Our conversation began, naturally, over tacos.
Sarah Gowher and I had been connected on LinkedIn. She posted about tacos, and predictably, I responded. This is how all the strong connections in history are made. Everyone from Brad Paisley, Will Smith to Nostradamus would agree.
I found that Sarah’s story has a lot to love in it.
Finding confidence, getting support from peers and moving ahead – that’s the theme in Sarah’s journey. I love that. I feel like many of you will find parts of her tale to identify with. She has confident mindfulness with hope for what’s next.
Welcome Sarah as our (our, because we share in this, don’t we?) #GirlsRock interview.
As a recap: I feature acquaintances and friends in this series. It began as a way to show my girls what is possible. I’ve found that it’s an inspiration for many of you, too! I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know these women as I have.
Eli: When you were little, what did you think you’d grow up to be?
Sarah: Growing up, I always thought I would be a famous author, or (more practically), work in publishing. I considered teaching for a long time but had finally settled on a lawyer by the time I reached middle school age. But books and writing were always my passion, so being an author would’ve been great.
Eli: What books did you enjoy? What kind of writing did you do?
Sarah: In elementary school, I was very into Harry Potter and the magical series, but the series that sparked my love of books was about Cam Jansen, a kid with a photographic memory. I loved her so much and wished I had her superpower. She and her friend were always up to shenanigans and I wanted to have that life. I was so envious of their adventures that I based my own writing off of their lives. It was always short stories about a young girl solving mysteries on her own.
Though my very first “published” piece of writing was a story about a girl who was impatient about getting something in the mail. Very #relatable haha
Eli: Tell us a little about that piece – and how it felt to get published!
Sarah: “Published” might be a bit of an overstatement. I was in second or third grade, and computers in the classroom were a novelty, so we finally got to sit down and type up our own stories to present and hang up in class. Mine was a story about a little girl who sent her first letter and was waiting on a response. I even got to illustrate it for the class, so I remember drawing little whooshes behind the girl as she sprinted to the mailbox each day. Miss O, my teacher, read it aloud and I was sooo nervous, but everyone was really great about it.
It was such an adrenaline rush and confidence boost at such a young age. Validation like that is just something else, you know?
Eli: Validation can give us such momentum! Were there other things like this that helped you along your journey?
Sarah: Finding my voice was definitely a huge thing on my journey. It changed a lot over the years with and without academic influences, and I feel like I’ve been really able to apply all my influences into a style and manner that is completely my own. When I see someone start saying or doing something exactly the way I do, I give myself a pat on the back haha because I made that happen. And because I’m so “in tune” with my voice, I have more confidence in the real world. I know what I want and try my damndest to make it happen.
I wouldn’t want that to be taken away from me.
Eli: That’s a powerful tool, confidence. What did you achieve with that spirit?
Sarah: It’s funny you ask about confidence because I never really considered myself confident until fairly recently. I just figured out what my “strengths” were pretty early on in the game, and applied them whenever I could. For instance, I like people, and I understand their motivations, and how to build a strong relationship with them, so I’m confident in my ability to get along with them in the professional world. So really every milestone – graduation, landing a job, switching jobs, building and maintaining all of my relationships – technically counts as an achievement with that spirit.
But it’s something I have to work at constantly.
Eli: How has that helped you in your current role?
Sarah: Gaining confidence has definitely been helpful in my current role. I ask fewer questions, seem more assured when I’m giving answers to direct questions, and I’m able to help out more recent hires, which I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to do. I’m required to be in-the-know about Title IV regulations, so having confidence makes it easier for me to explain to students why they’re not getting the full educational funding they expected.
If you’re confident when speaking to students, they’re less likely to become irritated that you don’t know the answer or aren’t able to help them in the way they wanted.
Especially working with mostly adult-aged college students, being confident and self-assured is a major help.
Eli: What is the main difference you’ve noticed with adult-aged college students?
Sarah: Adult-aged students are definitely a lot more resistant to change. All their classes are online, so if there are any issues with their internet or student portal or computer in general, it’s a larger issue than with the younger students who grew up fixing little bugs in the system. They don’t like relying on technology that they’re not already familiar with. They’re also all afraid of math for some reason? I guess nursing a few decades ago wasn’t as dependent on students mastering math classes as it is now.
Luckily a little patience and empathy is all it takes to help these types of students 🙂
Eli: Can you tell us about a time patience and empathy left an impression on you?
Sarah: My professors were always patient and empathetic. There was this one semester where I was taking 18 credit hours while commuting three hours a day and also working two part-time jobs, all of which had me stretched pretty thin. My writing professor during that semester was so patient with me submitting assignments and working around my hectic schedule. He knew that I was serious about my academic career, but needed a little bit of flexibility.
His patience with me during that class was the catalyst for my earning my degree. If he hadn’t been accommodating, I likely wouldn’t have graduated when I did.
Eli: What is next for you?
Sarah: What’s next for me is hopefully another “big girl” job. I’m on the job market and I know what I want out of my next job move, but I’m having a little trouble reaching it. Experience is so valuable in the professional world, and I have very limited experience in the industry I want to enter. So if you know anyone hiring someone with my qualifications, send them my way haha
Eli: Networking is everything, Sarah! Maybe this post will put you in front of the right eyes. Everyone, think about who you could put Sarah in touch with! In closing, what advice would you give young women when it comes to career choices and opportunity?
Sarah: My practical advice is to keep an open mind and make financially sound decisions haha. Wherever you end up in life professionally, seek to better yourself and your life, whether that means leaving a job that doesn’t value you, or surrounding yourself with a hype squad that’ll get you through the hard days. Less practically, follow your passions. Everyone says if you love your field, a job will follow, and though that hasn’t necessarily been true for me, I love when people succeed at something they did by going against the grain.
Life is too short not to pursue what you love.