Sheldon – Med School Plans, Different Reality

Sheldon – Med School Plans, Different Reality

#41 – From a young age, Sheldon Pereira was always good at fixing things. It started when his dad brought home his first ever computer, and Sheldon had to learn to fix it when he broke it. As he matured through high school, his interest turned more to fixing people than computers, and he had visions of attending medical school to become a doctor. 

The first step in that journey was attending Wilfrid Laurier University, and while Sheldon’s overall experience was fantastic, academically things did not go as well as he’d hoped they would. As he rounded the corner towards graduation, it became clear that medical school was not in his immediate future and he would have to find a job while he continued to work on his grades. Enter: Residence Life. 

Having been a Residence Don (Residence Advisor) as a student, when Sheldon found a great opportunity to work in an entry-level job in Residence Life, with people he admired, he jumped at the chance. While his future as a doctor was getting farther and farther away, he thrived in his new role and began to build up a reputation. As he did, job opportunities presented themselves and Sheldon began to carve a new path for himself in university administration. As he did, he let go of any regrets he had about the future career he had left behind.

Now, Sheldon is the Chief of Staff to the President of Wilfrid Laurier University and has recently been given the added role of Senior Executive Officer, Internationalization. In his interview, we dig deeper into how he had to re-learn how to learn to succeed in his career, as well as how he took time off from work after some personal tragedies to recentre himself.

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The below transcript is A.I generated with light editing and may not be 100% accurate.

Transcript
Jonathan Collaton:

Good morning, good afternoon or good evening, you're listening to career crossroads. And if you're new here, welcome. Otherwise, welcome back. I'm Jonathan Collaton. And this is the podcast where I talk to one person each week about all the decisions that led them to their current career path. Today I'm talking to Sheldon Pereira. And before we get too far in the interview, I want to tell you a little story about Sheldon. I first met Sheldon in 2007, a month or so before I was about to move into residence at Wilfrid Laurier University to start my very first year there. And I was at a leadership conference called leap, which ended up being a really big part of my university career. I did it for five years as a volunteer after I was there as a first year. And when I showed up to leap, I go to sign in, and the guy sitting at the signing table says, Well, this is weird. But Hi, I'm Sheldon, and I'm your residence Don. And then he had to explain to me what a residence Don was. But a month or so later, I move into residence and Sheldon was my dawn for the entire year. We had a really good year, he was a great upper year student to manage that floor and to keep us all out of trouble. So that's the story of how I met Sheldon. But there is more to it. And I'm going to wait until after the interview to share the rest of the story. So speaking of the interview, let's get right to it. And afterwards, we'll chat about what we can learn from Shelton's career path. Sheldon, thank you for joining me today on career crossroads. How's it going?

Sheldon Pereira:

Good, Jon, thanks for having me. It's good to be here with you. I'm glad that you're here. Sure. I'll actually start a little bit

Jonathan Collaton:

And you know, most people who are on this podcast, a lot of them know me as Jonathan, but you know me as john, because of back in the day at Laurier. Our time there, which I know we're going to get into really, really early on in this, I'm sure. But before we talk about Laura, I want to go back to when you were a teenager and tell me what you were like then because I often think the things that are influencing us at that point in time do influence the path we take at the end of high school. So where did you grow up? What was your family like? What were your ajor influences? before I was a teenager. Sure.

Sheldon Pereira:

When I was 10, and my family so my family include my dad, Trevor, my mom Blossom. My sister Zenobia and I. And my sister is four years younger than me, by the way. So the four of us came to Canada from a country called Bahrain. And so I was born in Bahrain, as was my sister, my parents were Indian expats they were working there. And I think my parents realized that the future for my family included education for my sister and I, for our family to stay connected to each other and with each other. Because had we stayed in that country, we wouldn't have been able to stay together, I would have had to leave when I was 16, to go to school, back in India. So anyway, my family came over when I was 10. And I think the journey to being 16 started at 10. More than it started when I was six, let's just put it that way. And one of the first memories that I had in Canada, as it relates to my career was my dad bringing home and I don't exactly remember the circumstances that led to this happening, but he came home with a 486 computer. And this was back in the days where you would go to the library to use a computer, your school, maybe had a couple of computers, that you know, you would ask the teacher to use, and then they put you in that room off to the side of the classroom. But my dad came home with a 46 computer. And I think it had, you know, just the really meager amount of memory, Microsoft Word, not even office Microsoft Word. Oh, and, and I remember being so fascinated that I had access to this technology at home. And I remember a couple of times when I broke the computer just by using it. And my parents response was something to the effect of well, you have to learn how to fix it then. And so that again, a curiosity in me I think I've really enjoying the process of not so much breaking things, but learning how to fix things. And so I would go to the library and for a while it was my parents library card. But then in time, I earned the privilege of getting my own. And I would take out books. The for dummies series was one that really spoke to me as a dummy myself at the time. And I would just get into the process of fixing it out of necessity. But then it really became something I enjoyed and so if I fast forward to 16 I was very much an older 10 year old I was building computers taking apart computers. I was learning how to write in HTML, which is a web code that you would see on the backend of websites. I was learning how to set up servers and building websites for my dad and his colleagues. And yeah, I was just a nerdy 16 year old that was very much into technology, not so much video games, definitely technology, and was just really curious about the world.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, so one thing I want to comment on the for dummies books, fantastic. I've talked quite a bit on this before about how I did a degree in history. And in grade 12, my teacher told us it was a grade 12 Canadian history course I think. And that was an area of strength for me. And one of my teachers in that class said, You should all go by Canadian history for dummies, he's like, this will be invaluable for you now and through university if you choose to study that, and definitely something I reference back to. In fact, in my high school grad pictures, I took a picture with the Canadian history's for dummies book. So I I get how valuable those books can be. So I'm preaching to the choir here. Oh, yeah, no, you don't have to sell me I get it. So technology, obviously, a big interest at that time. And, and an emerging area too, right. Like, I don't know exactly when this would have been, but at some point around, like, the the.com bubble or something like that, when when this was happening for you. So you're looking at Yeah, so you're looking at all these major companies out there, too, that are just exploding? I mean, mostly in a good way, then in a bad way. But then a lot of them did recover? How did that influence what you wanted to do? Right? When you finished high school? Did you immediately want to go and do something with that? Technology interest or fixing broken things?

Unknown:

Yeah, so there was, I would say three things going on with that time in my life. One was this curiosity that was enabled by technology. You know, I distinctly remember sitting in my bedroom with my dad and my sister and I looking at this computer screen. And we just downloaded Napster. And we were deciding excitedly about what the first song was, we were going to download. And I'm not embarrassed to say, but it is embarrassing. Now, in hindsight, a little bit, that it was Nelly Furtado is I'm like a bird. So you have that image, right, this curious kid. As you said, you know, the.com period, we were living through it. Then there was this aspect to my my, my personality at the time of being really conscientious. And so I was an air cadet, throughout high school that involved me, you know, spending hours a week, ironing my clothes, making my bed polishing boots, dressing up in my uniform for parade, doing drill class, physical training. And so alongside this curiosity, I had this deep conscientiousness that I was cultivating in myself, ironically, and we'll talk about this later, it did not carry over to my academic pursuits, I was a terrible student in university, but that that's, that's a story we can get into. Okay. And then I would say, the third piece, you know, the curiosity, the conscientiousness was also a lack of clarity. I just had no idea what I wanted to do, as it related to university and I, I would pick things that I thought were interesting, or that would be aligned. You know, I was an air cadet. I was studying for my pilot's license at the time, we're getting ready to at least. And so I thought, Oh, I'd love to work in aerospace. Turns out I was terrible at calculus. Like to the point of like tears, I would my anxiety would build up in my grade 10, trigonometry or calculus class. And I just knew at that moment in time, that that wasn't going with the grain with my talents and abilities and intellects. And then I thought, okay, if it's not that I really enjoy working with people. And what's a lofty thing you can do that works with people? Maybe I'll be a doctor. Turns out the sciences for me in high school were the the least the least successful subjects, but I just had this really stubborn streak in myself that I only now realized in hindsight, where I just refused to accept going with what was easy to me, what were probably my innate talents. For some reason, I insisted on going against the grain of those things. And so if you were to ask my 16 or 17, eight year old self, what are you going to do in university, I would have told you something like, I want to be an engineer, I want to be a doctor. And I held on to those things stubbornly until until I knew and had come to terms with the fact that that's not what I was supposed to be doing.

