On this episode of the career interview series, we are joined by Sandra Shular a Care Coordinator from Newnan, Georgia. In her youth, Sandra realized that while she liked working with people she didn’t want to be a nurse or teacher.
After completing an undergraduate degree in sociology Sandra began working in healthcare at a clinic that allowed her to work closely with and educate teens. She shares how her career has allowed her to work with various demographics, families, and individuals at different stages of life.
The video will premiere at 2:00PM ET
- Take the time to fully explore your options. This doesn’t mean that you have to pursue every opportunity or at the time that it first presents itself or is suggested. But rather that you should weigh the pros and cons and consider if it’s the right time and how the opportunity might be parlayed into additional opportunities.
- When making career decisions or job changes take into consideration your personal needs and where you are in your personal life journey. Before you take the next step, think about the role and make a conscious choice of if it’s in the direction that you want to go. If adjustments are necessary, try to start working on them before beginning the new position to make the transition easier.
- Try to identify your passion and go in that direction with your career. If you do something that you love, you will do your best and be successful at it because you’re happy.
- Sometimes when you’re thinking of your next steps but nothing comes to mind the best move is to remain still until something calls out to you. When it’s time for a change you’ll feel it.
Hi, thanks for tuning in to Noire Histoire. We are joined today by Sandra Shular, a Care Coordinator. How are you today?
I’m doing fine. How are you doing?
Quite well. All right, so let’s jump right into it. If you can, begin with a brief overview of your background. Where are you from? Where’s your family from? And what were you like as a kid?
I’m from Newnan, Georgia and my family, my parents are also from Newnan. I grew up with two brothers. I’m the oldest of three. And as far as my background, I was from a close-knit large extended family. We had wonderful times. I enjoyed my childhood. I went to the local schools here in Newnan and from there went on to college.
As a kid, what were your favorite subjects in school?
I enjoyed English. I tended to have some really strong teachers in English and it became one of my favorite subjects. And I did pretty well, I excelled in those classes. And I guess just because I liked what I was learning.
Did you participate in any sports or extracurricular activities as a kid?
No I didn’t. Not the I guess intramural sports in school. At home, a lot of the family would play basketball and I did that some. But I was not the sports person in the family. That was my, those were my brothers.
What was your very first job?
You mean as far as during childhood?
Yes. Did you ever have like a lemonade stand or work after school or anything like that?
I think my first job was not a lemonade stand but I did work. There were youth jobs that they had during the summer. And I remember, I believe the first job was working at the local swimming pool and it was a lot of fun because I got to see a lot of my friends and it was an opportunity. I worked the concession stand. I enjoyed doing that. I did that for a couple of summers.
You then went onto college. What school did you attend?
I attended Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta.
And how did you go about picking that school? What was the decision process behind it? Or what motivated you to attend that school?
Well, there were a couple of things. When I entered college, it was during the time that we had just started integration. I was one of the first classes in my high school to attend the integrated schools. So after being in segregation for eight years and then that’s not including kindergarten. But, after going to an integrated school for four years, I felt like there were some things that I had kind of missed. I just felt like in my culture and in my experience as a young person, I missed some of those opportunities.
I had gone to football games, college football games, where my aunts and uncles had gone to college. And Clark was one of the schools that was represented during that time. And there was just something about that school that I was drawn to. And the fact that it was also not too far away from home. I would still have the opportunity to come and be with my family as I would like.
So I selected Clark because I felt like it was in the AU Center or at the time that’s what they called the AU Center. It was an opportunity not only to be there with students from Clark. There was also Morehouse, at that time Morris Brown, and Spelman College all in one. So it was a great experience.
So you stayed on campus, but you went back home regularly while attending Clark Atlanta?
I did stay on campus for three years. And yes, I would go home, but I didn’t always do that because I enjoyed the college life. It gave me an opportunity to meet people from all over the United States and that was the interesting part. It was an opportunity to learn about other people’s experiences that I didn’t have in Newnan. So, yes, I went home, but not all the time.
Aside from attending school, having grown up in Newnan and then going to college in Atlanta, did you notice a substantial difference between the environments? Like, the two locations where Newnan is a smaller town and then Atlanta is like a bigger city. Was there some adjustment?
Not really. Not for me because Newnan is so close to Atlanta. I had an opportunity, we had family that lived in the Atlanta area so it wasn’t, I didn’t feel like I was in this big city and little a country girl coming to a big city. I felt like I kind of was able to assimilate into the environment because it wasn’t so far away from where I had grown up.
