A Short Chat with Michelle Higgins: 5 minutes with Women in Corporate

April 06, 2021

Michelle Higgins is the Learning & Development, Change & Talent Manager – Sagicor Group Jamaica

AW: What was your first job?

MH: I landed my first job at 16 years old when I went to St Thomas to spend summer holidays with my eldest sister. I worked that summer at the St Thomas Parish Library where I was given the job of preparing the children who were entering the Jamaica Library Service's National Reading Competition. I had to read all the books and prepare questions for each of the three age categories, the six to eight, nine to 11, and the 12 to 14 age groups. I grew up reading a lot, so this job was very fulfilling to me and I enjoyed working with the kids.

AW: What would you say is your best career achievement to date?

MH: I have a few and they remain best because they occurred at different stages of my life. But there are two specific achievements of which I'm most proud. When I graduated from the University of Technology, Jamaica, I got a teaching job at White Horses Primary School in St Thomas where I taught grade four students. I hold this experience dear to my heart as I got the opportunity to transform lives and to make a difference in the lives of children. At first, I remember going home to my parents (who were teachers) and complaining that it was too hard for me and in short, my mother taught me how to teach from my heart and not just from the books. I gave my all to that job and I eventually got the output that I needed from the children. It wasn't easy, but I positively impacted the lives of some very special children, an experience I will never forget.

The second one worthy of mention is having developed and implemented the Sagicor Pro-Millennial Mentorship Society. This is an exclusive society for our Sagicor millennial team members to receive customised professional development through interactive training and real-world problem-solving. This mentorship programme embraces a more collaborative, group approach to mentorship, moving away from more traditional one-on-one programmes. Since its implementation we have received accolades from the Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica and the 2019 Optimas Silver Award for Vision. I am very proud of these accomplishments.

AW: When would you say you have worked the hardest?

MH: If I must pinpoint one specific time, I would say it had to be a time when a company I was working with was going through some changes and we were told we had to do “more with less”. I was the training officer, change management and communications officer, and I worked closely with our human resource business partner on other ad hoc projects. I never had time to “scratch my head” and twenty-four hours was just not enough time for me. I was planning and preparing for trainings, executing on the planned trainings, doing the administrative activities for training, and at the same time I was even busier executing on numerous change management plans, developing critical path documents, change and communication plans and a whole lot of other change management activities. But you know what, I enjoyed it. I was learning, I was connecting with team members across the company, I was producing high-quality work and I was beginning to build brand Michelle and it was a great feeling to know how well I knew the business and the team members. It was a bit of a roller coaster ride, but I had fun.

AW: What is your go to place/thing/quote for inspiration/motivation?

MH: My go to place is home. I really enjoy going home to my husband and our son. My two boys as I call them are my biggest fans; they are supportive, encouraging and they motivate and inspire me to take on the next big challenge and constantly reassure me that in spite of the nature of the challenge, failure is not an option and I must always view challenges as an opportunity to make a difference, add value and be impactful. I believe I am a realist, I tend to accept situations as they are, and I am okay with adjusting the sails when the wind blows too hard. My inspiration quote is “work hard, dream BIG, never give up.”

AW: What is your advice to young women who are looking to pursue a career in the corporate world?

MH: The corporate world is very fast-paced, dynamic and ever-changing. My advice to young women who are looking to pursue a career in the corporate world is to work hard at building a portfolio of skills and experiences and this doesn't have to be achieved through changing jobs. We can grow in our roles; for example, by taking on new responsibilities, getting involved in projects, or cross-training in other areas. The corporate world is filled with many talented men and women, so you have to be deliberate about building your corporate brand. Go outside your comfort zone, not just once in a while, but every day,and become known as someone who can learn quickly. I truly believe learning is the new currency in the future of work.