My Coach and My MBA Saved Me

I have an MBA, a Masters in Business Administration from Delaware State University.  I graduated in May of 2000.  It’s fMy Experience copy_blogunny how I have to sometimes be reminded of the accomplishment and what it stands for in my career trajectory.

I remember graduation day because it rained and the schools back-up plan was to hold the ceremony in the gym. Which meant that it went from unlimited seating to, you can only have two people attend the ceremony. It was not a good look, ten members of my family drove seven hours on I-95 North from North Carolina for only my mother and father to see me walk across the stage. Everyone was disappointed and some dealt with it pretty well. I won’t talk about the other ones. I still love them though.

I remember when I decided to get my MBA. I was on the softball field working out with my coach. I was in my final semester and I had one class that conflicted with practice. Coach agreed to meet me early in the morning on the days I had class to make sure I got my workout in.  It was nice, because I got some extra time with her and it had a different feel from it than regular practice. We could engage in conversation as she was torching me. Unlike regular practice when I spent most of the time talking to and encouraging my teammates.

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2017 Homecoming (l.r. Tosha Woodard, Jane Hicks (Coach), and Sharon Nyree Williams

On this particular morning I started sharing with her that I didn’t know what I was going to do after graduation. You see, when I was preparing to go to college they always told me that it would probably take five years for me to complete the program. In the back of mind I kind of depended on it but somehow I ended up finishing in four years. You know how, you know something is coming, but it’s not until it gets close that you realize that it is really going to happen. Well that’s what happened to me. I woke up one day and was like “Aw hell this is going to happen. What the f*** I am graduating?” My major was in Television Productions, so the ideal situation would be for me to get a job at a television station like I had done for my internship. When I started looking for jobs the salaries were really low. I remember trying to figure out how I could be independent on what I would possibly be making.

I’m gonna be honest as graduation approached at what seemed like a rapid pace, this Black chick freaked out. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Where was I going to live? Who was I going to work for? I remember wanting someone to come and tap me on the shoulder and say, “Sharon this is what’s next…”. Up until this point the plan had been laid out for me on what I needed to do. They told me to go to elementary school, then to junior high (now called middle school), high school and then to college. All of that was mapped out for me, but now nobody was going to tell me what was next. Are you for real? Man, I was trippin’.

I soon learned I wasn’t the only one concerned. One of my classmates was trying to figure out her next steps as well. So much so, that she convinced me that we should join the military. She had learned that with degrees we could enter at a high level and make some pretty good money. I was intrigued and went with her to the Air Force recruiting office right across the street from the university. We figured we couldn’t do the Army and we liked water but the Marines wouldn’t work either. I can’t remember much from our visit to the recruiting office but I do know that as soon as we walked out the door we knew that the Air Force was not an option.

Coach was on the pitcher’s mound behind the pitching machine and I was in the batters box. In between pitches, I was telling her my dilemma. I remember saying to her,”Who in this day and age graduates in four years? Coach I was supposed to be here for at least five. I can’t believe I did this to myself.” I told her camera operators were making around $16k-$20k, and I didn’t know how I could live off of that. I really wanted to work in my field so at the time I didn’t even know what alternatives to consider. I felt, I couldn’t go home an unemployed college graduate. That’s wouldn’t be ideal for anyone. I didn’t even want to consider working a job outside of my major. What the heck would that be? Coach was trying to give me some suggestions and I just felt even more pressure in trying to figure it out. It was too much. I was overwhelmed.

When I told her I had went over to the Air Force recruiting office. She stopped pitching and said, “No, you are not going in the military”. Then she said, “Baby Girl, why don’t you stay and be my graduate coaching assistant and work on getting your masters? The athletic department would help pay for your classes.” I took the bat off my shoulder and said, “Are you for real Coach? I could stay here, help you coach and get a Master’s Degree?” She reassured me and I didn’t think twice and said, “Yes, let’s do it.” She started back pitching but I remember after every pitch, I asked her to confirm what she had offered me. Finally we just had to stop practicing and I agreed to go and figure out what I needed to do to enroll. At this point this option allowed me an opportunity to delay entering the real world. And I was down for that….

After graduation in May of 1997, I handed my degree to my Mom, followed her and everyone to the hotel, said goodbye while taking some graduation celebration/going away pictures. They got back on the road and I went to the dorm. I then moved my stuff from one side of the dorm to the other side by myself. The next day I started taking my Business Administration prerequisites in summer school. I hadn’t taken any business courses for my undergraduate degree so I had quite a few I needed to pass before I could start my master classes. I’m going to be honest, there was nothing easy about entering the world of business. I started studying Television Productions in high school, that was my passion. It came somewhat naturally to me learning new things were exciting. But this new world, I had to buckle down, focus and force myself to learn the business principles. It was anything but easy.

