Find something that you’re passionate about. Passion is going to carry you through the more difficult challenges that you’re going to have. Because you have a purpose, you’re enjoying what you’re doing, you’re able to stay up, like I said, until 1-2 o’clock in the morning, just reading because that’s what you enjoy. And if you can create and build on your networks, because the people that you know are usually what’s going to guide your opportunities or your growth within the field or other fields.
Welcome to PH SPOTlight, a community for you to build your public health career with. Join us weekly right here. And I’ll be here too, your host Sujani Siva, from PH SPOT.
Hey, Brock, and good morning, and welcome to the PH SPOT podcast. So happy to have you join us and kind of share your career journey with us and our fellow community members. So thank you.
Thank you, I am happy to be here and share a little bit about my story and experiences with all your listeners.
Thank you. So you know, the first question and I’m sure my listeners know enough in the can I expect this question that I ask is how did you discover the field of public health because a lot of my guests and myself included, it is a field that I did not know existed until I was probably in my second year of undergraduate studies. And that too, kind of took some intentional digging around to see, you know, what is it that I really enjoyed doing? It wasn’t a field that was kind of advertised or that I knew anyone really in my circle building a career. And so, you know, how was it for you kind of that discovery of this field?
So I probably took the long road to public health and in fact, did not have a background or know much about the field in general, I started off essentially wanting to make a difference is where I began. And I had spent about 10 to 15 years working in construction and project management. And one day I took advantage of meeting with a health coach to get a little more in shape and train for some running events and triathlons that I was working for and was introduced to a piece called dimensional wellness. And as an athlete, kind of growing up, I was always, you know, under the impression that if you’re physically well, you’re doing good. And so being introduced to things like environmental wellness, emotional wellness, spiritual wellness, things like that, it was all new to me. And so I spent a year meeting with a health coach almost bi weekly, and started to really learn about these different dimensions how they’re impacting me and my family. And at that same time, I actually my wife was pregnant with our first son. And so I thought, Okay, what do I want to do? Do I want to continue to stay in this project management and construction and working in this space? Or do I want to go somewhere else and, and at that time, I had to look at what skill sets I had. And I was a track and field athlete. And so I had made the decision that I was going to launch a Youth Track and Field Club in my neighborhood. So I went through an entrepreneurship program and basically planned out this track and field club that I was going to launch. And whenever I finished the program and was weeks away from launching, I got the opportunity to have my school paid for and go back to school. I earned my Bachelors of Science in Health and Wellness. And I thought this would be great to go along with this track club and I have some more skills that I can develop, I earned a certificate to be certified personal trainer. And then one thing kind of led to the other. Once I finished my bachelor’s, I continued on with my master’s in health education, and tagged on a master’s in public health. And once I finished that I was able to step into a role right in my community as a health and human science educator for Purdue University Extension, where I am charged with going within my community and trying to improve the lives and livelihoods of people that live here. So the long way you trying to make a difference in the community. So.
Yeah, you know, let’s go back to that decision to pursue a Bachelors of Science degree after having built almost a 10 year career in project management and construction. Right. Where did that interest come from? Was it because of your I guess, personal journey, working with a health coach where you kind of realizing okay, I really like what the health coach is doing with me and I’d like to kind of maybe do this for other people?
Yes, that’s exactly where it came from. And I think I had worked a long time. And I think children, change your mindset of what you want to do in life. And so my wife being pregnant and having my first child born, just shifted my mindset to go from what I had been doing to what I want to kind of leave as if you want to say legacy or anything like that, knowing that I’m going to have a small child looking at me and asking, you know, what I do for a living, and I really just kind of started to develop these feelings, that making a difference in the community where my child was going to be raised was important to me. And that’s kind of what led me down this road of kind of walking through doors that were there, because at any point, I could have stopped and just sat where I was, or didn’t need to do that thing, but a door, you know, every time something wrapped up or finished, there was another door there. And I kind of just kept opening those doors and walking through and where I’m at right now. So.