What was your major in college?
My major was sociology and social welfare in college.
And what led you to selecting that as your major?
I have always enjoyed working with people and honestly, during the time that I was growing up, I wasn’t familiar with so many different careers. But I knew that the majority of my family, including my mother, was a nurse and many of her sisters were also nurses. And then on my dad’s side of the family, most of them were teachers. And I wanted to do something different but still work with people. So I decided to go into social work.
How was your transition from college into the working world? Was there a substantial adjustment going from being a student to being someone early in their career? And how prepared did you feel leaving college?
Well, I felt that as far as with my first job, I worked at Grady Hospital and it was in their teen clinic and I wasn’t that far removed as far as age. And it was an opportunity to work with young people. I was working in the clinic there, but I also had an opportunity to…we did education in the school system.
We taught sex education or the prevention of having sex at an early age. It was really an opportunity to teach and to share knowledge with young people. And an opportunity for me to grow as well because I was learning as I was sharing this information.
It was an easy transition. I had worked in my younger years in high school in this hospital with the social workers. So it felt comfortable for me to be in a hospital environment. Even though I didn’t go into the nursing field, I was still in a field that was comfortable for me.
Looking back now to your, let’s say the first few years after you graduated from college, is there anything that you know now or that you learned from that early work experience that you wish you knew when you first graduated from college and were entering the working world?
I had an opportunity after I graduated from college. My mother asked me if I wanted to go ahead and go into graduate school because, to be honest with a BA degree in social work, there’s not a lot of options. But at that time I felt like I had been in school and I needed a break. And looking back, I think if I had gone ahead and gotten my master’s degree at that time, I may have made some other decisions. So that’s one thing that I would say that I would have done differently or would do differently if I had an opportunity.
If you can, just give a brief overview of the journey you took from that early post-college position to where you are now. What kind of roles have you had in the time span between then and now?
After I left Grady, it was during the time when I got married. I had an opportunity to move from the Atlanta area and I moved to Connecticut. And when I was in Connecticut, I had an opportunity to work again in the same field as far as working with young people. I was the coordinator of a teen pregnancy prevention program with the United Way in Norwalk, Connecticut.
I did that and then some years later, I moved back to Georgia and I decided at that time that I wanted to get my master’s degree in social work. I did that. And from getting my master’s, I was fortunate enough because I had also done some of my training at Grady. The supervisor that I had at the time offered me a job in the med surg area at Grady.
I worked in social work on the medical units. And then I was asked by the administrator and my supervisor if I would consider working on the burn unit at Grady. And that in itself was definitely a learning experience because of course there were a lot of traumatic experiences that people go through. And so I worked from babies through adults and that can be very challenging. But I did that.
And then one of my colleagues was just so certain that I needed to move on and grow that he recommended I move on and take a job at Northside. Now I didn’t know if I would get it or not, but I did apply. I worked at Northside Hospital as a case manager at the time and I did that for several years. And from that experience, I had an opportunity to learn about assisted living and I thought that was something of interest.
Since I worked with young people most of my career, I decided I also wanted to work with older adults. I was fortunate enough to get a position as an executive director back in Newnan back in my hometown. And I worked there and enjoyed it very much. It was an opportunity that spawned the career that has led to where I am now. I did that and enjoyed it.
I also thought I wanted to have my own business. To become an entrepreneur in assisted living with my mother’s experience as a registered nurse and one of my brothers had experience in management in restaurant businesses. The three of us came together and we had a small, at the time, assisted living, but our personal care home.
But I wanted it to be uniquely different and I think we did have that experience and it did turn out that we worked with mostly Alzheimer’s patients. I think it was really good for the families. They appreciated what we did. And that was a learning experience for me. An opportunity to truly grow in management and what it means to become an entrepreneur.
From during that time one of the management companies that I had worked for when I worked in assisted living at one of the larger communities, the manager, the CEO, and president of the management company sought me out and asked if I would come and work with him as a regional operations manager. I did that. And with that, I had an opportunity to cover three states. I was traveling from Georgia to North Carolina and South Carolina. So that was another growth experience.
I can keep going, but you might want me to stop at some point. But from there I went into hospice and I started out as a hospice social worker. And from there, because that was a new experience for me but from working as a social worker, I had an opportunity to become an executive director of one of the hospices. And I did that for several years. And from there I ended up going right back around to Northside and have been working at Northside for the last three years as a care coordinator. So that’s kind of my journey.
