On this episode of the career interview series, we are joined by Okenna Oparah an Inpatient Clinical Pharmacist from Imo State, Nigeria by way of Atlanta, Georgia. As a young man college was not in Okenna’s plans but rather he dreamed about studying sound production and becoming a rapper / producer. His dad quickly put the kibosh on that idea and instead encouraged him to get on a college track to attend med school.
While studying biology in undergrad, Okenna realized that being a doctor just wasn’t a good fit for him. But he did enjoy his psychology classes and decided to explore other options in healthcare. Okenna shares how he’s achieved career satisfaction by focusing on the things he values while also moving away from the things he does not enjoy.
- Being a doctor is a well-respected profession that many parents encourage their kids to pursue because of the job prospects and potential salary. But becoming a doctor requires years of study and comfort with work conditions that don’t appeal to everyone. There are equally viable options in other areas of healthcare that should be considered as alternatives. The same applies for many other industries. There might be one or two very prominent professions in an industry but if they don’t match your preferences take the time to research other adjacent career options.
- Have a plan for remaining informed about changes and advances in your industry. Often times, your company may take responsibility for providing training and alerting you to changes in the basic requirements. But, you can greatly benefit from taking on the responsibility of seeking out advanced knowledge.
- Career advice can often be generic but you have to assess your personality and individual needs. There are other aspects of a job beyond salary that can greatly affect your satisfaction. The ability to spend time with friends and family, being professionally challenged, and having opportunities to advance can have a huge impact on how happy you are in a position. Do your research on the realities of the job market, specific positions, and consider what you’d be happy doing.
Hello, thank you for tuning in to Noire Histoir. Today’s guest is Okenna Oparah.
Thanks for having me.
Pleasure is all mine. To start with, if you can give me a brief overview of your background. Where’s your family from? Where are you from? Where did you grow up?
Sure. My name is Okenna Oparah. I am a first generation Nigerian-American immigrant. So my parents were both born in Imo State, Nigeria. We moved to the States when I was very young. I grew up there. Most of my growing up was in Atlanta, Georgia which is where I currently stay.
Were you also born in Nigeria?
I was. Moved here when I was very young, so I was about one year, one year old when we moved to America.
And what were your interests as a kid? What kind of a kid were you?
Probably a little…a mix of kind of introverted. So I love to read. Always loved to read. More quiet than not, at least around people I didn’t know. But also I think around high school I got into basketball and sports a little bit more. But yeah, as a kid, generally liked more quiet time. I could spend all day just basically reading.
Any particular genres or just sort of a little bit of everything?
A little bit of everything. I loved science fiction and still love science fiction. Fantasy. Yeah, I think it was more fantasy and fiction than anything else. And as I got older I started to move into more non-fiction type genres.
You mentioned playing basketball. Was it like just for fun or were you on any school teams?
Yeah, just for fun for the most part. I was a chubbier kid maybe because of all the reading and eating. And so when I got to high school, I started playing basketball. Kind of intramurally just with friends every day, every night. That’s been, I think that’s what kind of got my interest into being a little bit more athletic.
What was your favorite subject while you were in school?
Probably English. English has always been super easy because I read so much and it’s something I always enjoyed for the most part.
And what was your very first job ever when you were a kid? Did you ever have like a lemonade stand or did you have an after school job or anything like that?
Yes, the very first job I remember was selling candy. We used to buy a bag of Blow Pops and sell each blow pop for like a dollar or 25 cents, something like that. And that was kind of my first little business. And then after that, got a job at Pizza Hut. And was anything from a cook all the way to a delivery job driver as I got my own car and stuff like that. That was probably my first…selling Blow Pops was probably my first job.
Getting to the end of high school and then when you went on to college, what was your decision making process for selecting the school that you attended?
I was actually not planning on going to college. I was planning on attending like a musical…a music school. I was really interested in music, at the time I was a rapper/producer. And so my plan at first was I wasn’t going to go to college. I was gonna find a music school, major in production and kind of go from there.
But, being the first son of Nigerian parents, that was not an option. My Dad quickly let me know that that was not a plan. I started to apply to local colleges. Here in Georgia, private, public. Kind of a mixture, just depending on what they had available or what I saw, who sent me stuff. I got into a private school. Got into a couple schools, but the school that gave me kind of the best deal was a private school in Macon, Georgia.
