Final Five

with Cecile Watson, founder of Pitch & Choose Ltd.

Cecile Watson graduated from the University of the West Indies in Trinidad as one of only eight women in a class of about 200. In 2013, Watson created the organization Pitch & Choose Ltd., a social enterprise that hosts crowdfunding for Caribbean-based projects and causes on behalf of nonprofit organizations. Watson, who once worked as an industrial engineer, also serves as the Caribbean Region Ambassador for Women Entrepreneurship Day, a global movement that celebrates and empowers women entrepreneurs. Cecile Watson

How did your background in industrial engineering influence your enterprise?

In my first job as an industrial engineer, I worked in a manufacturing plant building radio frequency interference filters. I was required to examine filter designs and samples and work out what I needed in place to manufacture it at the plant. I also worked out the balancing of the production line and what training, if any, was necessary. This reverse engineering methodology was the same approach that I used to build out the business model from concept to implementation.

You have ventured into many types of careers; do you credit industrial engineering as being a catalyst?

I have repeatedly drawn on the knowledge, methodologies and discipline I learned during my time as an engineer. Looking back, I also note that during my career, the roles that I took were always uncharted and required that I take charge to design the job to deliver the impact required. Job by job and role by role, these experiences took me into the knowledge and confidence that I had the breadth, the depth and the capacity to lead and innovate. Pitch & Choose Ltd. is therefore one of the outcomes of that processing.

You were one of only eight women in your class of a group of about 200. How did this prepare you moving forward in your career?

Without a doubt when it came to engineering, we women were equals in the classroom. On leaving that training ground, I graduated with a first class honors in electrical engineering, which was a metric that told me that I could hold my own amongst any gender in the field. I also left not expecting or giving any thought that gender could limit my opportunities. I was wrong, of course. But in recent years, it has led me into more actively working on initiatives to foster an enabling environment to empower women.

What advice would you give women who are looking to further their career?

Everything you will learn in the classroom is the easy part. Take the time to decide on your beliefs and the standards to which you will hold yourself. Learn to embrace challenges because some of your most difficult ones will house your greatest opportunities. Listen to your instinct and learn how to trust it. And ultimately, the one thing that has served me well is to know my metrics, because what gets tracked gets done.

How did industrial engineering prepare you for the challenges you would face outside of the engineering world?

Engineering as a whole has a very strong reputation in the field of business because the transferrable skills and methodologies are increasingly being drawn on to facilitate innovation and to improve business results. So being that rare engineer in a business setting, I have had the benefit of overseeing significant organization change projects. In the long run, these opportunities collectively equipped me to launch out as an entrepreneur.

– Interview by David Brandt  

David Brandt is the Web managing editor for IIE.