That’s fascinating, you know, you said, you kind of explored entrepreneurship, and then decided to go to school. And that itself, you kind of got three degrees back to back, and then went to work for academia. I mean, there was a transition period, right after having built a career for 10 years, and then saying, Okay, I want to explore something completely different. How did you get yourself to, you know, a lack of a better word, take that leap of faith, because I’ve, you know, met a few people in our community who are either, you know, in a completely different field and are thinking about getting into public health. And there’s always that, you know, bit of anxiety and nervousness when you do say, Okay, I’m going to kind of park this career that I’ve built for a decade or so and maybe explore this other new area. And you know, that could even be that it is still in public health, but you’re leaving academia and moving into the private sector, or you’re working in the public sector, and then moving to academia, it’s just any of those transitions can be a bit nerve wracking.
Oh, yes, this the transition to go from what I have known for 10-15 years into something brand new, that I’ve only essentially practiced through school was stressful, caused anxiety, but I always fell back and knew the successes I had previously and how they can translate to this field because I had been in leadership positions and positions in stressful positions in the past, and so to carry, you know, that experience into this new space, help that transition and trying to understand and anytime you have to learn something new, it just is going to be a little bit stressful. But as long as I think you’re enjoying and you’re waking up, and you’re going in with a purpose and a goal that is passionate to you that it makes it very easy to make that transition. So yeah, I did not have I had a little bit of a, if you want to say anxiety or whenever it especially whenever you’ve come from a different field, you haven’t been there, you have kind of that impostor syndrome a little bit. But, again, just having confidence in that the work that you’re putting in is for a good cause. And that it’s, you’re passionate about it, and that it’s okay to mess up a little bit at times, you know, and learn from that and, and improve, you know, the worst piece of failure is never trying, in my opinion. So
The problem and losing as long as we’re learning from it and getting better.
Absolutely. You sound like you’re quite a reflective person. And I’m wondering were there, I’m sure you sat and reflected quite a bit on the kind of the legacy that you’d like to leave for your kids. Were there other tangible things that you remember kind of doing or seeking out that aid did you kind of during this transition period?
So I was able to complete field work experience with the organization that I work for now. And so that really helped position me and prepare me and create this vision of okay, I can do this, I can work in this space I want to be here, I can see the difference that they’re making. I actually started my fieldwork experience, right as the pandemic kicked off. And so I was able to see this extension network, shift and meet the needs of people that are changing on a daily basis, provide that education to to communities where they need it to basically improve their lives. So that was, I would say, a key component of leading me to the spot that I’m in now.
Okay, so how I’m kind of taking that is if you’re currently doing a certain like type of work, try to find opportunities just related to that new area that you want to get into while still maybe holding on to like whatever job that you still have? Is that kind of like what you did, like still held on to kind of the project management work and try to get some field work in other areas?
Yes. So actually, I was working full time I had two kids, I was going to school full time graduate school full time completing my fieldwork experience. And I was a in a leadership position on an advisory committee representing over 3000 employees, on various committees throughout the university. So it was a lot.
All of it had its own passion connected to it. So I knew obviously, I needed to continue to work. I had two kids at that time whenever I was going through graduate school. And so you know, working was important, I needed to complete field work experience, so I could prepare myself for this kind of transition. I had to finish school and the advisory committees were something I kind of stumbled into, because I wanted to influence things that were happening to me. So I wanted to, in the changes that were happening within my within my job at that time, I was lucky to have a really strong support network to allow me to do those things. So my wife and family and things like that.
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, community is a huge component of like any career you’re trying to build, right? Your support group and your- your network. They’re the ones who are going to be there when when things get tough.
Oh, absolutely. I’ve had mentors I had, I was lucky enough to know a couple people throughout my coursework that I can bounce ideas off of. And I wasn’t afraid to reach out to people I’d never had met before. And ask questions. So I did that often, in fact, and it can be a random email to, you know, a professor I found who I thought could help me out in a certain area of research or guide me in the right direction. Because you know, those things can be especially as somebody that’s new into a field stressful or causing anxiety. But to be honest, the worst thing that can happen is absolutely nothing.
- doesn’t reach back out to you or doesn’t comment back. And you know, if that’s the worst thing that happens, that’s pretty, that’s not too bad. Am I-
Yeah, yeah, exactly.
