OCEAN Style Executive Lounge Interviews: Shida Bolai
Occupation: Chief Executive Officer Caribbean Communications Network Limited
Family: Husband Roger, daughters Sabrina and Stephanie and son Jonathan
Shida Bolai grew up in rural Trinidad in a traditional household. Her grandparents first arrived in Trinidad as indentured servants and by the family’s third generation in Trinidad, she had distinguished herself by reaching the upper levels of the highly competitive media industry in the Caribbean. Shida’s career spans over 30 years in the media industry, at both operational and executive levels across all media platforms, including press, television, radio and the internet. She possesses a proven track record of success and has played a pivotal role in the development and growth of the organization. Under her stewardship, CCN TV6 has been able to maintain its market dominance for the last 14 years. Other key positions held at the CCN Group were, General Manager – Trinidad Express Newspapers, Group Sales Manager – CCN and Advertising Manager -Trinidad Express Newspapers. At present, she sits on the Board of Directors of the Caribbean Communications Network Ltd, Tobago News, Trinidad & Tobago Publishers & Broadcasters Association and Starcom Network of Barbados. She currently holds the position of Vice President of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union and also sits on the Boards of Little Carib Theatre and Express Children’s Fund.
Executive Lounge: Can you tell us about your childhood so we get to know you better?
Shida: I was raised in rural Trinidad in a small village called San Pedro. I went to primary and high school there. There was my Momand my Dad and five girls and a boy and I was the youngest child. It was a very simple lifestyle. I had to walk 3 -4 miles to school back and forth. It was very community oriented. In the country everybody looked out for each other. That was a big difference in coming into an urban area. My mother was a housewife and my father was a teacher. He taught for a number of years and then he got sick and retired. My mother was very strong in the family. She looked out for us and made sure that we had all that we needed to make it in life. My mother’s parents were first generation indentured laborers who came to Trinidad from India. I only knew one of my grandparents on my maternal side. That was my grandfather and he spoke pure Hindi.
Executive Lounge: How was your father able to get an education and become a teacher?
Shida: He was a student under the Christian Church. There was a big issue with him changing his religion.
Executive Lounge: Did your parents place a high value on education?
Shida: They did. They made sure that we went to school – at least through secondary. I did not go to the university. I came straight to Port of Spain after my father died to find a job. But through the years I have tried to keep up with my courses and I started a Masters program and I am about half way through but I have to get back to it.
Executive Lounge: How about your brothers and sisters. Where are they today and what do they do?
Shida: They are all married now and have families. Basically they remain in the country. My sisters became housewives. They live in a rural community and that is the typical lifestyle. I guess I escaped (laughs). I wanted to see what life was like outside of those rural communities.
Executive Lounge: What motivates you?
Shida: Making things happen at work and at home. You have responsibilities both at work and to run a successful household. I am motivated to make both my work and my home successful. You have to make things happen at work and you have to make things happen at home. When your children are involved in music and athletics you have to be organized to make sure everyone gets to where they need to be to do what they need to do. For example, my son was on the national water polo team before he went off to university so you know making things happen like that for them. Apart from that, you need to think about where you want your personal life to be – where you want your family to be. Just like at the office I set some personal goals; some financial goals. I have a diary and at the start of a new year I would write things down. Where I want to be in my career, where I want my children to be. I would go to my children and find out where they want to be to get their lives organized. I like to write things down. That way I can refer to it to see if I am making progress.
Executive Lounge: Do you consider yourself successful? Why or why not?
Shida: Yes. Everybody defines success in their own way. To me it is being a good mother, good wife and financial independence.
Executive Lounge: What would you say are the three major reasons for your success?
Shida: Focus and goal oriented, hard work, learning fast
Executive Lounge: What would you say are the three biggest challenges in the Media sector in Trinidad/Tobago?
Shida: Declining revenue, technology and talent pool.
Executive Lounge: What are the particular challenges regarding the talent pool these days?
Shida: With the newspaper you have to constantly be looking for good writers and it takes time to develop talent and it requires good nurturing. In Trinidad we have a well developed media industry. There is television, radio and newspaper so there is constant competition for the best talent so you have to constantly be looking for ways to expand that talent pool. I don’t see young people rushing to embrace journalism as a career anymore.
Executive Lounge: What do you see as the key success factors for your business?
Shida: Relevance to readers, viewers advertising, change and adapting to new media technology, meeting the needs of our customers
Executive Lounge: What is your major form of communication business-wise and in personal communication?
Shida: The internet and cell phone.
Executive Lounge: The Information Technology (IT) world has affected everything. What and how has the IT world affected your company and how has your company benefited from it the most?
Shida: The biggest challenge and opportunity is the Internet, easy access to information, news and entertainment. The Express website is ranked third in the region and continues to grow as a revenue as a new business opportunity.
Executive Lounge: What was your first key business transaction and when or how early in your career did that happen?
Shida: Developing and executing a direct strategy for growing revenues in the Express.
Executive Lounge: What would you consider your most significant business accomplishment? What is your mostsignificant personal accomplishment?
Shida: Expansion of the Express into a 24/7 operation – both printing and publishing. Personal – my children and preparing them for life.
Executive Lounge: What person influenced you most through life and how?
Shida: My mother, she had a saying for every experience. I remember them today and apply them to different challenges and accomplishments in my life.
Executive Lounge: What were some of your Mother’s favorite sayings that have stuck with you?
Shida: She was fond of saying that you get out of life what you put in and I believe that is true. She believed that if you put good things in you would get good things out.
Executive Lounge: Which famous person – dead or alive – would you like to have dinner with and why?
Shida: Nelson Mandela. He is really an icon. I think we are privileged to be living in the same time he is living in. I did have an opportunity to meet him when he came to Trinidad. There was a function when he was here trying to get support for the World Cup. We were one of the sponsors and he gave a speech. He was very frail. I also went to South Africa and visited the prison where he was held and chatted with some of the guards. There was one there that was in prison at the same time that Mandela was interred, and he spoke about the tremendous respect and admiration that even the people that were guarding him had for him. What he achieved with taking on Apartheid is a real phenomenon. To have survived all of that and still be alive today is wonderful.
Shida’s Top 10 Favorites Things
My kids and husband, spicy food, travel, work, chocolates, reading, running, liming with friends, life in the country, North Coast of Trinidad
Shida’s Other Favorites
Airport – Miami
Travel Accessory – A good book
iPhone or Blackberry? – Blackberry
Hotel – Hilton; anywhere
Place for Shopping – Miami
Automobile – Honda
Cocktail – Champagne
Decadent Indulgence – Chocolate and homemade ice cream