Jonathan Collaton:

Did you get like part of the way through university before it really hit home that you know you were taking courses and it just it wasn't Gonna be a fit? Or was it even on the selection process for university where you kind of realize that that's not the right fit.

Unknown:

I kept telling myself that it was going to be a fit. I just hadn't grown into it yet.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay.

Unknown:

And so it took me going on academic probation year after you're in university, taking courses that I found myself coming up with reasons why I didn't want to go to class. It took me all the way to the end of fourth year where I had all of the credits I needed to graduate, a terrible GPA to show for it. And just feeling even more lost and even less clear than at the end of high school. And even at that moment in time, I refuse to acknowledge or admit that I wasn't, I wasn't intended to be a doctor. Or that, you know, my life's my life's. My life hadn't hadn't led me to that path in the way that maybe I had hoped for to. But I had done everything I had taken all of the required courses, I had done my MCAT tests, which is the standardized Admission Test, I'd done some prep courses. But at the end of my four years at Laurier, I just, I wasn't eligible to get into an Ontario school and for the same reasons that my family chose to immigrate to Canada, I chose not to pursue medical education outside of Canada. I didn't want to be away from my family.

Jonathan Collaton:

So one briefly, I would love to hear like how is it that you pick Laurier? Because I interview a lot of Laurier grads, just do the fact that I went there. And I would love to hear like, what about Laurier made you go there?

Unknown:

Mm hmm. So I almost didn't go there. I got into Laurier. Not in early admission, not in the regular round of admissions, I'm pretty sure I got in, in the late offers. And again, one of these memories, I remember picking up my sister from school. We were in my mercury Topaz, which was my mom's car that had been handed down to me. And we were driving to this, these super mailboxes that are in these new subdivisions, because I grew up in peel appeal regions just outside of Toronto. And I remember opening up our mailbox and thinking, Okay, if the offer of admission doesn't come today, I'm going to another school. And there was nothing in the mailbox. and Mrs. was like, what's that in the back of the mailbox and there was a key. And if you know, the super PAC mailbox is the key in your small mailbox, opens the big mailbox.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Unknown:

And so it was a little it's like an escape room. And we took the key, we open the big mailbox, and there was the offer of admission. But why did I go to Laurier, I think it had a lot to do with our campus visit. We had driven around to some other schools. At the time, I was really interested in Windsor, in the Royal Military College because of that cadet experience. And both Guelph and Queens had these Bachelor of Arts and sciences programs where you could kind of take the best of both worlds. But between the campus visit in a really great conversation with a faculty member at the university fair where that faculty member said to me, Hey, you can like you can take a lot of arts courses in science at Laurier. It was for those reasons that that I chose to come here and again, back to family, something that I didn't see in myself, even though it was so glaringly obvious. I didn't want to be too far away from my family. Laurier was only an hour away from home. I knew I could get home whenever I wanted to. And I think at a really deep level, it was the right choice for that reason.

Jonathan Collaton:

This is funny, because I'm sure I knew some of these things before. But those are a lot of the same reasons I ended up picking Laurier was the campus tour on an open house day where I realize, like I had my own tour guide. And it was like so many people want to volunteer to give tours of this school that like this must be a special place. And I had gone to Queens and I thought I was going to Western and I do tours of Queens and Western. And it just didn't feel right. And I went to Laurier and the tour was amazing. And then I talked to a faculty member in the history program. And I was like, I want to go study with that guy. So yeah, it and it was an only an hour away, but it was an hour away from my parents. So that was part of the rationale for me going there.

Sheldon Pereira:

Yeah. I bought a T shirt at the Laurier open house. And I came home with it. And I worked a school just like all of my friends were doing at the schools that they had gotten accepted to, except I hadn't gotten accepted yet. And so my dad, my dad said to me, he's like, Sheldon, you can wear that T shirt. But like, have you thought about if the letter doesn't come? I said no, it's coming. And sure enough, it did. And I wore that T shirt for a few years after that. But it was a really happy time in my life because, again, it was the first time that I had waited and wanted something for so long and then it actually happened.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, okay, that's awesome. Now I want to touch briefly to probably not briefly because I think it was probably a big part of your experience. But I remember you as someone who was probably heavily involved in a lot of different areas of campus. And for context for anyone listening, you'll have to wait to hear this. But I'm going to tell a little story about you in my intro to the episode that you'll hear later. But Sheldon was my Don on year Laurie, which means when I was a first year, he was one of the upper year students that helps manage my floor and make sure me and my buddies didn't get in too much trouble. And I remember the med school ideas, you were talking about that. And you just seem to know everyone on campus. So I imagine you were pretty heavily involved. And I know reslife was a part of that. So tell me how that extra curricular experience influenced your time at university. Because for some people, it just doesn't happen. They just they go and take classes, they get the degree they move on. But I don't think that was the case for you. Although I may be wrong, but tell me about it. Yeah,

Unknown:

I, you know, I talked about clarity just a few minutes ago, I think what became clear to me when I came to loray, when I started University, and I think this would have been true, regardless of where I went, is that there was there wasn't good alignment or good fit between what I had choose chosen to study, and who I was as a person on my core and what my life's mission was intended to be. And so every day of going to class was a struggle for me. And I don't mean that the subject matter or the material was challenging, or, or, and it was, but what was really a struggle was I knew deep in my spirit, that I wasn't engaging with the right. With the right content. Yeah, I wouldn't say that I would change anything. But I think I will, I would have probably enjoyed my academic experience more, had I been a philosophy student, or had I been a global study student, instead of a biology student, and then later a psychology student. Now, in hindsight, as well, I would say, so much so much of what I use in my professional practice, I can attribute to having that experience in the life sciences. But I think I would have been a diligent, conscientious, engaged, fulfilled student, had I been in the arts, humanities and social sciences instead of what I chose to pursue, because I had medicine as my North Star. And so I think, again, unintended Lee, none of this was really by design. I fell into what brought me joy, and what brought me fulfillment, and what helped me feel accomplished, then that was engaging in student activities in student clubs that aligned with my passion, aligned with my purpose, and where I found the community of people that that I felt got me and that I understood. And so my first involvement screw with my residence Council, which we call House Counsel at Laurier. And that's actually on my first day and my parents, it left an impression on my parents too. I rolled up and I packed light. We just stopped at Zellers. The day before I had got a new pillow. I got a had a comforter. I had a Rubbermaid tote of clothes, and I had a laptop, which at that time, about half of my floor had laptops, and about half of the floor had desktop computers still. It was that era of going to university,

Jonathan Collaton:

how times have changed

Sheldon Pereira:

how times have changed. Yeah, and sidebar, I didn't get a cell phone until third year university. But yeah, it's been a while.

Jonathan Collaton:

You couldn't roam around campus playing snake on your phone.

