STANDING OUT

Jamaica 2019 | IT & BPO | INTERVIEW

The biggest factor behind Sutherland's success in Jamaica is its resolute focus on its employees, pushing them to consistently deliver against expectations.

Odetta Rockhead-Kerr
BIOGRAPHY
A senior executive with 20 years of entrepreneurial experience, Odetta Rockhead-Kerr has been Country Head and Associate VP at Sutherland Global Services since its inception in Jamaica in 2012. She spearheaded Sutherland’s entry into Jamaica by establishing four locations in four years. She led the charge in establishing an award-winning business model where students of the UWI are employed at the Sutherland UWI location. Philanthropic initiatives that certify close to 2,000 youths with Microsoft Literacy, and education intervention programs are among other initiatives she has led. Prior to Sutherland, she spent 15 years at Xerox. As Xerox’s VP, she managed operations in Jamaica, Africa, the US, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico.

How do you maintain such a diversified portfolio of industries?

We use different models of ownership, such as ownership based on a geographic region, vertical ownership based on the type of business, and horizontal ownership according to the necessary support. For example, the retail vertical has subject matter experts responsible for all of Sutherland's retail. They know what is going on in the industry, can recommend solutions, and make predictive analysis to identify opportunities to move forward. The retail business in Jamaica, meanwhile, has a separate structure, which we call the geography, and that focuses on the employees who fall under that retail client's portfolio, the profitability, day-to-day operations, and client relationships in horizontal or vertical partnerships. This structure is not uncommon across companies of this size, allowing us to effectively manage multiple sectors.

How would you describe the main strategy behind your customer approach?

The strategy starts with our people, who are our most important resource. To me, there are three stakeholders in the BPO business: the people, who are the most important; clients; and profitability, whether it is for a shareholder in a public company or equity partners in a private company. If a company's employees are committed, happy, and engaged, they will deliver consistent high-end performance, which is what clients seek.

What are the reasons behind the company's success in Jamaica?

We have grown because our employees have been able to consistently deliver against expectations. Moreover, the economic environment and legal framework make Jamaica attractive for FDI, and the island's close proximity to North America allows us to serve clients at lower costs. Our success truly boils down to the quality of service that our employees have been delivering consistently, which enables us to retain our client base. Moreover, since Jamaica is the third-largest English speaking country in the region, we stand out from a language perspective.

How is Sutherland aligned with the government's plans to develop Jamaica as a main logistics hub?

The minute we heard logistics hub, one of our executives got excited and wanted to assist the government in making it a reality. We have invested in learning and training experts to develop a curriculum for a first degree in logistics. In fact, we are currently working with local universities to offer this degree because based on where we see the business going from a BPO perspective, logistics, fulfilment centers, and assembly centers are the next natural step for Jamaica.

What do you expect with your relationships with Portmore College and University of West Indies?

We are still in the process of working with universities to finalize some of the programs; however, they are extremely receptive. It will be a challenge for this industry if we do not get ahead of it in a proactive manner; in the coming years, there will be people interested in working in outsourcing who will need to have outsourcing qualifications. Furthermore, we have to differentiate ourselves by taking the lead; this pertains to preparing talent and making sure the industry is attractive enough to interest that talent. This will prevent us from getting to a point where business is booming without being able to fulfil the demand or supply of the talent, not only at an entry level but also at a leadership level.

What are your goals for 2019?

For 2019, we are still focused on growing, and while our headcount growth will not be the same, considering our focus on higher tiered work, we expect continuous revenue growth. The second focus will be meeting our employee's expectations; we plan to invest in our professionals so that they can see improvement in their professional careers as well as their personal lives. We want to help reduce unemployment, and my mission has always been to create a better Jamaica. From a client perspective, we would like all our clients to become promoters of our business.