Interview with Sonya Forrester, DTM Director - Division J
Updated: Mar 16
Recipient of Influential Women Leaders Award 2021
“My job is to serve you!”
You have been a Toastmaster at the Banks DIH Pacesetters Toastmasters Club for over 10 years and defined yourself as a product of the program. Can you explain further?
Before I joined Toastmasters, I wanted to become a manager, just the manager who is performing regular duties, managing people, tasks and getting things done. After I joined Toastmasters, I decided that I wanted to empower people. Today, I am a Training and Development Specialist because of time spent in the Toastmasters program and specifically in my role as Education Vice President. Toastmasters has shaped my career path.
How have you as the Division J Director promoted the vision of Toastmasters International?
One of the things that I have done with my Council is to ensure that the members feel that they are supported. Toastmasters promotes an empowering environment. Members feel supported to develop their leadership and communication skills. What I have been doing is to ensure that in every interaction I have with any member asking for support, I assist , bearing in mind that I am a Toastmaster.
Do you think that being a Toastmaster has assisted you in filling the role of the Training and Development Specialist for one of the largest companies in Guyana?
I am actually working there because of Toastmasters, and I continue to experience how Toastmasters can add value to my life. One of the first things I did when I joined the company and understood its culture was to establish a Toastmasters club. I believe that Toastmasters plays a vital role in my life and in my career.
What were some of the goals that you set for Division J and do you think that you have achieved those goals?
One of the main goals that we set out at the beginning of the term related to the DCP, as success is usually measured by how we are able to achieve those goals. It is the intention of the club to become Presidents Distinguished and we are on track.
We understand what is to be done and are working as a team to achieve those goals. Another goal that was very important to me as someone who values training and development was to ensure that we had at least four interactions with members in our Division. This is to help them to learn some of the key things that they needed to know. In addition to the mandatory training, we have successfully completed three others and are scheduled to do the last one in April.
We are completing the Speechcraft Program to sensitise persons who are not Toastmasters but who have some interest or enthusiasm with regard to developing their public speaking skills. It is our hope that we would be able to transition those individuals to become members. Those are three of the key things that we wanted to accomplish this year, and I do believe that we have done so.
What’s next for the remaining three months in this Toastmasters year?
One of the things we still have to complete is training in the month of April. We are also planning the Division Contest, which will take place on March 19. A closing ceremony is also being planned and the focus will be on membership renewals as well as club elections. We will run together and win together by June 30 this year.
You were one of the recipients of the influential Women Leaders Award in Guyana in 2021. What did the nomination and evaluation process entail?
The nominations were secret. People around you are given the opportunity to nominate women who they believe are influential. The process is overseen by a special committee and you are notified that you have been nominated. Once successful, you are advised that you are the recipient of an award.
As Toastmasters, we are influencers who have learned how to develop our leadership skills. To be recognized for the work that I am doing, not just in Toastmasters but in my community, has been very humbling for me. I was surprised by the nomination and of course, by my subsequent honour.
I believe that because of my involvement in the Toastmasters program, I am more confident and my leadership roles have helped me in other areas of my life.
What message do you want to send to members of Division J?
I would say to all the members, “we care about your growth. We care about you developing to become the leader that you see in yourself. I continue to admire your resilience and ability to rise above everything. I know that with your support, this Division is going to excel even beyond my tenure as Division Director. My job is to serve you!”
Listen to the interview here: