A mother of two sons, Anya Whitfield prides herself on being a devoted mom and, as she so proudly put it, her husband’s number one fan and supporter.
A certified chartered accountant, Anya has been the Operations Manager at Mediazone Productions Inc for the past four years. She once dreamed of becoming a model and actually gained some experience in that field during her latter days at St. Joseph’s Convent, and later as a student at Sir Arthur Lewis Community College. While this might lead one to think that she was your typical teenage girl with fairy tale dreams of living the life of a virtual princess, her career aspirations were nothing typical for a girl back then. It was certainly an unconventional choice given the stereotypical views people in small societies like ours tend to have of women’s role in the workplace.
Dazzle had the pleasure of speaking with Mrs. Whitfield to learn more about this driving force behind Mediazone Production who has shown herself to be one of those ambitious young female professionals striving to shatter glass ceilings while balancing work and family life.
Dazzle: As a youth growing up, what were your aspirations?
Anya: I didn’t have any of the conventional career aspirations, say to become a doctor, lawyer or teacher. I developed a love for information technology at secondary school with math as my second favorite subject. So after secondary school I knew that I wanted a career in the field of IT.
Dazzle: How would you describe your current line of work and what does it entail?
Anya: My current line of work is very complex. As the Operations Manager at Mediazone Productions, I handle the core areas of finance, administration, human resources and the overall strategic management of all the other areas.
While her portfolio is wide ranging, Anya wouldn’t call herself an expert in the field as media communications is not the discipline she formally pursued. In fact, she humbly says she is far from an expert but she is learning a lot in order to get the job done effectively. As a chartered accountant, she is able to perform the finance and administrative duties more naturally than the media aspect of the work.
Her career journey started when she matriculated in computer science and accounting at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill campus in Barbados. She then transferred to the St. Augustine campus for the remaining two years, but unfortunately she had to forgo her double major and continue with a major in computer science with management studies. On the bright side, a few management electives afforded her an opportunity to enroll in some accounting courses. However, fate would have Anya transfer her credits from St. Augustine back to the Cave Hill campus to obtain her BSc. in information technology.
She got her first break with PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was in fact the very last place she considered applying for a job with an IT degree. The interview came as a surprise given that the organization is fundamentally an accounting firm.
Anya: I went to the interview wondering why they would be interested in someone with my qualifications. The managing director explained that ever so often in his yearly recruits he looks for people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields, and that year I was one of two successful candidates who fit that profile. I was happy to be in an accounting environment, which had always been a goal of mine.
She was hired as a financial auditor and within five years was given the opportunity to learn IT auditing through the partner firm in Barbados, thus becoming the first female certified information systems auditor in Saint Lucia.
Her career literally and figuratively took flight as she travelled the region with the Trinidad office doing IT audits, and in the Saint Lucia firm, became the auditor responsible for IT audits in partnership with the Trinidad and Barbados IT offices. From there she went on to become the group IT auditor at East Caribbean Financial Holdings (ECFH) for two and a half years, following which she decided to join and support her husband at Mediaz
one, after the birth of her second son.
Dazzle: As a young female professional what trials have you faced and how did you overcome them?
Anya: When I decided to get some external help with some of the challenges we were experiencing as it relates to HR, we were trying to assess why things were as they were. It was brought to my attention that I have to realize I am a young woman in a management position and there are things that you may not be able to get away with that my husband or another male counterpart would. So gender bias has posed its challenges as well as age. And I still never paid much attention to it but it led to some introspection. I don’t let it be a hindrance to what I have to do.
Anya credits her experience in media for teaching her valuable life skills, including temperance and patience because the media business is challenging and dynamic. Managing employees who have other responsibilities has been her greatest challenge and at times it takes precedence over her work plan. Bearing in mind working in the media is not a 9-5 job, it is critical to consider the staff first and strategize how the work gets done.
Dazzle: Being a mother is a life-long commitment. How do you balance motherhood, caring for your family and being a young professional who’s always on the go?
Anya: While it may be a lot, I believe that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. It’s always difficult doing time management that is needed to juggle everything. Being a mom is the most taxing job, so having a good support system helps.
The advantage is that I do have the flexibility since I work for myself, so that also helps. Sometimes I wonder if I would be able to cope if I still had an 8-5 job. I am sure I would because many others before me and after me do and get it done. I try to manage knowing that these are young people that I have to take the time to mold into productive citizens, so I know I have to invest the time now. It consumes you but only to the extent you allow it to. I organize everything in my head and as much as my desk may not look organized right now, there is a method to the madness and my auditing skills come in handy.
Also, knowing that I am supporting my husband’s dream… because at the end of the day his dream is the survival of our family. Even though I am qualified enough to land myself a very good job, supporting his dream allows me the flexibility to handle family duties, so it works out for everybody.
Dazzle: How have your contributions to Mediazone elevated the quality of the company?
Anya: I can probably point to the fact that I ensure everything we do internally and externally, is to ensure the maintenance of a high quality brand. From the implementation of internal policies and procedures, and the creation of a formal operating structure that exists at well managed organizations. It’s a work in progress, and to achieve that, it’s always a team effort.
Dazzle: What sets Mediazone apart from the rest of the competition?
Anya: We’re a full-service media production company. Our quality, our team, our experience – all combined sets us apart. We provide audio-video production at a very professional level and we compete on merit, meaning this is what we are capable of, this is what we can do, and we are hired based on that. We offer graphics design, PR services, and we also do research and marketing work with our partner in the U.S. So we do the research on the ground and they provide the support in terms of the compilation and analysis.
Anya has had quite the journey from her days as a model, to pursuing an education in a unconventional field for women, excelling at her accounting career and now putting family first by supporting her husband in running their own business. So if there was one thing she could have told herself five years ago, what would that be?
Anya: I would tell myself that you will never know how strong you are until you get there. Always ensure that whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability because your professionalism must stand out. When it comes to children, be patient. Your mother also had to be patient with you.
Dazzle: What’s in the future for Anya Whitfield?
Anya: Ensuring that I can play my part, with my team, in taking the company forward.
We wish Anya and her team all the best as she strives to achieve new goals.