I’ve always been somebody and I started off and kind of retail experience. And I always say it’s an excellent, you know, customer service roles are excellent roles to have experience in because you always look at somebody with a smile and are willing to talk to complete strangers and ask them if they need help. And if you can do those things, look at somebody and ask if they need help to somebody you’ve never met before, you know, you’re probably on the right path, in a lot of different situations. So.
Yeah. And that kind of also reminds me of, you know, when you’re transitioning from one role to another, or completely different industry to another. There’s always so many like transferable skills that you can bring over to this new role that you’re going to take on, right. Whether you know, you’re going from project management and construction to public health, I am sure that the 10 years of work that you did, there were so many things that you could say, yeah, look, in my public health role, these are some things I can do even though the context was different.
Oh, I agree, 100%. Transferable skills and how you look at the things that you did in the past, and how they can apply to what you’re going to do in your future roles. Sometimes we discount it because it doesn’t say exactly three years experience as a public health educator, but I spent X amount of years as a salesperson where your job is to go in and educate a potential buyer on products they may not have known about. And so just looking at it through maybe a different lens, I think is very important. And I think, you know, sometimes a lot of people end up discounting their skill sets because it doesn’t read exactly as a job description reads and I step back and maybe don’t take that plunge because some of those job descriptions out there.
Absolutely a bit of a sidetrack here, but that’s where a cover letter really helps. Even if you have a lot of retail experience on your resume, you can tell that story to kind of illustrate how you have the skill set in order to kind of accomplish the tasks listed out on a job description.
Exactly, being able to because sometimes the hiring managers also are not thinking your skills are transferable. They may see you know, retail, but they don’t understand that you were educating eight times a day to customer products they never heard about. If you think about public health or health education and what you’re educating on or what you’re teaching what you’re trying to get someone to buy into. That is a big component of the of the public health system. So.
I feel like I can keep talking about how to illustrate transferable skills for a prospective employer. But I’m going to stop there, because I do want to hear more about your story. So kind of like going back a bit more, when did you put the title of public health as the career that you wanted to pursue? Was it like, still, when you had the health coach for your personal needs, were you able to kind of, I guess, connect the dots and say, Okay, I think what this person is doing is public health. And I can see a career in this area, maybe I should explore this, or was it much later on?
As I was going through, going back to school, and I decided to add in the skill sets of health and wellness. Whenever I completed that program, I started to work with people have a one on one basis as kind of a health coach and certified personal trainer. So really to kind of improve health behaviors increase physical activity. And I enjoyed that I realized I really enjoyed working with people to overcome obstacles to better health. And so that passion kind of drove me to that next step to jump right into the Master’s of Science and Health Education program. And that’s where I realized that I can do the same thing, but in larger groups. So instead of working with people one on one, now I can work in kind of group settings and you know, make an influence in that aspect. And that really tied into continuing some education with the Masters of Public Health, and just tack in a few more generalized courses to help expand my possibilities in the future. But my focus really is on the educational part of public health, I think it’s a very important component within public health. And it’s something that I enjoy and get to- get to do and make an impact. And so I would say, after working with people in that one on one capacity, understanding that I can make a difference in group settings with more people, that’s really what kind of drove into that health education field component of public health.
And then now, kind of your title at Purdue University’s Extension educator at the Health and Human Sciences Department. Can you tell us a bit about, you know, what does a day look like for you in that role?
This is a funny question, because I asked this question a lot to the health educators before I took the position, I said, tell me what it’s like. And it took me a half a year to realize why all of their answers I just wasn’t very satisfied with because they kept saying that no, two days are the same. And I thought to myself, I was like, how is that even possible? You know, how do you have no, today? You gotta, you have to be doing something that’s similar. And I realize that, no, they are absolutely correct. I don’t know if I’ve had two days the same. Since I’ve started working in this position. It is all similar in that, I get up and I go in, and the goal is to improve the lives and livelihoods of people within my community. And so we are all in different communities, we’re in every county within the state of Indiana University Extension. And so every educator for that’s helping human science educator has a unique community that they’re working with, and those communities have unique needs. And so my day can look like presenting a healthy eating program to 86 3rd graders at a day camp one day, and then look like the next day talking to 35 seniors at the Senior Center about physical activity across the lifespan. I’m fortunate that I get to educate on a variety of topics to meet the needs of the community. Our focus areas covered nutrition, financial resource management, human development, and health and wellness. And so I always joke and say that I get to educate on just about every everything can impact our health.
