Vashti Guyadeen’s journey as the CEO of the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI) is marked by a deep-rooted commitment to empower the service industry in TT and influenced by her faith.
As a Hindu woman, Guyadeen said because she is being guided by principles like
dharma – the pursuit of right duty – she prioritises ethical leadership and actions that serve the greater good.
“The concept of karma – the idea that every action has a reaction – reinforces my focus on the long-term consequences of our strategies and initiatives, rather than seeking immediate but unsustainable gains. It encourages me to look at the bigger picture and strive for excellence in our services, ensuring that we add value to our stakeholders in a meaningful and enduring manner.”
She said the practice of
seva or selfless service forms the core of her leadership ethos, aligning with TTCSI's mission to benefit its members and the community.
“In essence, my faith has instilled a sense of purpose and a commitment to contribute positively, which permeates the culture and goals of TTCSI as we aspire to be a benchmark of excellence regionally and globally,” she told WMN.
Guyadeen is a researcher by nature – a skill that was further developed during her study of history over the years.
“At my very essence, I remain a researcher, an identity shaped by a deep-seated love for history instilled in me during my formative educational experiences at the University of the West Indies and Naparima Girls’ High School,” and continued at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business.
The catalyst for her fascination with history was Joan Dinoo, her secondary school history teacher whose love for the subject was “infectious.”
"Under her tutelage, what was intended to be a prelude to a legal education transformed into a lifelong vocation” Guyadeen said.
“The rich tapestries of Latin America (I was intrigued particularly by Eva Peron and African histories, as presented by excellent lecturers such as Dr Brinsley Samaroo, Dr Bridget Brereton and Dr Andre Baptiste) captivated my curiosity, compelling me to continue in the field and eventually complete a master’s degree in history.”
This foundation was instrumental in honing her critical and strategic thinking skills.
“I have always possessed a strong aptitude for writing, and by leveraging this innate strength, I have meticulously sculpted my career path...This strategy of focusing on inherent strengths has been fundamental to my professional development and accomplishments. On introspection, each job that I held prepared me for the next.”
Guyadeen has served as the lead researcher for TT’s inaugural participation in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report in 2006, and was the visionary behind the country’s first comprehensive statistical digest on the energy sector in 2010.
She has spear-headed numerous projects with international development agencies like the Inter-American Development Bank, UNECLAC, the World Bank, and the Ramnarine Guyadeen Awards for Excellence which has been presented to over 40 students since 2013. In addition to her professional roles, Guyadeen is a member of several organisations and councils including the Advisory Board of the Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade at the UWI, Cave Hill campus, Barbados; the National Quality Council of TT; and the Soroptimist International, Couva club. She is also chairperson for the National Quality Awards of TT 2023.
As the CEO of TTCSI, Guyadeen said, “In a nutshell I love what I do.”
TTCSI, as the umbrella body representing services associations, services providers and firms across TT, can be viewed as a think-tank for accelerating the growth of services in the country.
“I have been fortunate to work with stakeholders who have the competencies, drive and passion to become globally competitive services exporters,” Guyadeen said.
The organisation advocates for members, with a particular focus on bolstering vulnerable sectors.
“Our advocacy efforts in 2023 were dedicated to supporting sectors such as tourism, maritime, and related industries, recognising their potential to significantly contribute to foreign exchange earnings and job creation. TTCSI has garnered recognition both regionally and internationally, solidifying its position as a prominent representative body for services at the regional level.”
She said her vision was to transform the TTCSI into a paragon of resilience – an organisation that would not only set the standard for service industry coalitions regionally, but also command respect on a global stage.
"It was at the TTCSI that I saw an opportunity to not just contribute, but significantly enhance the value and impact of the institution – thereby offering substantial benefits to my country. I was confident that this was the arena where my unique skills could be harnessed to foster growth and innovation, propelling the organisation to new heights of excellence.”
Guyadeen said she draws on the wisdom of Indian-American business executive Indra Nooyi when it comes to balancing leadership and her personal life.
“This has been my experience. I have been juggling – sometimes I fail, sometimes I succeed – but it is important not to beat yourself up about it but keep trying to attain nirvana, that is work-life balance.”
She said reflecting on her professional journey, she draws on three foundational principles instilled by her father.
"Firstly, success demands dedication and hard work, eschewing shortcuts for authentic and respected achievement. Secondly, prioritise transformative impact, leaving people and places better than found. Lastly, my father cautioned against fixating on monetary gain, urging a focus on adding value in every endeavour. These principles are a call to a higher standard of leadership – fostering integrity, growth, and genuine contribution. I encourage emerging leaders to chart their course with this spirit, knowing it leads not only to personal success but enriches all touched by their leadership.”
In her Divali message to TT, Guyadeen said, “As we illuminate our homes with the glow of deyas and our hearts with the spirit of Divali...let us reaffirm our commitment to being agents of positive change, illuminating the path forward with hope and unity. Divali, at its essence, is not just a festival of lights but also a celebration of collaboration for the welfare of all. It exhorts us to reflect on the timeless narrative wherein Lord Rama, through unity and fellowship, triumphed in his quest to reunite with Sita Devi. This powerful story underlines an enduring truth: that we, as a community, can surmount even the greatest of challenges when we join forces towards a collective purpose.
"Shubh Divali Trinidad and Tobago. May this festival of lights bring forth a renewed sense of solidarity and a brighter tomorrow for us all.”