Sheldon Pereira:

No that's right. But the first, the first upper year student I met was my don. His name is Tyler. He's still a good friend to this day. And I think it was through Tyler that I saw somebody who I connected with somebody who helped me feel secure in who I was somebody who was unconditional in terms of how they engaged with me and interacted with me saw past my, you know, my, my youth treated me as as a as a peer. And I think that's really what helped me feel connected to the community that I had just joined. And so the first activities I got into were in Residence Life as a first year student and then right away after my first year I applied to be a dawn and I was a dawn my whole way through or a resident assistant for those that went to college, university elsewhere. And state and residents.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, so as you're approaching then the end of university, there's usually if not from yourself, maybe not pressure but questions from family about what are you going to do when you graduate? I remember for me and all of my friends that last Christmas before our, our final term of university, get together with the family and all the questions would show up what You're going to do any graduate, you got four months left, what are you going to do? So how did you answer that question? And what did you plan for once you were going to graduate because, like you said, You weren't the best student and I can empathize with that I had to claw until my very last course to get that honors degree. So I experienced a lot of like, what am I going to do? And how do I answer that question to my family? So what was it like for you? How did you manage that?

Unknown:

Well, there were some easy answers to the question. I've got, I'm planning to go to medical school. I'm studying for my MCAT test, which is that standardized test. And that bought me some time in space, because, you know, people knew as a four year journey, while I was in, in university, as well, my dad was really, really sick. And so that also provided some space and a buffer for me to kind of not have to answer the question, because what was most important at that time in my life was, you know, my dad's health. And thankfully, he made it through that time. But again, that was like right in the middle of my lorry experience. And so I felt like in some ways, I didn't have to answer the question as often. And then other times when I did, I got off a little bit easy. But at the end of four years, john, I had taken the MCAT test I had done really well, my grades were terrible. My dad was healthy. But I was just feeling really embarrassed and ashamed. I, everybody I knew, kept refusing that I was this talented, intelligent person. And I didn't feel that way. My Grades weren't, didn't make me eligible for an honors designation. I barely had the grade, the GPA requirements to even have a major designation. And so I was going to eke out a degree, basically a degree. And even though I knew at that time that I had finished my degree, I had finished my requirements. What I didn't do is I didn't apply to graduate, I couldn't bring myself to walk across the stage, and celebrate an accomplishment, even though it was, you know, there are many families whose kids are only for the first time going to university or college now. And for those families, they built up to this point in time. And so I'm not, I'm not suggesting that attaining a degree isn't an accomplishment. But I just felt like I had let myself down somehow. And in hindsight, I wasn't being very kind to myself. But that's how I felt. And so I decided I was going to start working. I knew that I had completed my degree, but I just wasn't going to celebrate it. And so I had an honest conversation with my parents, I said, Mom and Dad, listen, like, I've worked my butt off. This is the best I could do. But I'm not going to give up on the dream. And so a great opportunity came up for me to work in residence, an entry level position. And one of my mentors and now close friends, Chris Dodd, who's the director of the residence program, Laurie, every year, there was one position that they would hire from the pool of graduating Don's and I applied to that position, and I got it and I thought, perfect, I'll get to retake a couple of courses that I had failed. See if I can get my GPA up. I'll press that apply to graduate button If I can get my honors designation or something. And in the meantime, I'll work in a department and with people that I love serving students, which is what I love to do. And that's what I did. So I started off as the Residence Life resource facilitator, Laurie in 2008. And I supported the residence coordinators, who are the people that manage the dawns, and I help them organize whatever they were working on training, getting ready for moving day, booking buses for the don's that we're looking to do activities or programming with our students. That was my job and I loved it.

Jonathan Collaton:

Alright, so that helps you bridge that gap and it gives you that extra time to fight and get that degree that you wanted. And I like I said I had this to scrape and claw till the very end and actually ask a prof to bump me a grade in order for me to get the bare minimum to graduate with an honors degree so I can understand like how important that would have been to you because I had to I went through some of that myself. Now if I recall, that's a one year role that you were in in residence. And so at the end of that year, where did things seem like they were going to the grades work themselves out the way you had hoped? What about a job after that? Were you gonna go to med school then what was the plan?

Sheldon Pereira:

Yeah, so the grades did not improve. I took one chemistry course I think if I remember correctly, that I had failed and I failed that again. And I At that point in time, I still think I was holding on to the stream. That wasn't my dream anymore. But I wasn't prepared to let go of having said that, I was doing work that I found incredibly satisfying and incredibly rewarding. And I had an opportunity to continue doing it. So I did. And as I look back on that time, and I think I realized that in the moment, I was actually feeling, in many ways redeemed, I was engaged, I was working hard again, all of the things that didn't serve me well, while I was a student in university, were almost like they hadn't ever existed, because I had found myself at work. And while doing that work, to give you an example, when when I first came to Canada, when I was 10, I had come having learned or at least started to learn a number of languages at a, at a school that had fantastic curriculum. And so I came at at the age of 10. And I don't know, john, that I really learned anything new at school until I was maybe 1415. So it was in well into high school. And math was the first time that I remember struggling. And by the time, I figured out that I needed to study differently and learn differently. I wouldn't say it was too late. But it was, it was too hard for me to catch up. And so at the tail end of high school and heading into university, I had accrued a really poor set of study habits, a really poor set of learning skills. And I found it incredibly difficult to address that. And do University required me. And so the point of all of this is, when I started working, it's like a clock reset, I was able to learn, I was able to do and I was able to perform at a level that I knew myself capable of, but hadn't achieved in the four or five years prior. And it really did feel like redemption in a number of ways. And so I kept doing it.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, so seems like then continue on with reslife Student Affairs is an area where you fit you started to excel in. So what's the progression of working through that field like for you in the early years?

Unknown:

It was it was a dream, I wouldn't say it was a dream come true, because I had never imagined or dreamed, of doing that. But it was a dream, I worked with colleagues that when I was a dawn I had looked up to as as mentors, and I was working alongside some of them. As a young professional myself, I was working in an environment that embodied many of my values, service, compassion, leadership, purpose. And I got to do it in a really vibrant and energetic and fun environment. The one thing that chris dodd said to me when I was a young professional was that he trusted me implicitly. And I really took that to heart. For as much as my intrinsic motivation and desire to do good work, fueled my my ethic, just knowing that I had a leader that believed in me, that was there to support me, listen to me, that made a world of difference at the time as well. And so, again, I was in the department for about three years between that entry level role and the Residence Life coordinator role. And it was it was really awesome. And it was at about the halfway mark of my second year as a reslife coordinator, that another colleague and Student Affairs reached out to me and said, Hey, I want to talk to you about an opportunity. And that's when things really started to go down a path that I wouldn't have ever imagined.

Jonathan Collaton:

That would make a great like cliffhanger if I was going to make this a multi episode, podcast. But But that's not what I'm doing. So I want to hear what that what that change was, what was the big opportunity that showed up?