Just to dive a bit more deeply, you mentioned from your experience at Grady, you started out in med surg and then went into working at the burn unit where you worked with everyone from babies on up to older folks. And then also in your other positions, you worked with individuals with Alzheimer’s at the assisted living facility. And prior to that, you’d worked with teens. Did you have a preference for working with certain age groups? The assisted living place gave you an opportunity to really get in touch with the families and work closely with them. Were there certain groups that you were really passionate about working with or others that you found difficult to work with?
Honestly, I think it was where I was at that time in life when I was working with the teenagers. I enjoyed that. I forgot that I also had an opportunity to work at Spelman College as a counselor in their family planning clinic. It was during a time where I was younger and I could truly relate to working with that population.
By the time I made the decision that I wanted to work in assisted living, I was older and I had worked in hospital settings. I would see people, older adults mainly when we’re switching to that population. They were always in bed. They looked, they were sick and you didn’t see them.
Well, when I worked in assisted living, I saw them in their home environment. And being in their home environment, there was laughter and joy. There were the gossipers. There were the tattlers. You know, they were just like children, but they were all grown up. And so I enjoyed that, seeing how we grow from infancy all the way to adulthood. And there was still all, we’re human and some things don’t change. Those that, like I said, the gossipers, a lot of times if they gossiped as a child, they continued to gossip. It doesn’t then change. So that’s something, it opened my eyes to the human process.
Branching off from that, you mentioned also working in hospice and I know from speaking with other medical professionals that they speak about the difficulty of working with hospice and other sorts of similarly related populations. Did you personally find it difficult to work in a hospice setting or was it just another environment to adapt to?
I don’t know that I had to adapt because before I chose to, it was a choice. Every job, every position I’ve had is a choice that I’ve made that this is the direction I want to go in. When I decided I wanted to go into hospice, I had some knowledge of it because of working in assisted living. We worked closely with hospitals companies so I knew what that experience could be like for families. And being a manager in a facility, I knew what a hospice should provide to make it a good experience for that person as they’re going through the end of life. By me choosing to go into hospice, I had personal experiences with family members that were on hospice as well as working professionally with them.
What I had to do before making that decision to work in hospice, I had to deal with my own immortality. For me, I had to accept that yes, death is a reality. It is going to happen. And it will happen for me personally. Because I hadn’t been around a lot of people once they actually died. But being hospice, you see them through their journey until the end of life and you’ve got to be able to be comfortable with that experience. I think the adjustment came before I actually got into the job.
You also had quite a number of experiences with an employer. But then with the assisted living place that you ran with your mom and your brother, you had the experience of being an entrepreneur. But all of it within social work and the healthcare field. Did you find a substantial difference between the two? Or were there pros and cons to the two where you preferred certain things about maybe being an entrepreneur? Or things that you enjoyed more from an entrepreneur perspective versus as an employee?
Well, it’s nice to be able to have your own hours and to make your own decisions as an entrepreneur. There are, it’s a lot of responsibility and when you try to do the right thing as far as business…I know, particularly in assisted living, it was important to me that we abide by the rules and regulations of the state and the federal government. Important that we had quality staff, reliable staff and people that were trustworthy because they were caring for other people’s loved ones. And it was important that the people that entrusted their loved ones to us didn’t have to worry. Didn’t have to not sleep at night worrying, “Are the people that are caring for them going to do the right thing?” There are a lot of challenges with having your own business, but I still think it was worth it.
I know that we brought joy to a lot of people. We took care of them and that part I loved. Now, of course, it’s nice now to not have to…I think I did more worrying at night as an entrepreneur because I wanted to make sure…It was a 24-hour business and I wanted to make sure everything was going well. But now when my day is over, it’s over. So that’s nice, to finish my day, come home.
I enjoyed both. Would I want to be an entrepreneur again? Possibly. Possibly because it is nice to be able to make your own decisions and to know that you’re making a difference in other people’s lives.
If you a year or two from now, you decided to become an entrepreneur again, do you think it would be an assisted living place again or would you consider something else?
At this point in my life, I won’t say that it won’t be. I don’t think it will be because there’s a lot of challenges to that. But I wouldn’t say that I wouldn’t want to do something like maybe some type of consulting. Because of the knowledge that I have with assisted living, hospice, all of that combined. That’s one opportunity.
But also, if you asked me what the business is, I don’t know what it looks like yet. But I would love to truly do something that I just enjoy. There was not a lot of…I guess everything has responsibility. But if I could do something that I could say, “this is fun, I enjoy getting up every day” to do whatever that is. That would be nice to have for my next venture in life.
