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A composite image of Rosalee Gordon as a child and as an adult.

Letter to My Younger Self: Rosalee Gordon

As part of a series of letters from Barclays leaders, Rosalee Gordon, Deputy Chief Operating Officer for the Americas, tells her childhood self how much growing up as a country girl in Jamaica will influence her life – and why it’s so important to “give back”.

Dear Rosalee,

You’ve spent a joyous childhood in the countryside in Jamaica, part of a tight-knit community where you feel safe, protected and loved. You have a whole bunch of cousins, and you do everything together. Later in life, that will make teamwork and collaboration come very naturally to you.

Your maternal grandmother is, and will forever be, your North Star. Your family is not rich, but she always finds a way to give to others, whether it’s fruit from your grandparents’ farm or some words of encouragement. She’ll teach you that giving back is not a slogan: it’s what you do. This will inspire you throughout your life.

Leaving your friends and family to move to America when you’re a teenager will be a challenge. You’ll worry about whether you’ll fit in – and how you’ll cope with New York City winters after having lived in year-round heat! But you’re pragmatic and you know there’ll be greater opportunities for you and your siblings in the US. You’ve always been intellectually curious, so you’ll seize the opportunity to explore things beyond what you’re used to.

A portrait of Barclays’ Deputy Chief Operating Officer for the Americas, Rosalee Gordon.

Rosalee says she has “always been intellectually curious”.

Your childhood dream of becoming a lawyer won’t happen. Instead, you’ll get into banking by accident, when looking for a job to get you through university. The bank down the street will offer shifts for a teller which fit with your school schedule. You’ll fall in love with the rigour that banking requires and the way it interconnects with the economy. 

During your career, you’ll be fortunate to have great mentors and sponsors and people who help guide your career. You will also have the good fortune to manage teams of people in seven cities across six different countries – including Boston, London and Tokyo. But your most formative experience will happen back in New York on 9/11, when, through your office window, you will see the second plane fly into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. That experience will lead to a mindset shift in you, making you more empathetic, allowing you to think more widely and encouraging you to be more open to possibilities.

The joy of your life will be your son. Even though you can’t carry a note to save your life, he’ll play the bass clarinet beautifully, and you’ll be the proud mum at the marching band performances and concerts. Together, you’ll carry forward your grandmother’s values, donating time and energy to a number of charities, including food pantries.

Whatever you’re doing now, speak up. Don’t be afraid to be wrong. Also – and this is important – don’t listen to your mother, who tells you to work hard but never talk about it. You have to advocate for yourself. Take credit for your work – you’ve earned it, and it helps promote visibility for others. 

Always remember where you came from. It’s only in looking back that you’ll realise just how precious your childhood as a country girl in Jamaica was. Most of all, stay curious – about others and yourself.

Your desire to learn will propel you forward.

Rosalee

Need to now

Rosalee Gordon is Barclays’ Deputy Chief Operating Officer for the Americas – a “broad” role involving management of the bank’s operating functions across the Americas. Outside of work, she volunteers with her son, supporting several organisations with food collections and donations across their community in New Jersey, US. She is a mentor, an avid reader and a self-proclaimed “sci-fi buff”.