Unknown:

Sure. And so the big opportunity was that Laurie the universe that I worked at, and the University of Waterloo, which is the other university and in Waterloo, the city, they had bid about three and a half years prior to that conversation that I was having with this colleague, to host the largest conference of academics and scholars, I believe in North America, definitely in Canada. So what 8000 scholars descend on a university campus every year for what's called the Congress of the humanities and social sciences, which is a gathering of about 80 different scholarly disciplinary Association. So for example, the political scientists and the historians, and the philosophers each have their own little Association, and they meet in a large Congress on a university campus every year. And so Laurie in the University of Waterloo had been just like the academic Olympics, to host the Congress of the humanities and social sciences and we were a year and a half away. This colleague of mine, Dan Dawson, said Shelvin, the academic leader who put the bid in has left Laurie. I've just been appointed as the logistics convener. But we need a project lead, can I talk to you about? And so we had a conversation. I had, at that point built a reputation for being a good logistician in my resource facilitator role. And I think this ties back to my cadet days, I had approached, you know, the organizing of training and the logistics in a very detail oriented way. I'm sure we can come up with a bunch of military metaphors for how I organize the work, but you get the picture. And so I thought, Oh, this is interesting, I have a chance to put those skills to work in a space where I know nothing. Because I hadn't worked in academic affairs before. And, I had the opportunity to come back to my job in Residence Life afterwards. So what's the harm? And, again, I don't know that I gave it a lot of thought, but I, I was excited at the opportunity. And I took it. I want when I say took it, I applied for it. And then I went through the process. And then when it was offered to me, I took it. And that was probably the start of the next chapter of my own leadership development journey in my transformation as a professional was what I would now see as one of my, one of the attributes that I'm most proud of in myself, which is doing difficult things, tackling steep learning curves. I'm actually most proud of my ability to learn again, which is ironic, because it was the thing I was most ashamed of when I was an undergraduate student.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah. But I'm like hearing that as an outsider. That's, it's good to hear. Because, like you give that gives hope to the people who are kind of in that same scenario, right? where they feel like they've capped out and like, there's nowhere to go. And you're kind of giving an example of how exactly they can, I think you use the term before like reset, like you can reset your ability to start learning again. So it's great that that happened. Now, you said that was about one and a half years out from when Congress happened. So you obviously I imagine work on that for a year and a half, probably a little more doing some follow up work at the end, wrapping things up. Now, when you take a step like that, did you feel like you could jump back into your old job? Or, you know, I often think when people kind of take that leap, and you said new chapter, so that makes me think then the next thing is like, is not what's in the past. It's what's in the future.

Unknown:

Well, I call it a new chapter. Now, I don't know that I treated it as a new chapter then.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah.

Unknown:

you know, and in that year and a half. It was a roller coaster, but in the best possible way. And I say that as somebody who's not never really been on a real roller coaster, I've been on a log ride.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, so you have a lot of like stories from other people that bounce.

Sheldon Pereira:

That's right. Yeah. But I imagine it would be somewhat like what a roller coaster would be like. But Jon in that year, usually universities have five year planning cycles to do that type of project. And we had something like 15 months. And you know, by the end of the 15 months, we had done an ultra successful Congress 8000 visitors at association meetings, we had recruited 500 volunteers had 23 committees, and we had started from scratch, 15 months prior. And we did it, you know, something like 40% under budget. And you have to remember that I was a 23 year old, young professional, with no experience. And to be able to do that with my colleagues and feel and hear their support, feel and have their confidence. That did a lot for me as a professional. And it really spoke to me in terms of the type of police that Laurie was because I had been given for probably the second time in my career to that point. A little bit more responsibility than I was qualified for a lot of trust, and a lot of room to make mistakes in the pursuit of doing a job exceptionally well. And that kept me at Laurier and continues to keep me at Laurier because what that says to me is it's a place that believes in the potential of students.

Jonathan Collaton:

So then, like, what's the next step then after Congress? You know, you want to you know, you want to stay at Laurier and is there then another job that you either set your sights on or, much like the resource coordinator job like it just sort of showed up, and it ended up being the right fit for you. So what happened next?

Unknown:

It just showed up. And it was at that moment in my career that I also I remember deciding that I was only going to do one job at a time. And what I mean by that is, I wasn't going to plan my career anymore. I was going to do a job, do exceptionally well, by working hard by being humble by taking the time to learn by surrounding myself with great colleagues. And, you know, working it to the best of my ability, but the job just showed up. And so an opportunity for me to be the manager of the residence department that I had just been seconded from, it opened up. it coincided with when the Congress project was wrapping up. And so I applied, I competed. And I was selected, and I came back to the department, I did come back, but in a different capacity. And so at that point in time, I got to work with the residence coordinators as part of my team, rather than being a part of the residence coordinator team.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay. Now, I know you did that for a while. But I know the next pivot I find so interesting, because I was working at this point in time, couple years after, when you got that manager job. I was working at the University of Waterloo and one of the residences, and we went to a Waterloo city hall meeting. And because we heard there were changes coming to some bylaws or to to zoning in in the student area by Laurier. And there you were given the presentation. So do you remember that that meeting?

Sheldon Pereira:

I don't exactly remember the meeting. But it sounds like a meeting that I might have been at.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, well, and I think the reason I'm pointing that up is because I know you at that point working for the city of Waterloo. So how did that come about? where, you know, you mentioned like, it's what continues to keep you at Laurier. So obviously, you leave and come back from the sounds of that. But like, how did you end up leaving even temporarily in the first place?

Unknown:

Mm hmm. So that opportunity came about because so when universities and colleges exist in communities, the relationship between those institutions and the communities are typically described as town and gown. town being the town and gown being, I think, keynoting the regalia of the academic tradition that you might find at convocation or graduation. And around that time, the city of Waterloo had recently won a bid to have IBM come and do what IBM was calling their Smarter Cities challenge. And the problem that was identified in Waterloo is how you create a really cohesive community that incorporated integrated and leverage the fact that they had these three powerhouse, post secondary institutions Conestoga College, Laurier, and the University of Waterloo. And one of the first recommendations in that report was that there needed to be a bridge, a human bridge, between the town and the town, and somebody to do the relationship building in a way that a dedicated resource hadn't existed before to do. That position was called the stakeholder relationships manager. And so the city in consulting with the town gown committee thought, what better way to build relationships between town and gown than to hire somebody from the gown side to work at the town. And so an opportunity came up, I competed, and I was selected. But it was a risk at the time. And I don't exactly know in hindsight, why I considered it. But I know that there was something in my spirit that was telling me that it was something that I needed to do. And unlike my younger self, who refused to let go of this dream, of going to medical school, I was starting to get better at this time in my career of listening to my spirit. Like just when I had that feeling inside of myself, I started to trust it more, I started to give it more space. And so I left and again, if I remember correctly, I think there was an option for me to come back at the end of that second bend to the city of Waterloo. But I didn't in the same way that I had the last time after Congress.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, so what prompts...

Sheldon Pereira:

Sorry, I'm treating this like a cliffhanger podcast, but it's not.

Jonathan Collaton:

I know. Not, this is great. Because these are all these like, I'm hearing all these moments from like, oh, there's a promo clip. There's another one. So you're making this easy on me Sheldon. So so the job with the city then was there. It's it's a different atmosphere I imagined than working in reslife. Like quite different than...

Sheldon Pereira:

completely different.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, completely different

Unknown:

completely different than anything I had done to that point in my career and it scared the daylights out of me. And totally and so I described, you know, what I what I had decided before, which was, you know, enjoyed steep learning curve, I had been given responsibility slightly more than I was qualified to do, but I was going to work exceptionally hard. All of that was still true. But now I had to test out those hypotheses in an environment where I was completely a fish out of water. Now, I'm not saying that the hiring managers didn't know what they were doing, what I'm saying was, they had brought in somebody to do relationship management work, relationship building work, which I was qualified and skilled to do. But it wasn't just that I needed to do that with the universities on behalf of the city. I realized when I landed at the city, and perhaps not long before that, that in order for me to do that, on behalf of the City, I needed to have the trust and support from my colleagues of the city. And so I was back in learning mode. I was it was in the city is a complex place, right? I mean, there are planners, there are engineers, there are economic development specialists, there are legal staff and clerks, there are elected officials. And then that is all coached and framed within the dynamic of being, you know, public service taxpayer funded. In so there was learning on top of learning, meta learning on top of meta learning that needed to happen in order for me to do the job that I had been hired to do. But again, in hindsight, what a great opportunity for me to continue to restore this notion. And this paradigm that I had set for myself that I wasn't a good learner. And so that kept coming up for me in a really restorative kind of way, that I was able to be successful in some of these roles, because of my ability to learn. And because of my ability to engage in relationships with people,

Jonathan Collaton:

yeah. Now, I know, you have a variety of different other post secondary experiences beyond your undergrad, Laura, were any of those tied in in any way to the jobs that you were doing or influenced the jobs that you were taking up to that point in time, or did some of these things start a little after that?

