For Maxine

Elaine Thompson, a long time friend and colleague of mine, who attended the book launch last night, posted this note today to me. Thanks Elaine. It is always wonderful to feel your support.
Hans, Martin and I attended the book launch yesterday of my closest and longest lasting professional friend, Maxine Attong.

We started off in the trenches in November 1990, while the city of Port of Spain was still reeling after the looting and devastation which came in the aftermath of the 1990 terrorist attack . The fact that the event was held in the shadow of the Red House, which was ground zero for the attack, was not lost upon me. Neither was the recent death of Mr. Michael Mansoor, who passed away this month, and was the financial comptroller of McEnearney Alstons Ltd while we were there.

The concept of as safe space created by a leader in the workplace is absolutely a conversation which we need to have, especially as accountants. I have not managed to read the entire book yet, as I only bought my copy yesterday, but from the first chapters which I read immediately after buying a copy yesterday, I think that this concept is particularly overlooked in the work space of today. So often do we blindly follow in the traditions of authoritarianism which were passed down through the generations of managers and Directors. The first question which Maxine asked , back in the Training room on 69 Independence Square, where we spent the first week in training lead by the Human Resource Director and his team was “Why is it so quiet here?” It was a bombshell of a question, and as we sat around the horseshoe seating, all of us, Trainees and trainers alike were at a loss for words. Mr. Gordon Draper, Human Resource Director of the McEnearney Alstons Group who was in charge of the session, managed to answer.

Maxine embodied all that was young and gifted at the time – we were reminded that over 200 people had applied for the 16 internships sitting around the training room. She was never afraid to challenge the status quo, and the fact that she has decided to follow her natural inclination to teach and coach is not surprising. It is important that the insights which she shares are informed by her grounding in finance and the rigours of the profession. Twenty years ago I was at her graduation from the Certified management Accountant course which she began while we were management trainees. Human resource professionals are in a sense generalists – in the trenches of Accounting and Finance lurk certain peculiar monsters which can only be understood by being in the trenches. This book, in fact, I consider should be required reading by Human resource professionals.

A lot of the stoicism which I see in Maxine reminds me of her mother, who was in attendance– if we are a composite of our experiences and our caregivers, then I hope that what is reflected of Mrs. Janet Attong in Maxine is pleasing to both of them.

I was strangely reminded of a poem we studied for “A” Levels – Ulysses by Alfred , Lord Tennyson, which ends thus:

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield
Who supports you?

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