By Elvin Carl Croker
TWO years ago, at the tender age of 25, Mariska Jordan took on the herculean task of Business Development Manager for Ramps Logistics.
When she took up the offer she did so in the midst of a bitter separation from her husband and the challenge of taking care of her five-year-old son.
Today, after just two years of exceptional performance, this young bright Guyanese woman has performed her duties in such magnanimous proportions that her seniors have imposed much confidence in her and have entrusted in her the responsibilities of the organisation’s sister company, Eldorado Offshore; which therefore sees her managing both companies.
This 27-year-old young lady is not intimidated by her fellow professional men and women in the industry, who tower way above her in age, but uses their experiences as learning tools.
Addressing a room of women at the Business Expo recently, Mariska told the audience that she appreciates the fact that women can stand and speak openly and freely because around the world it is not possible for a lot of women.
“We as women hold ourselves down a lot. If we don’t take account and responsibility for the things that we can change, we will never move farther than where we are,” the young executive said.
Mariska attributes her success to here critical factors. The first is confidence; the second is being able to balance work and family; and finally, the need to overcome peer inequality.
Explaining what she meant by these, she said that for confidence, she had to learn it and believe in herself that she deserved to sit at the table. “I hold this very close to me because while my mom or everybody could tell me how good I am at my job if I don’t believe it within myself, it’s not going to make a difference,” she said.
She said that being given the task of managing the Ramps Logistics shipping company in 2017, which caters mostly to the oil and gas industry, was a challenge but took the opportunity.
“In that moment I knew I needed to learn and learn fast, because this was a fast-moving industry and if I don’t learn fast, then I’m going to get left behind and I already have an opportunity to sit at the table and I’m already in these meetings now I need to prove that I deserve to be there,” she said.
She said she started researching more on the industry itself and the logistics.
“If I knew I had a meeting with a particular client, I would research what the company did so that at least I can put in a few words until I can actually speak the language,” she said with a smile.
This she said helped her and gave her the confidence she needed.
After starting to understand more about the industry, Mariska said she found a love for interacting with different peoples on different levels and it gave her an appreciation of being a part of something that’s new.
“While I knew nothing about oil and gas or logistics, nothing on customs brokerage, I had joined the company at that point in my life when I had a five-year-old son. I was now separated from my husband and I felt low, but I used this as an opportunity to rise from the ashes, to rewrite my story,” she said.
The brave and always smiling young lady said that the first few weeks in the company she grooved into the company events, sitting in meetings with CEOs of multinational companies.
She said that the Oil and gas industry has the lowest percentage of women employed which is about 25% percent but as of 2017 it went down to 17 percent of women in different positions.
The statistic of women CEOs in fortune 500 companies is 4.8 percent (25 total) as of 2018.
“Only in 2016, the first female CEO was appointed, so I am in an industry that’s predominantly men but I’m not intimidated by it. If anything, it makes me want to work harder, want to be more focused to show I can do this; to show I can break barriers, breaking down walls. I deserve to be here,” Mariska said.
She said she started studying the women in the industry noting that if she already had women showing her how they did it, she needed to know about them; how they did it and what they did because she knows they’ve had a few trial and errors and if she knows that, it can help her in giving perspective and the path she needs to take.
Striking a balance
Speaking to her second point of balancing work and family, she said that being a professional woman and being a single mother is difficult because she feels like she needs to overcompensate and to be at everything.
“I have missed a few swimming lessons, I have missed cricket, I have even forgotten to give my son lunch a few times but all in all I learnt and I had to find a balance. Now I am learning to find that balance between work and family and one of the most important lessons I learned is that I am important,” she said.
She said that spending time with family is different and that she needs to spend time with herself.
The young professional said that she started waking up an hour earlier, making her coffee, reading the news and mentally preparing herself for the day ahead before her son got up or before anything else.
“I started yoga which was exceptional because, within that hour, I stopped answering my phone, that time was my time, I stayed dedicated to it and I found that I was better at my job, I was better at prioritising what I needed because I now knew what was important to me. I know the functions I needed to say no to and I know the things I had to say yes to and I made it my priority,” she said.
She drove home the point that the key is not to prioritise your schedule but to schedule your priorities and she pointed out that she saw her priorities as herself, her family and her job.
And in explaining her final point of the need to overcome pain and inequality, she said that women should desist from undervaluing themselves.
She said when a woman gets a job she would grab at the first offer because it sounds good, but she cautioned that a woman should do the homework to know the people in the industry in the same position and make comparisons to what they’re offering you.
Sharing her experience she said that on one occasion her CEO informed her that they wanted here to be one of the directors of a new company they are opening. While in the discussion, she said that he told her that she will get an assistant since she will need extra help, but it was only when he began talking about salaries and spoke about what salary her assistant would receive, that her manager realised that she would be making only US$50 more than her assistant.
“Haven been at the company for over a year I never revisited the conversation on salaries,” she said. “Even though I got the responsibilities I never revisited the fact that I need some more money because I’m bringing more to the table,” she contended, driving home the point that a lot of times women are in a position where they feel what they get is good, sounds good, but they need to know what their value is.
She called on women to have that confidence not to be scared to go back and address salaries. Mariska said she is thankful to the men in her company and applaud them for supporting her. Men like her CEO and the Rams family, among others.
She boasted of now representing the company on boards like the American Chamber of Commerce and sitting as one of the few female directors on that board. She also represents the company at Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), at the shipping association and many others.
She did not fail to shower praise and thanks to what she describes as the ‘phenomenal woman’ that raised her, her mother Sonia Noel, and also her sister who she says believed in her and always keeps her going.
Mariska says she is driven by a Michal Angelou quote which says “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your gold; instead, pursue the things you love doing.”