Unknown:

They tied in Jon, in the sense that I knew, I knew I wanted to be back in the classroom. And I knew that I wanted to prove to myself that could be a different type of student, because if I could do it at work, I should be able to do it at school. But I wasn't going to set myself up for the same failure as I did before. And so what I also told myself was not going to go back to school until I'm ready, I'm not going to do the same type of program that I did before. And so it took me a while to find it. It also took me a while to build up the confidence that I could do it. But I found this program at an art and design University in Toronto; OCAD University, in strategic foresight and innovation. And as soon as I found it, I fell in love with it. It was this really applied experimental, but still theoretically sound program that by the end of it gave you a practitioners toolbox that you could use to lead change in a future focused future oriented way. And in a way that kept people where they belonged, which was right at the center of the work. And so that was kind of the second restoration, I was reminded that I could be a learner and a good learner at work. And then when I got into the program at OCAD, I had applied once got waitlisted applied again got in. That's when I was reminded I could also be a good student.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, so you've, you're starting to recover. And you're now this engaged new learner, I imagine. And with these things, was that overlapping with the job at the city, or was that before?

Unknown:

Yeah, it was overlapping with the job of the city. I think I had started it just prior to going over to the city. Yeah. And what was interesting about that time, is that that was also the time that I decided that I wasn't willing to be ashamed of my undergraduate anymore. Part of that was surfaced by a couple of folks in, in my close circles, who asked me, you know, like, hey, like, we never went to your grad. And I had to, I had to commit to them. It's because I never applied to graduate. I have all of my credits, I have my degree, I just didn't hit the button because I was ashamed. Some people understood that some people didn't. But I decided that was the only thing in my life where I carried shame and guilt, and I was tired of carrying it. And I share that because it's important and you know, you reference that some people might find hope in my ability to reset or re relearn. I would also say that I hope some people hear that, you know, we do think sometimes because we're young, and I should probably should have just hit That button because then I could have moved on with it. But I was I didn't know any better. Yeah. And I remember when I applied to OCAD, I wrote in my letter of intent, here's my transcript, you'll see that it's terrible. I can hit I can hit apply to graduate, if you want me to, but I'm applying here because I want to start over. And they admitted me, obviously, because I had my undergrad degree, but they admitted me, partly because I think it intrigued them a little bit. And they were looking to assemble a cohort of students that weren't their typical masters students or MBA students. No disrespect to MBA students. But this is a very different program.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, yeah. Okay. So the job at the city that you were in, did that have an end date to it? Because you mentioned you had the ability to come back to your old job. And typically, from my experience, that means it's a contract job, and they know they'll have you back by a certain days. So if that was the case, was there?

Unknown:

Yes, I were, I believe it was a two year contract to the city.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, now, I mentioned to you beforehand, before we started recording, that I threw your LinkedIn page up here, because and I'll talk about this more in the before section. But like, we go through these phases, where we're like, we talked for a while, then we don't talk for a while, then we talk about we don't talk for a while. So I haven't in the way that I've sort of collected data from other people about their career path. I didn't do that with you. And I needed your LinkedIn page as a reference. And it appears you only stayed at the city for a year and three months. So that seems like some other unexpected change occurred in your life.

Unknown:

It did. So what I found at the city was that the work was actually more relational than technical. And so again, in joining that team, and again, to those colleagues, I found myself fitting in a lot sooner than I thought. And I find myself being able to make an impact with them a lot sooner than I thought. And I wouldn't say that their work was finished when I left. But enough of it was finished, that it felt okay for me to leave. And so the IBM report had laid out, I think it was 14 or 18 recommendations. And we had, I think it was actually 14, we had activated and made really good progress on 11 of the 14, by the time I left, and I think the target was that we would have started or made progress on seven of the 14 at the end of two years. Wow. And so in some ways, john, it felt like, it was okay for me to move on to the next opportunity that I felt like I couldn't pass up. And I wouldn't have if I felt like I had been leaving them without what they had hired me to do. Right. And the role I moved into, had me connected to that work in a way that most other roles wouldn't have. So what I ended up doing next was moving on to be the director of university community relations at Laurier, which was, in fact, the role that I was working with, had Laurie while I was at the city, but there was a vacancy in that role. So I just moved across the table to do much of the same work with the city alongside the city, because we had spent that year prior building the relationships so that it could happen in a way that wasn't necessarily happening before as efficiently as effectively.

Jonathan Collaton:

yeah. So you get to go into a, it's the most similar role to what you were doing at the city, but at the university given you were working so closely together. But it's it's back at Laurie which is home, right, you've mentioned it already, like you keep coming back there, it has that vibe to it that just makes you want to be there. So then walk me through the next number of years at your career at Laurier, because I know we when we did talk in advance of this. In fact, we talked back in September when I first started this podcast, and we kind of just caught up on life. And there were a number of things that have happened in your life between when you went back to Lori and now some career related some not career specific but but did impact your career. And what may come out of this is a really good point about how your career isn't your entire life. And I hope I'm not stepping on your toes by saying that now and maybe I'm not incorrect in saying that. But that's what I took out of our conversation from way back in September. So So start, you know, start from the beginning, I guess.

Unknown:

Sure. I'll start with what you just said there, Jon.

Jonathan Collaton:

Sure.

Sheldon Pereira:

My career my career is a smaller part of my life as it's ever been. And that that is ironic or interesting, because of how far it's come. But how, how much the rest of my identity I've really focused on building out. And so I'll go back then to that moment in time, leaving the city going back to Laurie to be the director of university community relations and so If we retrace the steps, I started in student affairs, went to academic affairs, I came back the Student Affairs went over to work in a municipality. And now I'm back at the university, but I'm not in student affairs. I'm not an academic affairs, I'm doing university administration, essentially, community and government relations. And so at this point in time, I'm really, I would say, I'm building my breadth. Right? I, I don't think people at this point in my career saw me as a student affairs professional, they certainly wouldn't have seen me as an academic or non academic, a first professional. So they're probably just generally confused. Like, what, what is this guy about? Because he's, he's just kind of picking things at random. And I kind of was because as I said, Before, I had decided a couple moves back that I was only ever going to do one job at a time.

Jonathan Collaton:

Right, right.

Sheldon Pereira:

And so the university community relations job was my first experience with working at a systems level, I would say, inside the university, I started to do that a little bit at the city of Waterloo. But coming back into the university into this director role really gave me an opportunity to understand how to be a leader. At the strategic level, where you didn't necessarily get to fill your bucket working with folks on the front line students every day, it was, it was much more removed from that. Thankfully, I had a fantastic team that I got to work with very closely. And it was a small team. So I got to roll up my sleeves all the time. But it was building up my leadership capacity from a different vantage point in the institution. And so I did that, that role for a number of years, I learned a lot about marketing, University Communications, public affairs, how newsrooms work, how an external relations department operates. I learned a tremendous amount from my assistant vice president at the time, Joel Peters, who really was so generous with his time and mentored me, on the basis of him seeing potential in me, and again, back to this notion of always been given a little bit more responsibility than I had experienced to do. I think his mentorship really did a lot to set me up for success in that role. And so I hope to share our conversation with him after this, because I don't know that I have an opportunity to share that with him as often as I would like. But, you know, I just think about how transformative again, as a learner, I had a front row seat to an, again, an entirely new space. First, I had a front row seat and Student Affairs than a front row seat in academic affairs, then I got to observe in a municipal context, working with, you know, the chief administrative officer, and the mayor and council and now I got to be back at a university. And my boss reported to the President. And so I felt like I had this incredible opportunity to see the university and its relationships from every vantage point. And I did that job for a few years, and I loved it. And frankly, that was the first job where I didn't anticipate that I would be looking to do anything different. Because it afforded me a really good balance. I had gotten married in the time that I was in that role. And I was just loving life. I got to spend a ton of time with my partner, my wife, I got to do work that I really enjoyed. I had a great team, I had a great boss. And then seemingly out of the blue, although I probably forecasted this. Our president of the University at the time, Dr. Max Blau, retired because he was finished his second term. And our current president, Dr. Deborah McClatchy was appointed. And what I didn't expect was that she was going to create a role called chief of staff at the time was called the director of the president's office. And it was created and I thought, Oh, that's really interesting, again, didn't make the connection until the connection was made for me. And I had a conversation with a couple colleagues that I didn't initiate. And they suggested that I think about that role. And so I did.

