CEO Digicel has ever had Grenada? Is it because you understand the market, you’re passionate about the job or you just have some miracle that you plan to work? Tell me. Why would you be the best CEO Digicel has ever had Grenada?
My focus is on people. For example, I always speak to Tracey on staff development and what’s the next direction for some person in the company; discussing what’s our 6-month plan in terms of developing this employee to get them to the next level. As much as the business is focused on performing, it can’t perform without happy employees. It can’t perform without skilled employees. It can’t perform, if staff don’t feel that they are part of the plan. So for the last 6 months, a lot of our energy, time and efforts have been put in staff development and, as I mentioned, persons have been moving into different roles throughout the region.
So as you move up you’re taking everybody with you?
This is a journey and we’re all going on the journey. I might be CEO today, yes; but we’re all going to be part of the journey in this upward mobility.
What are some of the challenges you foresee? I know you don’t want to call any of your challenges, but you’re a woman in a male-dominated position. Do you think that they will thump their nose at you when they see you are the CEO of Digicel? Do you expect them to be celebrating you? What are your real expectations?
I’m a hard working person, I’m a business person, and when I sit in the board room with my senior managers or I sit in the conference room with the employees, I present myself in a manner where I separate ego and personal interests.
In terms of challenges, I think it’s just a great opportunity for me to show up our Grenadian females in the Caribbean; for every young person sitting in a classroom aspiring for a leadership role, I am living testimony.
What drives you?
I’m just a very passionate person. I’m not going to put my hands on anything that’s going to be failure. So if I’m part of it, it has to be a success. I roll my sleeves up and I get in and get it done.
Under your leadership, do you foresee growth in the short term? And if so, where is that growth going to come from and where would it be manifested greatest?
Digicel has been in Grenada for over 15 years. There are several achievements that we can boast about, such as our market share; our revenue and humanitarian goodwill; performance; and improvement in network island wide coverage. This is exactly what our customers want.
In the broader spectrum of things, we have to think of the direction of the world as well. Is Digicel going to limit itself and be a mobile provider only or is it going to speak to what is happening on an international market? We are bringing Grenada along on a digital ride. We’re going to talk about broadband in the homes, fibre-connections throughout the nation, possibly T.V. as well. We’re looking at all different avenues, not only reaching persons but obviously also expanding the business model while growing our reach.
You keep mentioning that you’re a small girl from a small town and…
I am and I’m so proud of Birch Grove. So I have to keep bringing it up.
Do you feel pressured to perform so as to prove that you belong in this position?
Not really; I wouldn’t say I feel pressured to prove anything. The drive that I feel and the passion that I have towards doing the best that I can, it’s not an exterior force that’s weighing on me. It is my inner drive to excel; it’s literally my passion of wanting to be a better person, a stronger influence, to be able to allow persons to understand that they’re empowered to do more. That’s all that it is.
What would success look like for you in this role? What has to happen for, at the end of the day, you to say, yeah, I was successful?
I would like to inspire another Grenadian to assume the role of CEO. That would be the ultimate success.
Your successor would be your success?
But in terms of accomplishments, in terms of achievements, what would you want to do? What are the 5 single most important things you would want to do as the CEO right?
Okay, so first of all, have another Grenadian sitting in the role.
But is that your call to make?
That is definitely my call to make at this point. That would be my first success. I would want to see, as well, the persons within the organization growing into other roles, more senior roles. There is talent that we have eyes on at the moment. We would be definitely supporting them through training to push them up into the ranks.
I would like to see us more involved in the community. I am passionate about education and the education of our youths. So I’m getting more involved in school programs, getting more involved within the communities, going out; and we do have a plan in place now that includes grant support.
Support would mean what? Wi-Fi, broadband?