How do you personally define success?
I define success by setting goals and being able to achieve those goals. Whatever that is, doing your best at it. And sometimes it may not look the way you think it will look like in the beginning. But if you made a difference, if it’s in other people’s life, your goals will impact others. If you’ve been able to accomplish that, I think that’s success.
Think back to when you were either still in college or when you just graduated from college. Looking over the path that your career has taken, would you say that based on the expectations that you had at that point in the past, that your current career has fallen short, matched, or surpassed your aspirations and expectations?
Actually, I think it’s surpassed when I was in college thinking of being a social worker. I didn’t really know what that would look like, but I didn’t think that I would be director of an agency or regional director of operations. I didn’t even have that in mind when I started out the journey, so I think I surpassed my expectations.
And standing where you are now and looking back over your career, what career or life advice or just work 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?
I would say to try to identify your passion. And whatever that passion is to try to go in that direction as far as your career. Because if you do something that you love, I think that you would do your best and you’ll be successful at it because you’re happy. And happiness is very important.
You mentioned the possibility or the floating idea out there of possibly getting back into entrepreneurship in the future or working as a contractor or something like that. But, let’s say for 2019 or even within the next two to three years or so, what goals are you currently actively pursuing?
Retirement. Well, honestly, right now in two to three years, I am thinking that I will still be where I am at Northside. That’s today. That’s what I think. But after that point, I’d like to consider what do I do next? And I’m trying to think that out even as I am at this point in life, what do I want next? But nothing has come to me. Nothing is just saying, “this is the direction you want to go in.”
Since that’s the case, I think that I’m supposed to stay still until I really get that this is what I want. And usually, that’s what happens. When it’s time for a change, I usually will get that…I’ll say in my spirit that I know it’s time to go. And it continues to kind of lead and guide me to this direction. Right now, I think I’m where I’m supposed to be.
You mentioned retirement so let’s look to the future and 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 really make you feel like it’s been a roaring success versus things that if you haven’t achieved or accomplished would make you think that it was mediocre or disappointing. What would make it like a beyond your wildest dreams success?
Beyond my wildest dreams?
Or the flip side of that.
Well, I think, because clearly, my career has been one of working with people, I’ve been definitely in human service. And it seems like even anytime I think I want to go in a different direction, somehow I come right back to that. So human services is a part of who I am.
I know I touched people’s lives throughout my career. And at the end of the day when I am able to retire, and I’m not saying retired means never doing anything else, just from doing this, this part of my life. You know, when I retire, knowing that I’ve made a difference in other people’s lives. And I know that even if it means sometimes a smile for someone who’s going through something, that may be a terminal illness or end of life. Or I worked with babies in neonatal intensive care units and parents that were afraid.
When I can help them. Educate them. At the end of the day, if I’ve made a difference in their lives, then I know, “Well done Sandra. You did what you were…Your part of your purpose for being here has been done and accomplished.”
Think about people or events, it can be famous, well known, or only known to you that have motivated, inspired or influenced you as a person and/or with regards to your career. Does anything or anyone, in particular, come to mind?
I have to start with my parents. My father was an entrepreneur. He was a brick mason and he had his own business. And it was from his experience that I think some of the dreams that I have or kind of where I am he…I saw him working and giving young men an opportunity. Because at that time…I mean now I’m sure there are brick masons that are women too but at the time it was predominantly a business for men. But there were young men that may not have had an opportunity otherwise. He gave them jobs and he was successful in what he was doing. He owned, he and my mother had a small store during a time when a lot of African-Americans didn’t have that.
My mother was one of the first African-American nurses in our county to work, not only in the predominantly Black or African-American hospital. She also worked in the integrated, the White hospital. During the time when she worked there, she couldn’t go there for care and neither could we as a family go. So I have admiration first and foremost for my parents.
And then there are other famous people. I admire Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. People who started with very little and have accomplished much. I admire them.
Are there any specific books that have influenced or inspired you?
There are several. I don’t remember all the titles over the years. But there is a book by Miles Munroe* that I read recently. And it talks about our potential and it helped to open my eyes about the importance of us striving to obtain our potential knowing that all of our gifts, all of our talents are already within us. We just have to not have fear, but be able to let those dreams, those aspirations come out because the potential is there.
(*The title of that book is Living with Purpose: Devotions for Discovering Your God-Given Potential by Dr. Myles Munroe)
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