Jonathan Collaton:

So you thought about that role? And I just, I need to pause here and point out what everyone else is thinking and whether or not you've thought to yourself before you should have because that's an amazing job title. That's just...

Sheldon Pereira:

Which one?

Jonathan Collaton:

chief of staff to be able to introduce it. I'm the Chief of Staff. That could be anything. That's great. It's a great yeah. So

Unknown:

it is it is ambivalent in terms of what it connotes. I tell people, you know, I'm not Doug stamper from House of Cards if you catch the reference. Yeah, I haven't I haven't killed anybody. I don't intend to I

Jonathan Collaton:

This is going into evidence.

Unknown:

Yeah, that's right, it can be used as evidence I have. I'm also not a political person. And by that, I mean, I don't play games with relationships. I'm a pretty open book I, in fact, if anything, I probably share more than I should sometimes, but that's just who I am. And I knew that if I was going to do that role, I wanted to understand what was expected of me. And what I heard of what was expected of me, it was very encouraging. Our president was looking for somebody to help her build relationships with some key constituencies. Because we were going to build a shared vision for the university, to set her presidency up for success in her first term. And so, like the other career moves, I applied that competed, I was selected, I accepted.

Jonathan Collaton:

Fantastic. Now, you were in that job for quite a long time. And I say we're because as you and I just chatted about before you got on here today, you very recently started another job. But in the time that you were in that job, did you feel like you were still doing some of that learning, or at that point, were you like, I know how to learn. And this is the job I've been preparing for. And I'm just going to take everything I've learned and put it into this job or, again, is it you know, the continuation of your own education.

Unknown:

It's very much the continuation I, I'm still the Chief of Staff, despite taking on this, this new role, as of, as of last week, but I'll say to you that as recently as this morning, I'm still learning. And so what changed for me in moving into this, this role was that I had confidence in my ability to learn. But I reminded myself daily of the necessity to learn. What also changed about my learning was that a lot of what I needed to learn, I couldn't necessarily access as easily. So part of the role of a chief of staff is getting to know and getting in sync with your leader. And I'm chief of staff to the president. And so my leader is the president. And an effective Chief of Staff operates in alignment and is only as credible, as their alignment is aligned with their leader, because you really undermine yourself and your leader, if you operate out of alignment with that person. And so the learning was a very different type of learning. The Learning was understanding at a really deep level, who is this person that I'm working for? And with? How do they think? What's their compass? What would they do in this situation? And then operating as their proxy, the other aspect of learning was, oh, my goodness, like, I don't know how the universities run. You know, I've seen it from different parts in the institution. But now I'm sitting around the executive table, and I'm privy to these conversations. Like, what's my value here? Okay, I know that I can learn. I know what my job is, but what am i contributing. And in a really constructive way, I was very humbled. For every time I started these jobs, I've been humbled, but with this job in particular, I thought, wow, like, I need to take this aspect of learning really seriously. And I need to sponge and soak up as much as possible. And so I got, I got to work on that. I spend time with folks asking naive questions and just deciding that I wasn't going to undermine my own success because of my ego. And so just putting myself out there and saying, I have no idea what you mean, when you use this term. And thankfully, people had the patience and the time for that. And and that has been a trend and a theme in my career. And something that I model in my own leadership now is that it is my job to be generous with my time.

Jonathan Collaton:

Now, earlier, I mentioned that when we had talked months ago, you know, we kind of talked about how your career isn't your whole life. And what you said a few minutes ago was that it's small, I don't want to butcher it. But something like it's as small of a part of your life as it kind of ever has been or something along those lines. And I know that over the last few years while you're in that Chief of Staff role you shared with me that you ended up taking some time off, work off your career. And if you're if you're willing to talk about that, I'd love to because I think it's important for people to realize you can't just kind of push through forever and there are other aspects of your life you have to take care of and and you're Can't be everything. So can you? Can you talk a little bit about that and kind of why that happened?

Unknown:

Yeah, absolutely. Jon, I would love to share some what was going on. So in the time that I was doing this really exciting job, and at this great learning, there was also a lot going on home. My partner and I had lost our son to stillbirth. My dad who I mentioned, had been sick when I was in university, he, he got better back when I was in university, but he was never really fully healthy from that point onwards, and a few months after we lost our son, I also lost my dad. And we had gone through a couple of really hard years that work. You know, we were sprinting. And it's the time in, in, in a presidency where you do that, right, there's a lot of work to do in this role is was more intense, and it had a different pace than, than I was used to, and it was fine. But on top of what was going on in my life, I wasn't fine. And so what I realized, actually, I was in London, England, and it was the end of a work trip. And I was flying out early the next day. And I remember having an anxiety attack in the hotel room. I couldn't fall asleep. And I knew that I needed to sleep because I was exhausted. It was a busy trip. And I couldn't put my finger on what was going on. And I think at some point in that evening, I realized what was going on, I was just exhausted to the point where no amount of weekends or vacation days would have caught me up on the rest that I needed. And that was a really tough pill to swallow, so to speak. And, you know, I've talked about listening to my spirit more. I think for the year prior to that I had chosen to kind of Park what my spirit was telling me. But in that moment, on that night, before I came home to Canada, I listened again. And so came back to work. Or I came back to Canada. And then that following week I I started to have some conversations with what I call my personal board of advisors, my naturopath, my doctor, my partner, my best friend, and I started to put some plans together around how I was going to get back to myself. And that included me taking some time away from work. And it came as a surprise to me, it came as a surprise to my colleagues. But I took almost four months off work. And it's the thing I'm most proud of in my life, apart from some of my closest relationships that I take very seriously. But taking that time away from work, is the thing is one of the things I'm most proud of more than any academic accomplishment, more than any career accomplishment. I'm just really happy that I did that. Because I feel like taking that time is what got me reacquainted with who I was or who I am, in a way that I hadn't realized that I had gotten out of touch with.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah. And, you know, like, I'm really happy that you're willing to share that. Because there's definitely people that I talked to that are just, why did I make this change? How did I get there? Why did I make this change? How did I get there. And that's great, because I it is a career podcast. And I want people to understand that it's not always going to be linear, you're not always going to jump from one job to the next job. That just makes sense. There's going to be things along the way that are unexpected, or your example of like, med school was the plan. And now look at what you're doing. It's not med school, but that's okay. You know, but it's also incredibly important to recognize that you can't just keep pushing ahead in your career, if you're not yourself. And if you're just burnt out. It's eventually it's going to, like it's only going to get worse, if you don't deal with it. If you don't treat it. It's it's something you have to manage. And it takes you know, those conversations that you had and some some hard choices, like maybe you can't push so hard forever. Sometimes you need a break. And that's not a bad thing. I mean, we've just spent the last year in whatever, have all kinds of people unfortunately, not being able to work and a bunch of other people probably being incredibly burnt out of how their work life has changed. And so like maybe there's other people out there right now, like now's the time they need to take a break, take a pause, you know, it's not permanent. It's a temporary thing and it's to get yourself all set up to continue being strong in your career going forward because what's the point of being less effective Forever, you know, unless you unless you make yourself more effective now.

