Tell us about yourself – your name, company, title, and responsibilities?
My name is Cheryl Griffith. Previously, I worked in the offshore financial services sector where I served as director of technology/middle office and back office for more than 10 years. I have been involved in the development and maintenance of business continuity plans since 2005. I am the founder and lead consultant of BCM Services Inc., a boutique consulting firm that provides business continuity planning and support services to public and private entities in Barbados and across the Caribbean. My focus is on small to medium sized business who have never heard of business continuity and do not have the capacity or resources as large firms do.
How did you get into the business continuity industry?
I had the opportunity to work as part of a business continuity team when we were preparing for Y2K in 1999. This interest evolved into me becoming the business continuity coordinator for the business unit a few years later. As a volunteer with my local district emergency organization, I got exposure to training in damage assessment, shelter management, health and safety, and first aid.
Tell us about some of the challenges you have encountered in your career?
After 19 years, the company closed its operations in Barbados in 2017. After several interviews, I became frustrated as I was told I was too qualified or they couldn’t afford me. I then decided to share my business continuity knowledge by offering my services as a consultant and I founded my company in 2018. I went on a journey to level up my skills set in 2019, as 2020 was going to be my year, and then the unexpected happened … COVID-19.
During the pandemic, suddenly everyone in my country became a business continuity expert, with no experience or education required. This made me feel that the value of my knowledge, expertise, or experience was ignored. I felt discouraged at first, as everyone wanted free advice. Some companies did not have business continuity plans, and many did not know how to move to a work from home strategy. Paying it forward works. As a result, I landed my first big project in 2021 and haven’t looked back since.
Have you had any mentors? Describe the effect they have had on your career.
In my previous job, Yvonne Lewis, director of enterprise business continuity management, was a very supportive mentor to me. She always found time for me and encouraged me to become a CBCP and MBCI. We still keep in touch, although we have both left the company. In this new season of my entrepreneurship, I was fortunate to meet Daman Dev Sood, who is a wealth of knowledge and who I call my teacher/guru. Despite his busy schedule he found time to coach me on my business continuity consultancy journey when I started out. Under his guidance, I gained a variety of knowledge that helped me in every aspect.
What are some lessons learned you still leverage today?
In business continuity we tend to adopt the “expect the unexpected” mindset. After a few months without any job prospects and feeling discouraged, I realized I have an opportunity (which felt more like diving into unchartered waters) to become a BCP consultant. Things don’t always go as you plan so you have to improvise. Being resilient means having the mental ability to recover from a setback. It speaks to how we deal with and manage disappointment, setbacks, and bounce back even stronger. Having a support network also played an important key step in becoming more resilient.
What aspects of working in this industry would you like to see change or evolve?
Business continuity became a buzz word during COVID-19 vs disaster recovery. Disaster recovery is a subset of business continuity planning, where disaster recovery is the process of getting critical IT infrastructure and operations up and running following an outage. Business continuity differs in that it is the process of getting the entire business back to full functionality after a crisis. The language of disaster recovery is outdated and needs to change.
What types of formal training and certifications have you pursued, and what kinds of learning and networking opportunities are you seeking to continue your professional development?
I have a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in leadership. I am a Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP), an Associate Risk Management Professional (ARMP), as well as a Member of the Business Continuity Institute (MBCI). I also make every effort to attend industry conferences, as well as access to podcasts and webinars which are all great tools for networking and keeping abreast of new trends. I recently started reading books by industry leaders who share their experiences and journeys. Last year, I had the opportunity to be one of the SEOC commanders for our national DEO exercise.
What gets you excited about your career?
When you are developing the plan with a client, and you see the light bulb going off as you highlight the risk exposure. Business continuity planning is crucial for their business success at all times, not just during a hurricane or pandemic.
What advice would you give to those embarking on a career in this industry?
The demand for business continuity professionals continues to grow with the frequency and impact of both natural and man-made crises. Those taking that brave step not only require a solid foundational skill set and educational background, but also a commitment to continuous learning and adaptation to the ever-evolving landscape of risks and threats. Having professional certifications, such as the CBCP or CBCI, considerably enhances your credibility and competitiveness in the industry.