So, what was your rap name?
Oh man, it was “The Nigerian Nightmare” or “TNN”.
You spoke about that you didn’t originally have a plan to go to college. But what were your grades like in high school? What kind of a student were you?
In high school, first year, I played around all first year. I had mostly, I think B’s and C’s. I got serious after that. It was like all A’s and B’s after that. I want to say I graduated from high school, maybe a 3.5 – 3.6 something like that. 3.6, I’d say 3.6. Cause that was, I’d call it a five for hope at the time. Yeah, so I’d say about 3.5, 3.6.
You grew up here in Atlanta and you said that the school you attended for college was in Macon, correct?
So smaller town. Was there like an adjustment moving from Atlanta to attending school in a smaller town?
Well, not so much cause probably around high school we moved away from Atlanta, the city…the city specifically. I moved to McDonough, which was a smaller town. A smaller town kind of halfway between Atlanta and Macon. And so, no, it wasn’t at that point, it wasn’t that big of an adjustment. More so I guess the adjustment was being on your own. Or having full independence was kind of the biggest adjustment.
Being off on your own, away from home and in college, how was…going more into detail, how was that adjustment? Having to keep on top of yourself from if you got your own homework done and your schoolwork and things like that…you got to class on time. Were you always responsible or was there an adjustment having to keep on top of that yourself without your parents being there to watch over you?
Well, the adjustment for me, wasn’t per se I think with schoolwork because of my parents. My mom kind of…a bit of background, my dad got deported earlier on in my school career, probably around eighth grade and he came back probably like my junior year, senior senior year of high school. So I was used to kind of being in charge of my school scholastic responsibilities. That wasn’t necessarily the issue, learning new study skills. I had always been pretty good about…Or I had to learn to be pretty responsible about my own kind of scholastic responsibilities. I started to…I had to learn new study skills, which is challenging. I think learning to study longer. I had done…I kind of coasted off just raw intelligence at the time, just not really putting in the work.
Learning to work in college and just to learn how to study, to learn how to prepare for tests properly was the change. And I think the bigger challenge for me was navigating kind of the social…my parents kind of sheltered us a bit. So learning how to adjust to all the different temptations or time-wasters or relationships. And just being in charge of that kind of your whole personhood in that sense was probably more challenging.
And what was you major?
Started off as a biology major. Moved into a psychology major as I progressed through. So yes, I found I didn’t love the hard sciences. Or I didn’t want to have that be all my classes. I found psychology to be a bit more interesting.
And so you said you started off with biology, then moved into psychology. What initially attracted you to biology and then once you decided to change majors, what was it that attracted you to psychology specifically? What was the plan that you had?
Basically biology had started out with, because my parents big pressure was pre-med, pre-med, pre-med. And so biology seemed like the kind of de facto major for that. However, as I’d prior to taken classes, I found myself enjoying the psychology classes a lot more than I enjoyed the biology classes I didn’t enjoy the biology classes at all. That was just, I felt like a natural style cause I really enjoyed my professors in the Psychology Department and everything seemed right. You know, just made, I think clearer. I had more direct link with reality with a psychology major than maybe biology could give me at the time.
And so while attending college, did you decide at that point or did you have a particular career in mind? By the time you got to, let’s say, your junior or senior year? Or did you make a decision about the field you wanted to go into after you graduated?
It was during my senior year…so I had started…as I was approaching graduation. So I started out thinking I was going to do a BA in psychology. By the time I got to senior year, I realized med school, that med school wasn’t the plan. But when I got to senior year, I realized med school did not necessarily interest me enough to devote the next however many years, eight to 10 or so of my life. So I instead decided to see what would still be in the healthcare field and would allow me the opportunity to make an income to control my time, to do things I enjoyed. So psych pharmacy came up as a great potential option. At the time it was one of the hottest careers. And so I decided that would be my focus.
You mentioned considering different careers, career tracks within healthcare. Was it something in particular that attracted you to healthcare? Or was it just a matter of the majors that you’d already studied taking you down that track?