Well, there is Wi-Fi solutions that were provided to certain schools, yes. But, I’m talking more intimate; like going out and doing breakfast programs, breakfast feeding programs; going out and repairing basketball courts – something we did in Vendomme; organizing the community to repair the basketball court; going out and feeding the homeless; going out into the homes, the orphanages and the special needs’ homes and contributing. I can put in a Wi-Fi connection that would allow them to browse; but, we’re talking about touching the communities not just handing them over a service.
Would increasing market share for Digicel mean anything to you in terms of your list of accomplishments?
For the business, it would definitely be an accomplishment to achieve increased market share and revenue growth. All of those things are part of Digicel’s aspirations.
You’re now the CEO. What type of leader will you be?
I think, as I mentioned before, I’m a realist.
Yeah, that’s before the pomp and the ceremonies, after the pomp and the ceremonies…
If you speak to anyone about me, they will say I maintained consistency from day 1 to present. I believe, honesty, that is always the guide that you should start with. In terms of the type of leader I am. I’m a hands-on person. If it means rolling the sleeves up and getting in and helping mix the mortar to put up the walls, that’s the type of leader I am. I love that I can take what I understand, take my knowledge, and transfer it to other persons.
One of the stories that I love about this journey is that I’m one that spots talent. Take Meryln Horsford, for example. When she started off in Customer Care I was able to train and mentor her. She is now one of the HRBs in regional support.
Abigale Thomas started off in sales. She moved into products when I was managing and was trained, supported, mentored and pushed into another role.
So you’re a leader who puts people first?
Open door or closed door?
It’s an open door, all points in time. Come in and have a talk about with me about anything.
You came from Birch Grove and you mentioned Birch Grove all the time. How has your preparation growing up in Birch Grove helped you for this job? Were you responsible for the animals, were you responsible for cooking? Talk to us a little bit about Shrivon.
I grew up in a very close family; it was my mom, my aunt, extended family, living in a household; very God-fearing women and their husbands, always went to church on Sundays. I was even part of the junior choir, you know; the typical catholic journey. So I think all these, like the basics of understanding God first, honesty first, speaking the truth, understanding who to trust, stuff like that was imbedded from a very young age.
Are you a trained leader or a born leader?
I don’t know.
I was born to lead.
I don’t know if that’s true, though; because in terms of identifying your purpose in life, I think sometimes it takes some people a longer time to establish what their purpose is.
Leading is just a side-effect of who I am. I take people into consideration; I naturally want to hold people under my wings, to show them how to do things, or to guide them, or if anybody needs advice on anything, I’m always an open ear. I think it’s just seen as the side-effect and then it’s assumed that I’m the leader; but I don’t think it’s one or the other.
What would be your message to Grenadian women who are in a job and are aspiring to grow into leadership?
Be brave! Take a leap of faith. Don’t just sit waiting for it to come to you – it probably will never happen. It’s not just about the job, it’s about everything in life. You have to understand your purpose. You have to understand the direction you see yourself in, probably 2 years from now, 10 years from now, and take a leap of faith and do it. Take the risk. Prove it.
Will the CEO position change you at all? Leadership and power change a lot of people. This power, this leadership, how would it change you?
I’m more concerned about how it should change the people around me as I remain consistent and committed to my core values. Power or authority will not change me, as an individual. It will allow me to see that there is a vision for the persons around me also. I’m now in the perfect position to make change and impact other persons in a positive way. So that’s what I will be doing.
Outside of Digicel, who are you and what do you do?
I love the beach. Let me just be clear: I love to go to the beach but not necessarily to swim. I love to swim, too, but I love to reflect. I love being close to water. I find it very calming. So I would go to Grand Anse Beach and literally just sit listening to the ocean, while enjoying the sand on my feet. I love my family, I love being around them. Every weekend I will go up to Birch Grove and have lunch, either at my aunt’s house or my mom’s house, and spending time with my nieces and nephews. That’s who I am.
Birch Grove is close to nature; I understand why you’re close to nature.
I love nature. It won’t be odd if you find me hugging a tree.