Great expectations: What San Diego business and nonprofit leaders wanted to be when they grew up
Children often dream of becoming astronauts or professional athletes, never quite realizing what’s involved in pursuing those careers. Other professions admired among children, like firefighter or performer, can lose their appeal as children grow older and discover what the job really entails. So when children answer what they want to be when they grow up, do their answers truly indicate their future goals?
As it turns out, they can. The career we hope for as children and our experiences growing up can shape the professions we eventually pursue. As we learn about our strengths and weaknesses, our original interests often influence our eventual careers, even when they differ from our childhood dream job. We wanted to know why business and nonprofit leaders, including those at Mission Fed, chose their careers, so we reached out with the following questions:
- What did you think you would be when you grew up?
- Did your plans change or stay on track?
Through the interview process we discovered that no matter where life takes you, honoring your past and recognizing your assets and challenges has the biggest impact on your career.
We interviewed Debra Schwartz, President and CEO of Mission Federal Credit Union, to find out what her goals had been growing up, and whether she ended up where she thought she’d be. She said, “When I was little, I thought I was going to be a great artist. Obviously, my life’s destination changed somewhat. In college I realized that I wasn’t quite as talented in art as I had thought I was, but I had an unexpected knack for math. It’s important to recognize your strengths, weaknesses and know that sometimes your dreams and opportunities evolve into something you could never have imagined.” Along the way, Debra discovered where her skills were strongest and worked with her strengths so her future goals could evolve with her skill set. Adaptability and drive are often the hallmarks of success stories. Debra shows us that because she was willing to adjust her goals and use her talents, she chose a career where she can use her talents to make a difference for customers and the community.
Jay R. Hatfield, Executive Director of the Braille Institute of San Diego, had a similar experience to Debra’s, discovering in college that his original goals weren’t the right fit. He shared, “When I was in high school, my goal was to become an optometrist. I started college studying biology and was heading down a pre-med path. After my first year of classes and many late-night labs, I realized that this was not my path after all. So I changed my major to Business Administration. I have used my business management skills in every job I have had, including my last 26 years working at the Braille Institute.” Had Jay continued down the path of becoming an optometrist, he wouldn’t have discovered the rewarding career he’s enjoyed for the last 26 years at the Braille Institute, and may have ended up professionally dissatisfied. However, he listened to his intuition and changed gears, choosing a fulfilling career.
In our interviews with industry leaders, we heard again and again about listening to your fundamental principles and sticking to careers you find rewarding. In fact, deeply held belief systems and goals can be the single most important influence on a future career. Mission Fed’s SVP of Membership and Marketing Neville Billimoria told us about how his background informed his career choices. He shared, “When I was little I had no idea what I would be when I grew up. But I did have altruistic aspirations of wanting to make the world better, more equitable and more inclusive, especially with a focus on inclusion. Growing up in bi-racial, bi-cultural family and feeling first-hand the effects of racial prejudice and the need to belong, I really wanted to create learning and contributing environments for people to feel safe, valued and connected. Today my personal and professional work life have afforded me the opportunity to behave into these core values, whether helping the community achieve their financial needs and ensuring their financial wellbeing at Mission Fed, teaching wisdom traditions and equipping life-long learners with a community and model to grow and contribute to at UCSD, or serving on boards and in other advisory roles to help local purpose-driven organizations achieve their mission.” Neville built a fulfilling and purposeful career in which he helps others based on experiences that shaped him.
Sometimes finding your calling and choosing to give back comes after struggling yourself. For San Diego Coffee Training Institute’s Founder Savannah Philips, moving from childhood dreams to real life came with some tough lessons. She told us, “When I was really young, like most kids, I wanted to be a firefighter or an astronaut. Now that I think about it, neither would have been a good fit. And it wasn’t my journey. Life has a way of doing what it wants.” Savannah had to course-correct after learning what her talents and interests truly were. She discovered a love for coffee when she was 11 and, after going through some difficult times in her 20s, came back to her passion and combined it with her desire for meaningful work. She started the San Diego Coffee Training Institute to provide training and education to vulnerable populations in order to help provide stable career options. She said, “I didn’t see it then of course, but eventually I discovered that working in coffee and doing something to help others who have struggled as I have with finding my own way and career path was my true calling.” It’s this blending of beliefs and strengths that can create the most meaningful and successful careers.
If we use our past to inform our goals and our future, it’s not necessary to follow what we thought would be the end result. Instead, using those experiences to focus on a job you find rewarding and interesting can be even better than the future you had imagined for yourself as a child. Founder and President of Reality Changers, Chris Yanov told us about how his desires shaped his organization. “I remember thinking when I was a student at UCSD that I would like to grow up and be a college professor—only for university students that grew up in underserved communities. Since that profession never really existed, I suppose building and leading Reality Changers over the next 20 years came pretty close!” Chris adapted his vision and created a company that met his goals to support the education of underserved youth.
Knowing your career makes a difference is the best inspiration, as Director of Marketing and Graphic Design at Reality Changers Jamie Anderson discovered. He learned his lifelong creative goals were best served in “a mission-minded company,” and Reality Changers was the ideal fit. Similarly, Scott Silverman, Founder and CEO of Confidential Recovery, wanted nothing more than to “find ways to help others” with his outpatient recovery program. The desire to make life better for others is a powerful motivator.
If there’s one thing we learned from the industry leaders we interviewed, it’s that life can take you in unexpected directions, and our professions are often be quite different from what we anticipated. However, if we’re true to our goals and allow meaningful experiences to guide our careers, we may end up somewhere we never dreamed of and be happier because of it. These leaders show us that if you can recognize your strengths and challenges, you can use them to find a career you truly believe in.
The content provided in this blog consists of the opinions and ideas of the author alone and should be used for informational purposes only. Mission Federal Credit Union disclaims any liability for decisions you make based on the information provided. References to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name in this article by Mission Federal Credit Union is for the information and convenience of its readers and does not constitute endorsement, control or warranty by Mission Federal Credit Union.
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