I think it was a mixture of both. I was looking at the classes realizing that med school wasn’t for me. But looking at the classes I had already taken and then looking at the requirements for certain careers or certain graduate schools or professional degrees. I didn’t want to spend another three years in undergrad racking up debt. Part of it was those realities.
And the other part was just realizing as I started to dig more into the pharmacy. I was like, “Oh, this is perfect.” One of the things that turned me off to med school, medical field, was realizing how much blood you have to be comfortable with. And at the time I was not a fan of seeing blood or dealing with it or any bodily fluids. It’s not my ideal use of time. I think part of it was like a mixture of the things, like making sure these were things that I was comfortable with. Looking at the realities of the job market and then looking at the things that I had trained on. And what would be a good fit.
So you complete your regular undergrad and then went into pharmacy school. What was the process there for you to then select the school that you wanted to go to and whatnot from there?
I had applied to a lot of regional pharmacy schools and then got into kind of the sister university. I went to a private university and the pharmacy school associated with that university accepted me. And so I decided to continue on, moved to the pharmacy campus in Atlanta. Cause I always wanted to live in Atlanta as an adult. Growing up as a child, that had been super fun. But, we moved away when I was just starting to, coming to that age of having a little more personal independence. Got accepted into pharmacy school and moved to Atlanta. What was the second part of that question?
Well, you covered it. The process that went into you selecting the school that you wanted to attend. In pharmacy school, how many years…or what’s the program like once you get into pharmacy school?
Pharmacy school is four years, three to four years, depending on the program. The program that I picked was four years. The three year program came into being after I was already in pharmacy school. As far as in Georgia, they go to school throughout the year. The four year program had summer breaks, which was nice.
What’s the training process like? Let’s say if you decide that you want to be a pharmacist while you’re in college. You start taking your undergrad classes and things like that there. What’s the difference in the training process? Is it more hands on and things like that in pharmacy school or what exactly are they teaching you then in pharmacy school versus in undergrad?
In pharmacy school you start out with just kind of re-covering some of the most relevant basic sciences. You might have a class of biology. But then you move into kind of more practical applications of learning how drugs are metabolized in the body. And you’re going through three years of just coursework. That’s where you’re looking at how drugs are metabolized in the body, the pharmacokinetics. You’re looking at the different body systems. You have like cardiovascular classes, you have infectious disease classes, you have classes on practice management. You’ll have classes on whether it be endocrine or, so you cover throughout, go through all these body systems.
Three years of current coursework. And then any specialty classes you may have. So you may have like natural medicines or OTC classes, classes on over the counter medications.
And then the fourth year you spend it on rotations. Which is meaning you’re leaving the class and you’re going to hospitals, you’re going to pharmacies in the community. And you’re actually practicing under the auspices of an experienced practitioner. You have a mentor basically who’s there and overseeing your development and giving you projects and kind of walking you through like the actual day-to-day practice of pharmacy.
As a pharmacist, you mentioned, you learned about the different systems within the body and how drugs interact with them and things like that. Is it like a lot of memorization of the things? Are you expected to retain all of this information and then be able to recall it. How does that function in the real world? How are you expected to make use of that?
There’s a baseline of you will have to memorize certain things. You will have to memorize drug names, generics, brand names, kind of mechanisms. Things along those lines. How body systems work. But the other part of it is then learning how different medications interact with it. And so some of that you can just kind of think through probably learning the processes and then figure out where new drugs are attacking the process or changing the process.
There is a good bit of memorization but it’s given to you in a, I feel like, a healthy pace. So that once you figure out, I think the main thing is figuring out how to study in pharmacy school or in any grad program. It’s a level of studying that you maybe hadn’t done previous to it. So it requires a little bit more rigor, more structured time, and really making/having a plan for your studies.
And then you mentioned having clinicals, so doing rounds in hospitals and pharmacies and things like that. In addition to that side of the program, are there also requirements for internships? Or I guess would that then serve as your internships? Or did you gain any other real world experience or work outside of college during that time related to this?
They required at the time intern hours. You have to serve, I want to say it was like 400 hours through the course of your four years in clinical practice setting. So like in the summers I would go to practice at pharmacies or go to hospitals. And so you really had to get those hours in before you were able to sit for the final exam.
