Meet Our Associates

Ambassador Joan H. Underwood

Ambassador Joan H. Underwood holds a Master’s degree in Health Services Administration from the George Washington University and an Executive MBA from the Cave Hill School of Business/University of the West Indies. She is a senior management consultant and policy advisor with extensive experience in both the public and private sectors. 

Specific areas of expertise include the design and facilitation of training programmes for public and private sector leaders, organizational behaviour and management, human resource management, strategic planning and management, change management, corporate governance, public sector transformation, and executive and performance coaching.

Professional designations held by Ms. Underwood include that of a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) from the US-based HR Certification Institute, the Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) and the title of Accredited Director (Acc.Dir.) conferred by the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators based in Canada and credentialed Master Trainer as designated by the Association for Talent Development (ATD).  She holds the designation of an Erickson Professional Coach (EPC) and is a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF). Joan’s most recent professional accomplishments include certification by the Human Capital Institute (HCI) in Strategic Workforce Planning and Change Practitioner as certified by Prosci© Canada and the Change Management Learning Centre.

Ambassador Underwood is also a member of the Human Resource Management Association of Barbados (HRMAB) and a honourary member of Human Resources Professionals of Antigua and Barbuda (HRPAB).  HRPAB’s charter stipulates that this designation may be granted to individuals “who have become eminent in the field of Human Resources Management and who are deemed capable and/or reputable to promote the purpose of the HRPAB”.

In January 2012, Ms Underwood became one of the principal driving forces behind the Caribbean Leadership Project serving as the Regional Project Manager and later as the facilitator in the flagship leadership development programme targeting the most senior civil servants in twelve CARICOM countries.  

In 2017-2018 she completed diagnostic assessments of the HRM functions in the public sectors of Barbados and five other CARICOM countries. The resulting reports were approved by the respective governments and published in November 2018 as series of IDB Technical Papers on Building State Capacity in the Caribbean. The reports contain specific recommendations for improving the efficacy of HRM functions including training and development.

Joan’s commitment to lifelong learning is evident from the various executive development programmes which she has completed at internationally acclaimed institutions including Harvard, the Richard Ivey School of Business (University of Western Ontario), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management and the Association for Talent Development (ATD).  She has also served as a facilitator and subject matter expert in the Cave Hill School of Business (CHSB)/UWI Executive Diploma in Management and the Executive MBA programmes. Her relationship with CHSB also includes serving as a facilitator and coach in their open enrollment and corporate leadership development programming.

In addition to her work in coaching, management and policy, Joan served for seven and a half years as Antigua and Barbuda’s Non-Resident Ambassador to a number of Latin American countries including Mexico, Venezuela, Chile and Brazil.  Joan’s leadership journey is featured in Championing Women Leaders as one of twenty-seven case studies of outstanding women leaders in the Commonwealth (Janjuha-Jivraj, S. and Chisholm, K. 2015). She is also the author of Managers’ First Aid Kit (12/2020) described by Mélange Magazine as “the ultimate tool for self-development that every aspiring or current manager should have within their possession.”

Marcia Cyrus, MsC, BSc, CPA, FCGA

Marcia Cyrus is a financial services professional with over 20 years in the banking, investments and personal finance sectors. She started her investment banking career with London Life Insurance where she managed the in-house investment portfolios and those of external clients before joining Bank of Montreal.

She extended her investment expertise at Royal Bank of Canada where the diversified portfolios included bonds, equities, alternative investments and derivatives in a range of currencies. Besides her investment banking career, Marcia has served as a consultant in various financial areas.

In an effort to share her financial services experience, Marcia has tutored students in personal financial literacy, financial planning, small business accounting and QuickBooks. She has also delivered a regional seminar in financial management for NGOs and worked on-on-one with grant recipients. Furthermore, she has attended several local, regional and international investment, trust and international business seminars and has been a panellist or presenter at some of those events.

In addition to being a CPA and a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados, Marcia holds an MSc in Investments and Wealth Management (Distinction) and BSc Economics and Management (Hons) from UWI Cave Hill Campus. She is a member of the Small Business Association and the Rotary Club of Barbados West.

Richard Blades

Richard Blades has been training the workforce since 1990. He worked with teams in various sectors including commission sales and marketing teams, hospitality organizations, the transportation sector, health and wellness sector, medical and dental organizations, cultural industries, and not for profits; who must still ensure revenues exceed expenditure to remain viable and sustainable. Around the Caribbean, he’s known as Richie B.

Seeing Richie B in action you will realize that he was born to train. He has a conversational style that is easily understood by everyone in the room. He also takes a practical approach that participants can readily engage when they return to their domains.

Simply put, Richie enables operations that receive his training to see results in as little as 24 – 48 hours. He believes that once participants can see the tangibility of those aspects of the training work they will be more accepting of the training in its entirety.

Though he resides in Barbados, Richie trains throughout the Caribbean. When he enters the room, he is well prepared as he knows some organizations can throw you when participants relate experiences that are not written about in books.

Participants say Richie B.s knowledgeable, thorough, hands-on, sound, and the list goes on. His background in hotel management where he’s worked in all areas of the hotel, help to ground his training; enabling him to bring practical approaches to areas of rooms division, food and beverage, retail sales, inventory management, cost controls, accounting and just about every business area. This experience proves helpful in the delivery of competency-based education and training [CBET] incorporating the NVQs [National Vocational Qualifications]. Where he’s certified as a trainer, assessor, and internal verifier.

He has sound expertise in entrepreneurship, being himself an entrepreneur. He has a firm grasp of the requirements of getting into the business and staying in business which he candidly shares. He is the Founding Partner of Blades & Blades Consultancy Services. He is also a Director with the Caribbean Virtual Hospitality Institute.

He is married to Dr. Pamela Phillips and they have a son Christopher.

Sonia Layne Gartside

For the past 20 years she has been working with companies to improve their performance by analyzing training gaps and designing and developing customized learning solutions. 

She focuses on partnering with leaders to achieve business results, primarily by improving the performance of people and the systems in which they work. 

As a coach, she helps her clients leverage their strengths to improve performance with a special emphasis on helping them set clear expectations, manage difficult conversations, and lead with influence, integrity and excellence.

She is an Organizational Change Management (OCM) professional with 10 years of experience supporting change initiatives, such as system implementations and business process redesign. 

She has significant experience leading consultant and client teams in change readiness, communication, leadership commitment, strategy and training activities to support complex projects.

She is the author of “Workplace Anxiety: How to Refuel and Re-Engage“.

She holds advanced certification in change management from Prosci®, and she is certified as a Master Trainer, Online Instructor, Case Writer and Instructional Designer. Her undergraduate degree is in Business Management and her master’s degree is in Education. 

She describes herself as full of energy, enthusiasm, and determination, a problem solver and a wide achiever. Her Superpowers are providing clarity and empowering people to act.

She is originally from Barbados, and now lives and works in the USA with her husband of 11 years, who is a Math Professor. They both love to travel. However, having only lived, worked or visited 26 countries, she says that there is still a lot of travelling she has yet to do.

She is passionate about books, magazines, stationery, journals, planners, and……..gadgets.

She is afraid of heights, but loves to bungee jump.  She boasts that she once bungee jumped off the tallest man-made structure in the Southern Hemisphere.