Right. So A Day in the Life is a day full of opportunities to make lives better, is as close as I can get to, to really saying what it’s like because, you know, it looks different every day, one day I can be recording a podcast with you. And you know, the next day is a day full of reporting on the work that we’ve done to share with stakeholders so it can be in this field different every day.
Yeah. And this is interesting. I guess this is my first time kind of hearing of a extension educator. So the way I’m understanding it is that you’re employed and based within a university, but there are smaller teams that work with different counties in your state. Is that how it’s set up?
Yeah. So Purdue University is the land grant university. So I’m not sure if you know much about that. But the land grant university in each state is charged with taking information from the university research and giving it back to the state. And so in Indiana, for Purdue University, we have our structure with educators in every county. And so I am the Health and Human science educator, we also have educators for Ag and Natural Resources for age and youth development, and also community development. And then through the federal system, we have nutrition education, program advisors, and community wellness coordinators, as well. All are tasked with going within the community and providing education and making a difference within- within those communities.
Yeah, okay. No, that makes sense. And, you know, as a health educator, I’ve spoken to a few people on the podcast about how the CHES accreditation kind of is also very helpful in that role. I don’t know, if you had anything more to add than Yeah, the- the process of getting the CHES, I think I’ve covered that on a podcast episode. But what has been your kind of reflection in terms of just how that accreditation has helped you in your role as a health educator?
Yeah, so the CHES Certified Health Education Specialist credential, I really think allows educators health educators to kind of stand out to prove that they have the knowledge and skill sets to be able to go in and perform specific duties. I personally enjoy being connected within an organization that is focused on bringing information to those within that organization. So I do sit in continuing education classes, because things in our field can change rapidly. So it’s important to me to continue to stay current. And I believe that the National Commission for health education credentialing does an excellent job in providing educational resources for its members. And I think it again, CHES and in CHES, which I’m only just certified health education specialist is just an excellent piece to make sure that those that are looking at you understand that you have a certain skill set that is important for this role. So.
And kind of like on that topic of keeping up to date with your skill set and things like that. I think I was browsing your LinkedIn. And it seems like you’re someone who’s you know, continually just upskilling yourself and curious to hear, how do you decide which topics to kind of explore and kind of pursue because I saw some interesting LinkedIn courses that you had completed on there.
You know, like to say that there was a focus to the efforts, sometimes the information just looks just looks interesting. To learn more about it, I do kind of fashion myself as a continual learner, in fact, may end up continuing this education into a Ph. D. program.
Possibly, as we move on and feel a little more comfortable in the role that I’m in now. Yeah, I think it’s good to kind of expand and continue to have that learning. Obviously, I’m an educator. And so I get educated, you know, all ages. And so it’s important to continue to learn because things are changing around us at all times. And it’s only going to help us.
Yeah, exactly. I think the one that kind of stood out for me that I might even consider kind of looking into more is the one that was called moving past change fatigue to the growth edge.
I do. And so I want to say I think I heard a really great quote from that course that I carry with me today. And as I’m pretty sure it was this course, they said that you can do anything but not everything. And some of that mindset, and that’s a that’s a piece I pulled and use often because especially in public health, and depending on the roles, people ask a lot of our services asked a lot of our time, a lot of our effort and we are capable of doing anything but public health takes more than one person. It takes a community to work together to build infrastructure that is going to be sustainable for improvement. And so I carry that with me a lot because you know, I’m a single educator in a county of over almost 200,000 people. And so I can do and educate anything. I can’t do everything because there’s only so much time and effort. But yeah, that’s an excellent course, to try and adjust the mindset from okay, yeah, we’re always in a constant change to okay, how can we focus and kind of grow and progress that it’s always it’s always enjoyable to go and learn, learn something new.
Yeah. Now, those are some wise words, I think I’ll have to keep reminding myself of that as well, that you can’t do everything.
But you can do anything.