Obviously you have to complete your graduate requirements and things like that to get your degree. But the exam that you take, do you then receive a license or something like that at that point?
Exactly, so you will submit your intern hours and you take the exam. You’re taking both a board exam, I guess for the state. And you take a legal exam. Just making sure you understand the ins and outs of the pharmacy practice. And then you receive your licensure from the state allowing you to practice as a pharmacist.
Following completion then of pharmacy school, what was your first job out of college?
First was a retail pharmacist. I had been working throughout my undergrad, or not undergrad but pharmacy student career at a retail pharmacy. These retail pharmacies are Walgreens, CVS, Eckerds, those types of pharmacies. I had spent the first three years, first four years practicing in this community pharmacy.
Upon graduation, I took a job, full-time role as a staff pharmacist. I was at your local Walgreens filling prescriptions, talking to patients, giving flu shots, those types of things. Then was promoted to a pharmacy manager, I guess within a year. And from that point then decided to make the pivot to go back and do a residency. So do an additional year of training in Columbus, Georgia.
Was this in addition to your four year program?
Residencies are an additional requirement. A lot of hospitals require you to maybe have this additional year of training called “residency”. You can do up to two years. And that is supposed to give you more training specific to the hospital experience or the hospital setting.
Pretty much in total between undergrad, pharmacy school, and then also your residency, you’re looking at like nine years of training there?
Yes. Yes, you are.
Quite a bit of schooling there.
Quite a bit of schooling.
Once you graduated, you said that you’d worked at retail pharmacies throughout the time that you were in school. And then following your graduation from pharmacy school, you then worked at a retail pharmacy where you then became a manager of the pharmacy. What then motivated you to go into the residency program? At that point you’d already done like eight years of schooling and had been out working. What motivated you to change direction at that point?
Great question. Well I actually had been, I had actually at that point done nine years of school because I had spent five years in undergrad. With the change, changing my mind from med school to pharmacy school meant I had to pick up one or two extra classes. Or additional classes above and beyond what I had already taken so that required an extra year.
I had been there nine years, then started practicing. And for me it was because my retail setting, the store I was in charge of was outside of the city, kind of far outside of Atlanta. It was in Oakwood, Georgia, so it was like an hour away. I was far away from both my family and friends. And my lifestyle basically just consisted of paying bills, working long hours.
Basically I spent most of my time at the store, at the pharmacy. And at some point you start to realize, money isn’t everything and quality of life is actually a lot more important. Being close to friends, being close to family, increases my happiness a whole lot more than having more money. And that’s what was the stimulating factor. I looked at options as what I could do that would allow me to move closer to my friends and family. Something that would still provide a good quality of life. And would lead to a better quality of life at work as well where I wasn’t just spending 10, 12 hours on my feet dealing with sometimes irritable customers. I think that those were the biggest factors leading to that decision.
Thinking back to that time when you just graduated from, let’s say, the three different phases. When you initially graduated from Undergrad and then when you graduated from grad school and then also completed your pharmacy residency. How did you find the transition from school into the working world as you entered each one of these new phases where you’ve completed this training and you’re now moving into a new environment, into a new role. Did you feel prepared by the course of study that you’d completed?
I felt prepared, somewhat prepared by the course of studies. But even more than of course the study, I felt like practical experiences of like interning or working at a pharmacy, previous to being a staff pharmacist. Of course I think like the first day I was a pharmacist was super stressful. Because now you have the, you’re the final responsibility. There’s nobody that you can ask. At that store, you are the person that everybody is asking questions.
I think the first early period, post transition, going from undergrad to pharmacy school, I was worried that I wasn’t going to be smart enough or up to snuff or able to really tackle the challenges of pharmacy school. And then, graduating pharmacy school, I was worried I was going to make a big mistake or hurt a patient because I wasn’t making smart decisions at the retail pharmacy. And then going from retail to residency, I was worried that I forgot too much clinical information and I wouldn’t be able to meet the challenges of a residency.
I think at every phase there’s always going to be these questions or these stresses or these worries. And I think how I deal with those stresses or those worries in each phase has been to double down on the ability to work hard basically. So if you have concerns about your clinical competency. Making sure that you’re setting aside an appropriate amount of time to really dig into it, study, to go above and beyond.
