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

Self Inflicted Stress

The last couple of days, I’ve been dealing with family stress. It’s not my families fault. You may say I brought it on myself. Over the last three weeks we had two deaths in our family. My amazing Aunt Beulah passed away at the age of 93 and two weeks later her brother, my uncle Joel Jackson passed away at the age of 94. At first glance, you may be saying, wow they lived very long lives. However, the next point is that this means my grandmother Ms. Helen has no living siblings. But then if you dig in a a little deeper then you will say, well she is the baby of the family, so everything appears to be in it’s natural order. That’s how I can deal with it on paper. Reality seems to have beaten me up in a different way.

Joelbackright(l.to.r) Aunt Marie, Uncle Dool, Auntie (Ola Mae), Joel, and Ms. Helen (my grandmother)
(seated) Myrtle Gillard (not pictured Aunt Beulah)

I live in Seattle, Washington and my family lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Although, I’ve lived in Seattle for seventeen years; instantly when I hear of a death or someone being sick in the family my first response is to try and go home. Sometimes it works out but most of the times it doesn’t. Despite not being there I always seem to try and find a way to be connected to what is happening. For my Aunt Beulah, I was able to write a piece about her that my niece read during her service. (That was dope.) For my Uncle Joel my sister asked me to send pictures of him that they could use for the bulletin/program. This is what stressed me out.

You see, I have a massive collection of family photos. I’m pretty proud of my collection. I knew I had this one particular picture of Joel but I wasn’t sure if I had to many more. But yet and still, I was happy to go through my collection. As I’m going through the collection, of course I’m finding pictures of everyone else. Therefore, I spend some of the time, taking pictures of the pictures to text to my family. To remind them of some of the moments from the past. About mid-way through my collection, I began to get nervous. I started to feel like I didn’t have any pictures of my uncle, but at the same time I knew there was at least one picture with his hands up. Because he didn’t want me to take his picture.

It happened, I went through the entire collection and all I had found was one group photo and nothing of Joel by himself. I became real sensitive to the situation. Why don’t I have any pictures of him? I know he didn’t like me taking pictures of him, but I still should have at least one? Am I missing some pictures? Let me think, did I move some pictures to another part of the house? What am I going to tell my family? I can’t believe I don’t have any pictures. The stress was building…

I decided to go to bed, and pick up the search the next day, when my mind was clear. I got home from work, cooked dinner, took a shower, ate dinner and began searching for pictures of him again. I remembered that I did have a folder of pics that I had pulled out for a documentary project. I found the folder went through it and I found a couple more group pics, but nothing of him by himself. I sat on my bed and had moments where I would cry just a little bit, because I was going to let down my family. How could I not have any pictures? I’m a failure.

More importantly, where was the one picture that I knew I had? Why can’t I find it? I sat there for a while and then I decided to go and check in another room. In a matter of minutes I found the picture with his hands up. I questioned why I had moved the pic but now it was like a precious piece of gold. I held it to my chest. I instantly felt the weight lifted from my heart.

Joel handsup

I don’t even think my family would be able to use it for the service, but that didn’t even matter anymore. I have a picture of my uncle Joel and that’s all I care about.

No more stress…RIP JOEL

Me and Joel
Me and Joel (2014 I think)
Self Inflicted Stress