Sheldon Pereira:

Yeah, I totally agree, Jon. I mean, what I, what I realized when I took that time was, you know, I was struggling with PTSD, with anxiety with burnout. And those four months away from work, were the hardest four months I worked. In the couple years leading up to that, because the work the self work that I did every day, while I was away from work, was really hard to do, but incredibly necessary. And, and differently than just persevering at work. It was a work that was actually rehabilitating me in a way that pushing through work would have never done. And when I came back, you know, that process of re entry was really affirming. Because I had close colleagues say to me what my close family members said to me while I was away from work, which was that something to the effect of it wasn't in these words, but Oh, there you are. We've missed you. And it's like when you you see yourself in the mirror every day, and you don't realize that you're changing, like your appearance is changing. Like, I see myself every day, and I don't realize that my my beard is going gray, but then I look at a picture from three years ago. I'm like, Oh, my, my beard was like, wasn't gray. It's the same thing, right? Like, my colleagues hadn't seen me in four months. And they saw me they're like, wow, like, there you are. And that was really affirming to me in and just like I had decided earlier in my career that I was only going to do one job at a time, I decided when I came back to work, that I was never going to do a job if it came at the expense of my wellness, or I was never going to put my work ahead of my wellness. And I will say that there was a time when I blamed work. But it wasn't work. It was choices I was making around what I chose to prioritize.

Jonathan Collaton:

That's it's a great way to kind of explain it for for other people. Because I think it's I mean, and maybe maybe you can speak to this, like a lot of people, I think ignore things for too long. And then all of a sudden, you have to reckon with it. And like, Did you feel like you had sort of pushed something off? And then like now is the time?

Unknown:

Not really? I think now was the time.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay. All right.

Unknown:

But you can't really do anything about something that you don't recognize. Right? Right. So I don't know that I was in denial. I actually, because denial implies that I was listening but saying no. I wasn't listening. And it took a quiet moment, away from everything on the other side of the world, for me to have the wherewithal to listen. Yeah. And so the span of time that elapsed between, you know, losing my son losing my dad, and taking this time was about a year. But in that time, like, I was grieving, you know, and I take in some time around that I was in. So it's, yeah, I don't think that I could have taken it any sooner.

Jonathan Collaton:

Gotcha.

Sheldon Pereira:

But I could have chosen not to take it.

Jonathan Collaton:

Right. And, and you didn't. And I think that's really the important takeaway from that is, like, as soon as you recognize that there was something you needed to work on, you just went for it, instead of putting it off, which could only have led to something worse down the line - become something more difficult.

Unknown:

That's right. And so one of the big learnings again, because learning is coming up as a theme in our conversation today, while I was working on myself was that I needed to exercise self care and self compassion and self kindness. And so when I look back on that period of time, part of my reflections are through the lens and frame of self compassion, and so not gonna kick myself for not doing it sooner, just like I'm not gonna kick the 20 year old version of myself for being a better student.

Jonathan Collaton:

Right, right. Yeah. There were a couple books that you mentioned to me that you read during that point in time. Do you remember what they were?

Unknown:

Absolutely I do. One is called the surrender experiment. And there's a similar book to that by the same author called the untethered soul. And there is a passage and I think it's in the untethered soul, which says something to the effect of we are not the voice inside of our heads. We are the person listening to that voice. And I, it was mind blowing for me because I always identify it as the narrator in my head. But to think that the narrator was actually speaking to somebody and I had no idea who that person was that they were speaking to, or what that person felt, or what that person needed was very humbling. And so my mission in those four months away from work was, I need to get aligned with that person listening to the voice, and I need to turn on the volume of the voice.

Jonathan Collaton:

I like that. That's really good. Now, let's talk a little bit about your most recent academic endeavor, because I, I want to hear a little bit about this from the guy who struggled back then in university, to now doing a doctorate. How did this come about? Why did you want to pursue that?

Unknown:

I decided I wanted to do my PhD because it felt like the final leg of this journey of restoring my confidence in myself as a learner. And it felt it feels to me really appropriate to have this journey of hardship, and slowly building up to the place of feeling accomplished. Because I think that that is a really accessible story, not just for my kids, but I hope for other people. And I really believe that that's why higher education exists. It's not the cater to the elites, to the successful enter, perpetuate, you know, more elitism or just success for the successful, I think that there is room and there should be room for people to access education, at whatever age and stage in their life makes the most sense. For that not to be prescribed at times that don't make sense for institutions to be flexible for people to come and leave as they need to, whether they're studying or working there. And I think it's entirely possible. It's just not not how it's currently organized. And so I'm still early days in my doctorate. Actually, after this conversation, I probably have a few hours of writing to do, because I'm a little bit behind a deadline. But my research right now is focusing on how leaders learn when they're faced with new contexts, or when they're faced with hardship. And what I'm suggesting is that in order for leaders to be successful, they can't rely on what got them to the job, they need to rely on how they've got to this place in their careers, which is through sense making, through building relationships, and through practicing humility, in terms of how they lead and how they learn.

Jonathan Collaton:

Well, I expect that when that is all wrapped up, we're gonna have to have another conversation all about that. That's a...what a great thing to be looking into. I love that. Now, I also, our last topic, I think of discussion here is about a week ago, or So you and I were chatting on the phone setting up this this interview, maybe it was a little more than that. But what I remember then is a few days after that, I opened up LinkedIn. And I see Laurie put out a statement that Sheldon Pereira is the new senior executive officer internationalisation and what beautiful timing since I was just about to talk to you. So tell me about this new role. I know it's very, very new. But tell me about that, how it came around and what your expectations are about what you're going to be doing in that?

Sheldon Pereira:

Sure. You know, Laurier has always been known, I think in Ontario, and in Canada as a Canadian institution, and Ontario institution in southwestern Ontario institution, something like 90% of our students are from Ontario, and 95% of our alumni are still in Canada or something like that. Having said that, what we know about our students, and what we know about the communities that we serve, is that Canada and Ontario look, and are drawing from much more of the world than when Laurier was first established as an institution. And what we know about our students and what we know about ourselves in is that in order to be the type of institution that continues to serve, that continues to build leaders or nurture leaders, rather, that care about having lives of leadership and purpose, which is our institutional proposition, essentially people who want to do good in the world, or, you know, have an impact, or leave a legacy make things better. I think what we're learning about ourselves and about our students is that in order to do that effectively, we need to have a broader, wider, deeper perspective. And partners. And so internationalization has been part of Laurier's ethos for a long time, we have a rich tradition of field courses internationally, of partnerships internationally. And we have students that come to Laurier from all over the world. But there's opportunities for us to elevate and deepen that work. And so this role that I'm taking on is is very similar to most of my other roles. It's facilitated by nature. It relies on the really strong and collegial relationships that we have at the university. And because we have those really great relationships, and really great people looking to do good work, my goal over the next two years will be to work with them a lot and alongside them to support their work. And to craft an institutional agenda for how we do internationalization in a way that aligns with our values. I'll give you a good example of universities, a university who's doing this really well that I came across just this week. It's the University of British Columbia, and they just put out a plan. That's called inservice. And if I recall the plan correctly, it talks about essentially tackling issues and topics of global relevance building global capacity, the University of British Columbia as a global actor, and empowering students and nurturing students to be engaged global citizens. And in many ways, I think that reflects the ethos of Laurie in another university strategic plan. And so my goal over the next two years will be to, again, work with colleagues work with our constituencies, and figure out figure out what's our plan? What's the connection between that plan and our purpose and our values? And then what's it going to take for us to make that plan a reality? And, you know, I think internationalization is a word that some might associate with privilege. And with, again, I've talked about, you know, elites and the successful. I think what we're also coming to understand about internationalization is that there's a way to do it inclusively. There's a way to ensure that the experiences and the partnerships that we set up through this work serves all of our communities, our equity, deserving communities, communities that are typically left behind communities that typically don't have a voice. And as somebody who identifies with some of those communities, it's, it's also important to me personally, that we do that. But it's, it's also very much the right thing to do.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, so your learning continues. The job growth continues, do you still feel like you're taking jobs one job at a time,