Basically just being self aware and seeing where you are and then also not being too hard on yourself. But being self aware and making sure that you’re taking appropriate measures to make sure that you are in a good place wherever you are, wherever you land. And not getting caught up in maybe emotions sometimes. You’re always going to be a little nervous, but don’t let that be the whole story. Deal with those nerves as constructively as possible.
If we can just take a trip from where you were then to where you are now. A brief overview of the path that you took following completion of your residency to where you are now. What stops have you made along the way and what has been your decision process as you’ve made moves in your career since then?
I think the biggest…so moving from I guess a staff pharmacist at Walgreens to a clinical pharmacist. I think the biggest thing for me has always been, the biggest considerations have always been growth or feeling that I’m growing in some kind of form or fashion. What else? I think growth is definitely. And then being honest with how you’re actually feeling. As a staff pharmacist, I knew that I wasn’t really happy and then getting a clear idea of what I could actually do to fix it. Are there things I can do to make this better? And to where I am now from graduating residency, starting this job.
Coming out of the residency I started off as a staff clinical pharmacist and then moving to an inpatient clinical pharmacist, so having my own floor. And a big part of that was all motivated just by like I said a desire for growth. The desire for balance in my life, in my outside life. So just making sure that I had space and time to myself. Time to build my interests outside of work and time to address all those…making sure that those things fit in within my working life as well.
Tell me a little bit about what the responsibilities of being a clinical pharmacist are. What are the day-to-day responsibilities?
Sure. A big part are pharmacokinetics. You’re basically in charge of looking at all the medications for all the patients on your floor that you’re in charge of. And making sure that they are dosed appropriately, that they’re adjusted for that particular patient’s renal function, how their kidneys are doing, how their livers are doing.
You just want to make sure that we’re dosing things in a way that’s not going to hurt any patients. I think a leading cause of death is medical errors. And we just want to make sure that each patient our doctors are writing things appropriately. Before certain medic…all medications in a hospital, theoretically, are reviewed by a pharmacist before they’re given to a patient. Pharmacists are kind of that step in between doctors and the patient. And so that’s a big part of it.
But part of it is also dosing some hard to dose medications. There’s certain medications that are just weird, or doctors don’t have a lot of experience with, or don’t have the time, or it’s not quite as efficient to make them dose those things. So they’ll give those responsibilities to pharmacists.
Keeping that in mind, the difficulties with dosing certain medications and things like that and just the day-to-day responsibilities of the position. What would you say are the most difficult aspects of being a pharmacist on the floor? Or let’s say if someone was considering going into this line of work, what are the things that they should be aware of that would be indicators of whether or not this might be the right role or position for them or environment for them?
Well, I would just say being able to be a good communicator I think. Being a good communicator is probably a great skill to have because you’ll be communicating specifically with other professionals. With those professionals, you just want to make sure that you’re getting your point across to them. How well you phrase your request for whatever, whether it be changes, or being able to deal with those personalities that come with the position. Whether it be you’re talking to a doctor or a surgeon, you need to be able to phrase your request for information or phrase your intervention in such a way that they can listen to it, they can accept it. Because at the end of the day, you want to just make sure that there’s better outcomes for the patients you’re taking care of.I would say the hardest part though, the hardest part is just, I don’t know, coming from retail, the hospital feels like just a wonderful job. I can’t think of a terrible part. I think the hardest part would probably be making sure that you’re staying abreast of all the new drugs that are coming online. So we have, it’s a lot of changes all the time in healthcare. And so just making sure that you have a plan in place for staying informed, staying educated about the new drugs, different interactions, new developments as far as adverse effects, etc. In drug treatment.
As part of this ongoing training, or education, I should say, is it something that you’d have to independently take responsibility for? Like seeking out new and updated information or does your workplace make this information available to you?
Work places, they usually take some responsibility for making sure that you’re educated and that you’re informed of new drastic changes. But I think if you really want to be most effective, you’ll probably have to assume some…a bigger part of that responsibility as far as making sure you’re staying abreast. Because jobs are really concerned with kind of the bare minimum. And so you have to probably go above and beyond that to become the best practitioner that you can be.
What does that ongoing training look like? How is the information made available? Is it that you have to search it out for yourself online? Are there webinars or professional organizations that you’re a part of that makes that information available?
