Coming to a new country and starting over is difficult for anyone. In her new memoir Finally Reid: The Extraordinary Testimonies of an Ordinary Woman, Marcia Reid recounts her journey from Jamaica to the US in the early 1980s. Since then, she’s traveled around the world, graduated from college, and launched a career that has her now working for IPG, one of the world’s hugest advertising, marketing, and public relations companies.
We sent Reid a few questions via email to get a little more insight into her life and times.
Madame Noire: You talk about your life in Jamaica as a relatively carefree one. You worked, shopped, made friends. Yet you decided to come to the US to work and study in New York. Why?
Marcia Reid: There were several reasons for coming to the US. Number one was the socio-economic reason. In Jamaica, the US was known as the “Land of Opportunity” where you have limitless career opportunities and can gain financial wealth at a faster pace. I got the opportunity to shop even more, and it was easier to pursue a college degree here. It was also an excellent opportunity to get away from my very strict upbringing.
MN: It was 1982. What was the experience like coming to the US from Jamaica at 22 years old at that time?
MR: It was amazing, exciting, and scary. Everything was huge and complex compared to what I was accustomed to on a small island. This was the first time I left home and had no directions or money. I spent most of the money I had within two weeks of my arrival. It was the end of August and I went on a shopping spree, not knowing that the reason that clothes were inexpensive was because the season was changing. I soon found out that most of the clothes that I bought could only be worn for another month or so, as it was getting colder. I had not even bought a winter coat, so I needed to find a job real fast.
As I pounded the pavement of New York City daily in search of a job, I soon realized that without the “New York experience” and the coveted green card, the only jobs available to me included house cleaning, baby sitting, or posing nude. In my book, I write about staying with a friend’s mother, sleeping on a pull-out bed in her living room and how I was eventually able to find a great opportunity at a luxury cruise line.
MN: By 1989, you were a mom, had traveled the world, were married and separated, owned an apartment, and had decided to focus on your college studies while working full-time. How did all of that help (or hinder) your focus on your studies?
MR: While all of this made it extremely challenging at the time, I became very focused on my studies. My son was born in 1989 and my life was spinning out of control. I was separated, buried under a mountain of debt and trying to balance motherhood, work and school. It was especially difficult, as I was going to school full-time and working full-time but I was determined to stay focused on my studies. I knew that a college degree would be advantageous to advancing my career so that I could be in a better financial position and provide a better future for my child.
MN: By the end of the book, you’ve got degrees from New York University and Columbia University and you’ve moved from Florida back to the New York area. You’re now the Director of Diversity Management at IPG. Please describe your job and the challenges of promoting diversity at a large company.
MR: My role as Director of Diversity and Inclusion is to help my company become one of the most diverse and inclusive companies operating in business. This is a commitment that IPG takes very seriously, and I work closely with our HR and business leaders across our network of agencies and corporate offices to develop and execute programs that focus on recruitment, retention and development. I help educate our employees about the changing demographics and its impact on our business, our workforce, and our marketplace. I work closely with our Business Resource Groups in the U.S. as well as the Women’s Leadership Networks in Australia, India, China and London. I also launched a mentoring program, lead a fellowship program of young professionals, manage our relationships with schools, and oversee our annual Diversity and Inclusion survey that goes out to all our US employees.
MN: How do your life experiences impact how you perform your job?
MR: My life experiences make me passionate about the work that I do. I can better relate to employees that are similar or different from me in the workplace because of my diverse background. I understand some of the challenges they face and can provide more suitable solutions and resources to create a more inclusive work environment, where everyone can feel engaged and perform at their best to achieve our goal.