Unknown:

always one job at a time, and, you know, with with career being as small as it is, for me now, my biggest job is being a dad. That has been...talking about learning. So since since, you know, my partner, and I had that experience with loss and pregnancy, we've, we've been really blessed, and we have a beautiful child at home. His name's Desmond, he's two and a half years old. And that has been a great joy, and a great opportunity to learn in a completely different context. And again, it takes a lot of self work. And so a reminder, because at times I forget, you know, when things are going well, you forget that, that needs to be a daily practice. But when I'm parenting, and when I'm with him, I'm reminded of how important it is for me to put the oxygen mask on myself first, you know, spend that time doing that self care, that self compassion, so I can be as good of a dad to him as my dad was to me. And so that I can show up at work, and also do that really well.

Jonathan Collaton:

Well, I'm glad to hear how well things are going for you right now, Sheldon. So I really, really appreciate you sharing as much as you have today. Because, like I said before, it's one thing to just talk about the jump from one career to the other. And you know, how people got there. And, and I want to do that on this podcast. But I also want to talk about not just surface level, you know, I then I got this job, then I got this job. There's more to it than that. It's it's a part of our lives, but it's not the only thing in our lives. So, again, really appreciate everything you've shared today.

Unknown:

No, thanks for having me, you know, if I could leave you with something that I'm reflecting on now, as we've had this conversation is that I always want to be myself at work. And if I ever fall out of sync with myself, I'm reminded now through this conversation that I need to spend the time getting back in sync and it's not always going to require me stepping away from work entirely. But it might be an hour here, half a day there. But I'm committing to you and to myself in this moment that I'm going to do it.

Jonathan Collaton:

Alright, so that is Sheldon his career path so far. And as always, I want to Here's some things that we can learn from each guest that I speak to on the podcast. But we're going to get to that in a minute. Because I owe you the second half of the story I told during the intro. So as I said, show them as my Don had a great year. And him and I kept in touch over my time at Laurie because he was working in Residence Life as a staff member the entire time. So he was still working on campus while I was a student, even though he had graduated. So at some point, I had let him know that working as a Residence Don was something I was interested in. But due to some other things I was trying to accomplish. I didn't think I was going to be able to do it until later in university. And it turned out my plan was to do it in my fifth and final year, because I knew early on, it was going to take me a fifth year to make up for some of my academic missteps, shall we say, in my first year of university. So in the summer before my fourth year of university would have started August 2011. I was working on campus in the Student Leadership Center for the summer. And I walk into work one day, and I have an email from Necia Martin's - shoutout to Necia who's still working at Lori and another capacity. And this email asked if I had any interest in interviewing to be a residence Don for that year starting literally days later. And it turns out that a couple Don's drop out of Little House, the only all male residents at Laurier, and they were looking for replacements. So I met with NASA, and I asked why they thought of me for the vacancy. I didn't know Necia. And she told me that Sheldon had suggested me as someone they should reach out to. And I spoke to Necia, I ended up getting the job and fast forward to now almost 10 years since that conversation happened. And I am currently working as a staff member in Residence Life at the University of Toronto Scarborough. So I thought it was important to share that story since this is a podcast about career paths. And while Sheldon was just recommending someone who he thought might be a right fit, and knew he had an interest, it turns out that me becoming a don that year probably had a pretty major impact on my ability to be employed over the last decade of my life since I finished school. So, Sheldon, if you're listening, thanks for recommending me. Now, it's fitting that continually learning was such a theme of Sheldon's career story because at the end of each episode of career crossroads, I like to pull out some lessons that we can learn from each person that I talked to. Maybe that's part of my own process of relearning how to learn after being out of school for so many years. So for Sheldon, I want to go back to before all the success that he's had since he graduated all the different roles he's worked in. And I want to talk about how he struggled academically. But he also felt a connection to some of the extracurricular activities he was involved in particularly reslife. If he had not tried to get involved outside of his regular studies, he would have been a university student struggling academically with maybe nothing else to sort of latch on to and to enjoy about his time at university. And then when med school didn't work out, what would he do once he graduated, when it became clear that that was not part of his path? Well, the good news is, we do not have to wonder about the what if in this scenario, because Sheldon did get involved and do more than just study when he was a student. He got involved in reslife. And that specifically was what led him to a job when he was coming to the end of his university education. And that allowed him as he mentioned, to sort of buy more time to get his grades up to see if med school was going to be an option. But when he eventually accepted that that was not part of his path. It's not like he had to hit the reset button and try to figure out what to do with his life. Because the success he had in one job led to another job. And that led to another job. And that led to another job and so on and so forth. I've talked before on this podcast about how I once heard a University Career Center staff member at a conference talk about the concept of parallel paths. And the idea, if you're not familiar, is to focus on being good at two things focus on two different end goals, not just one and that way. If one of those goals doesn't work out, you have something else that you've been working towards, so you don't have to go back to the beginning and figure out what to do from scratch. So in Sheldon story, not getting into med school and becoming a doctor, while I'm sure it was very difficult at the time, it didn't hinder his ability to start a career right out of university because he had all these extra skills he was developing on the side as a student, and then as a staff member while he was still working on his grades. The lesson in all this is that you can fail at attaining the thing that you want, but still end up in something else that will make you happy. While you're working towards your main goal, pick up some extra skills on the side, think about not what your backup plan is, but what your other plan is, there's going to be something else you'd be happy doing that you can also work towards. And typically those skills are going to help you in the future. I think I can even be a bit of an example for this because, you know, I started this podcast, and I would love for it to become something bigger than just my fun side hobby. But at the end of the day, if it doesn't work out, well, now I know how to edit audio. And now I know how to do all this different stuff with social media that I never knew before. And in fact, a significantly larger part of my new job is newsletters and social media, stuff that I didn't have the skill set for or wasn't very good at anyway, before I started doing this. Maybe you won't get to the level of success in that second parallel path as quickly as you were hoping to achieve and your other path, but you've got a long life ahead of you. So I would not worry too much. Just know that once you accept that your original goal is no longer going to be a part of your journey, a part of your path, redirect that time and energy to achieve that new goal that you've set. It doesn't have to be a long term goal either. Look at what Sheldon did focus on one job at a time, work on becoming exceptional at that job. And eventually you're going to earn a reputation for being good at what you do. And maybe like they did for Sheldon opportunities will present themselves to you. So I hope that you can find some hope or motivation from what you've heard today from Sheldon's career path. I know that there's definitely more lessons that we can learn from Sheldon, but I'm going to stop there for today. If you want to hear more career journeys and what we can learn from them, there are plenty more interviews like this at career Crossroads podcast.com. And if you happen to be connected to Laurier, as I suspect there are a few golden hawks listening to this one. I want to let you know that I have nine other interviews with people who are students that Laurier either from undergrad or grad school, and two interviews with people who actually currently work at Laurier, so there is plenty of Laurier a content to be had. Before you go I have one favor to ask. If you enjoyed this episode of career Crossroads or any other episode, please help support the show by sharing it with someone else who would find it interesting or benefit from it. And leave a five star review on Apple podcasts, podchaser or right on my website career Crossroads podcast.com