Yes, so it’s generally not difficult. It’s more so finding the time. There are professional organizations where they have in-person and webinars available as far as continuing education. There are websites that are dedicated specifically to continuing education. What I decided to do was get board certified. So I got board certified and part of that board certification is they require you to continue, they give you a certain number of CE’s and they package it in such a way that you basically, you’re going through packets of information in order to keep that certification active.
Anything else you want to share about the position?
I really enjoy being a pharmacist and I think it’s a great option for anybody that’s kind of thinking about the healthcare field but not willing to or maybe not quite as interested in being an MD or a nurse. Especially in the inpatient setting it’s intrinsically rewarding. So you’re seeing patients, you’re helping patients, you get to talk to patients, but it’s not as overwhelming as it can be in the retail setting.
At this point we’re going to sort of switch course and take a more high level view of your career and your philosophies. To start with, how do you personally define success? What does success look like to you?
Success for me, it looks like growth. For me success just looks like growth. Having the ability to grow is super important for me. And that feeling of going from seeing tangible differences in yourself or in your life, year after year or month, decade after decade. That is important to me. That’s how I define success.
Keeping that in mind. If you imagine yourself as you were either when you were still in school or when you just graduated. Or let’s say when you were in pharmacy school. And based on the dreams and aspirations that you had for yourself at that point, would you say that the current reality of your career has fallen short, matched, or surpassed your aspirations and expectations?
I would say surpassed in some sense. I didn’t necessarily imagine I would be in an inpatient setting. I thought I would maybe be stuck or relegated to the retail setting, which is a little bit more demanding physically. And so I’m really excited or surprised by how far I was able to get as far as in that aspect. I would say surpassed looking at it just from a pure career point of view. I’d say surpassed.
Standing where you are now. What career or life advice in general would you offer to your younger self or any young person that’s still in school or just getting ready to enter the workforce? Either someone looking to enter the pharmacy field or just in general.
I would just say, do your research. Definitely read and do your research. Figure out what reality looks like as far as what does the job market look like? What are you going to be happy doing? I think that’s a big part. That maybe specifically the personal preferences part gets overlooked sometimes. Oftentimes we get a lot of advice and it’s kind of cookie cutter but it doesn’t take into consideration your particular personality. So I would just say, make sure that you’re honest about your particular personality.
I think I was lucky in that I found something that kind of meshed with my personality well. Or at least with my idiosyncrasies. If I tried to be a computer programmer with my particular interests or the way I grew up wouldn’t have been realistic or wouldn’t have led to a happy outcome. Versus my brother who grew up loving computer games, loving playing around on a computer.
He’s a computer programmer, game designer, game developer, doing really well. It fits him superbly. So I would say just be honest. Or not even be honest. But be okay with taking note of what you actually enjoy and even more important, what you actually hate. Sometimes I think we don’t pay enough attention to what you just absolutely cannot stand. And those are real feelings and you should definitely pay attention to that.
Let’s say for the rest of 2019 or the next two to three years or so from now, are there any goals or plans that you’re currently pursuing? Like professional goals or plans, aims that you have for yourself, things you’d like to achieve?
And by professional you mean specifically career related or a broader context?
It could be work related or just more wider ranging goals. Just for yourself, things that you’d like to achieve in either the near term or the more longer term.
Career wise, I am looking for more opportunities to grow and so I think I haven’t come upon the specific opportunity of what that’s going to look like. Positions with more responsibility, whether they be management related or taking over a certain program in the pharmacy or in the hospital. And so other goals that align with that maybe include getting an MBA, I think I would enjoy that. It’s something I’ve been toying with.
Or just starting my own business basically doing something where I can really use a little bit more of my creative side. I’ve been enjoying kind of using some muscles while volunteering that I hadn’t used in a long time. And so I’m just looking forward to more opportunities to grow and use other sides of my brain. You use a lot of your left brain, but I would love to use a little bit more of my right brain and be a little bit more creative. Take a little bit more leadership roles, things along those lines. So I’m just looking for opportunities to grow, to practice those muscles, to see where those things take me. Where those interests take me.