I think that’s why I don’t talk about having my MBA that much. Not because it wasn’t a major accomplishment, but I think because I was so young and desperate when I got it. I prolonged having to grow up and face the real world. The pursuit of it wasn’t because I wanted it and I had planned this as my logical next step but I went after it because I was desperate, confused and scared as hell.

I must admit, although it wasn’t the original plan. For me it has turned out to be one of the best things I have done for my career. When I couldn’t find my way in the world of Television Productions my MBA saved me. When I realized as a Black woman I needed to know how to not only be an artist but produce my own work. My MBA carried me. When I think something is to hard and I don’t feel like I can wrap my head around it. My MBA reminds me that I am capable of all things. Yeah, I may not talk about it or highlight it a lot, but make no mistake. My MBA is forever a part of me.

My name is Sharon Nyree Williams and I have a MBA.

This piece was inspired by a conversation with one of my mentors Ms. Vivian, when she said with a little power behind it, “You have a MBA!”

I dedicate this piece to my nieces Karess and Elia. Karess just graduated from Fayetteville State University and will be starting her masters program soon. Elia, has just decided to go back to school. #proudauntie

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2017 Elia Valentine, Karess Williams, and Sharon Nyree Williams
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My Coach and My MBA Saved Me

Real Life: Shopping and Homelessness

Sharon Mexico
This is me on an immersion trip in Mexico where I learned more about the country’s history and struggle with poverty. My Humanity album features stories from this trip. 

Here’s my current situation. My brother has been living with me for going on three years and last year his son came to live with us. For about the last month my brother has been working in Richmond, Virginia; which means I’m on full time auntie duty.

This past weekend my charge was to take my nephew to the mall before it actually opened so he could get in line to purchase the new Jordan’s. To be exact they were the white and silver Jordan Retro 4 sneakers. Let the record show that I have never bought a pair of Jordan’s and there I was early on Saturday morning, sitting at a table in the mall, surfing the internet on my phone, watching the mall walkers go by, and waiting on my nephew to get his new sneakers.

I’ve heard about the process, I know I have family members; my brother, nieces and nephews whom have also made sure they got there place in line. If you want the new you have to be dedicated to this process because the store will only get a certain number of pairs and once they are gone they aren’t able to replenish there stock. Some of you may no this as supply and demand, but to me it’s just a hustle that Nike/Jordan and now several other companies have perfected.

While I was sitting there waiting for my nephew when a Black man comes over to my table and asks if he could sit with me. I saw that he had some food, therefore my response was, “Of course if you are going to share your food”. He laughed and said, “I don’t mind sharing”. He looked to probably be a little older than me and he had on his working clothes. Honestly I didn’t notice his clothes until I walked past him a little while later when we were leaving the mall.

During our conversation I learned that he was from North Carolina. The accent and a reference he made about Hardees gave that away instantly. I can’t remember the small town he was from but both of us being from North Carolina made the fact that we ended up at this moment in time together feel familiar. Yes, we did have to ask each other, “Who your people?”

The longer we talked the more comfortable we became with each other. I finally asked, “Why was he in the mall on a Saturday morning eating chicken?” I figured it was just something he liked to do. But he looked at me and said, “Honestly, I lost the place I was staying and I just moved into the shelter.” I instantly went into I’m so sorry mode, but he reassured me that he was going to be okay. That being in the shelter was only temporary. He believed in a couple of months he would be back on his feet.

You see his trade is painting. He’s been painting houses since he was 18 and he felt that he just needed a few big houses and some steady gigs to get back on his feet. I believed him, but I couldn’t help but feel some kind of way. Here I am in the mall with my nephew who is about to get a pair of shoes that cost around $200 (I didn’t pay for them.) and this man is living in a shelter.

For five years I worked with Neal Lampi and Jenn Romo of Real Change Newspaper on the Annual Urban Poverty Forum here in Seattle. Where we addressed certain issues around homelessness. A few years ago I released my first poetry plus storytelling album, Humanity in which the focal point was homelessness. Everyday when I’m driving around town I see the tents, the sleeping bags, the person on the side of the street with the sign asking for money/work and I may even see someone pushing a shopping cart. But no matter how many times I’ve seen it, or have written about it, it doesn’t and will never prepare me for when it looks me dead in the eye.

I woke up thinking I was just going to be taking my nephew to get a new pair of shoes. I never thought along with that would come a reminder of how lopsided our society really is.

Homelessness is real…

Real Life: Shopping and Homelessness