If you’re comfortable sharing, let’s say that you did decide to pursue an MBA, do you have a particular course track in mind? Or do you have an idea of what you might like to focus on? Or are you thinking more of a general MBA?
I’m thinking a general MBA, probably finance or accounting focus for some reason. Accounting seems to give you a clear idea of what’s going on. I’m interested in the business aspects of pharmacy, hospitals. And hospitals, period. I think the accounting gives you a clear idea of when you, as you start to understand where does money go and how is money used. How does money affect patients or inflows/outflows. I’m interested in understanding at a deeper level how does it all interrelate.
Also, if you’re comfortable sharing, you mentioned about possibly getting into entrepreneurship and being able to be more creative. Do you have an idea of what that might look like? Or particularly what kind of skills you might like to utilize more? You mentioned leadership, but what that might look like.
I think it depends. I took a dive into real estate when I was earlier on in my career so I have a couple of properties that I own. But I’m looking forward, you know, I don’t have a specific idea of what the next entrepreneurship opportunity might look like. I think I’m also coming to terms with the fact that I just need to honor the interests inside of me. Honor, the curiosities inside of me. Everything doesn’t have to I guess make logical sense or be a straight line. I’m just going to continue to push myself and figure out what could I see myself doing day in and day out. What opportunities are there, where does my passion line up with the reality or the things needed in the real world and the job market. And so I don’t have a specific answer now, I think I’m just open to exploring it.
That’s fine. And so if you look to the future, right? Imagine it’s years from now and you’re nearing or already retired. When you look back over your career, what accomplishments or achievements would stand out and make you either consider your career overall a roaring success versus goals or dreams that you have for yourself that if you don’t achieve them, you might then consider your career to be mediocre or even disappointing. What kinds of things might you like to see looking back over your career?
Well, I think I’d be disappointed if I don’t take a risk that I want. Specifically entrepreneurship and taking a chance on myself. I think those are the only risks that I think I’d be super disappointed in. As far as my pharmacy career, I’m super excited about where it’s taken me and where I was able to take it and growing past retail. I wrote a book about my experiences. I’m enjoying where I am now, but I think as I continue to grow, I just want to make sure that I don’t let fear short circuit any opportunities to just continue to grow and be a bigger impact.
If you think about people or events, whether famous or only known to you, that have motivated, inspired or influenced you as a person or your career. Does anything or anyone in particular come to mind?
I’ve got a mentor of mine who is a vice president or director of a well known drug company that operates in Atlanta and I just love his integrity. The way he’s taken orthogonal shifts in his career. He started off in retail, moved to industry, and now he’s pastoring a church while also being a director of advocacy. So he’s in Washington, D.C. making decisions that affect a wide swath of people.
So yeah, I do have people that…people along those lines. I appreciate anybody who keeps growing, keeps trying things, isn’t afraid to fail. So that encompasses a good number of people. Not just people who are super successful. People who are still actively trying, putting themselves out there, and things along those lines.
And are there any specific books that have influenced or inspired you?
Yes, I’d say Vicki Robin’s Your Money or Your Life, written in conjunction with another author whose name I can’t remember at the moment. (Joe Dominguez) I mean I love reading. So the list is pretty endless. Depends on what kind of genre. The ONE Thing by what’s his name? I forgot his name. A real estate guy. (Gary Keller) Of course the Bible. I mean the list of books, I feel like there’s always books, at least one a year, that just help kind of change my mind or change the way I look at the world. So those are the two that come to mind but those are not at all the most impactful. They’re just the ones that jumped to the front of the line.
And what was it in particular that appealed to you about those books? Or what spoke to you about those books?
In Your Money or Your Life”, it really made things clear about the relationship between money and basically your life. You’re trading your time for outreach, your time for dollars, making sure that you’re maximizing that trade. Making sure that you’re putting the first things first. And being clear about what your end goal is. Sometimes we think in a capitalistic society we can think more is better. But really it’s like enough is better.
And then with the one thing, it’s just, it’s a pretty intense book. But it just talked about how sometimes having too many priorities means you have no priorities at all. It’s like being clear about what you actually want. And I think that’s maybe the biggest struggle a lot of us face. It’s just being super clear about what do we actually want? And so I think any book that kind of helps you get a clear idea of what that might be is super important to me.
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