Exactly, exactly. Thinking back to kind of your time as a student, whether that was as the masters of I think it was health education, and then mph, how was your experience at Purdue University kind of pursuing those degrees one as a more, I guess, experienced student, as well as one with a family as well. And I’m sure there were, you had your own challenges there as well.
So going back to school was, it was not easy as somebody that had two small children working and being involved in everything I was- I was involved with. But it was much easier than when I had previously tried to go into school, it was easier because I enjoyed all the information I was taking in, I could pick up the book and it wasn’t like I was in school and had to read this, it was that I wanted to read this. And that’s what made it easier for me is that I had a passion, I had an interest in the topics I continued to read about. And so if you want to look at the health and wellness, whether it be you know, foundational work in nutrition, or physical activity, or stress management, you know, all those pieces, interests me. And so I can stay up until 1am, you know, reading about something or you know, writing and researching topics and not feel the drain that sometimes school can bring, if we’re in a program that we’re not, we don’t have a passion or we don’t have an interest in so, you know, that was the difference for me and being able to stick with it with everything I had going on is that I just had a passion and interest for it. And if you don’t, it can be really difficult for somebody in my position. And I think that’s where a lot of people kind of fall off is that they’re kind of maybe going to school in a field that they’re in, but don’t really have that passion for I had tried that, you know, whether it be business management classes or things like that in the past, and it just didn’t really work out because I didn’t have a strong passion for it the way I did the health education programs and public health. So.
Yeah, again, you know, just looking into a bit more of the work that you had done. It also looked like you weren’t just a student who went to their classes, wrote their exams. And that was the end of it. You were quite involved, it seems at Purdue University. I think I read about right before maybe around your graduation time, you also got to speak to the Board of Trustees, about maybe being kind of the chair at the campus Support Staff Advisory Committee. So you were an engaged student, you were quite involved in that. And I think you kind of alluded to this where you’d like to be part of whatever is affecting you. How did that enrich your, was it about six years for your three degrees there?
Yeah. So yes, that was very exciting to have an opportunity to speak to the board and share the success and experiences I had. It’s something that I did not expect that I would ever actually be a part of. But I was happy to, to be able to go in and talk about my experiences. Before the advisory committee. I remember I joined a couple years after I started working for Purdue University. Because, you know, with any organization changes were occurring, and I wanted to make sure I had a voice in those changes. And that advisory committee that works with leadership within the university had influence over those changes. And so I stepped into that organization as I was working full time and kind of just starting to go back to school, or possibly finishing my, in the middle of my Bachelor’s program, spent a year on a few committees, you know, speaking up in meetings and kind of sharing my perspectives and then was voted in as as a vice chair and spent some time as the vice chair learning the ins and outs and, and then eventually moved into the chair role where I got to be in this kind of leadership capacity to influence the change that impacted employees across the campus. And so it was a fantastic experience to get to work with a lot of great people, and work directly with leadership, whether it be the president or director or human resources or provost within the university, I was able to learn a lot, even just by sitting and kind of watching those leadership positions in in zoom meetings. So that was a great experience and one that I will carry with me throughout my years.
Yeah. And it kind of just reiterates that point of all of the skills that you had built in your previous career coming into play here, again, kind of highlighting the importance of really acknowledging and like seeing where you’re that those transferable skills could be useful in this, like, new community that you’re part of?
Oh, yeah, definitely. And not even just skill sets, but also, those kinds of networks. To me, you know, helps, I was able to reach out to people in leadership and pick their brains and ask for assistance, and everyone is always willing to kind of help in those aspects. So I enjoyed building skills and relationships, because ultimately, those relationships are probably more so what led to where I am now, as opposed to the skill set. So a lot of people will carry around similar skill sets and in these areas, but the relationships are usually what kind of guide us in our paths.
Yeah, no, absolutely. When you kind of think back on this journey that you’ve taken this long road to public health, as you titled it, do you feel like you could have done anything differently? What what are some reflections? Or what are some thoughts that come to mind when you, you know, sit back and think about these past? I don’t know, 15-20 years.
So I would have listened to my parents earlier. I know that’s a- that’s a tough pill to swallow. But I remember not just my parents, but others in in kind of leadership roles would say, you know, if you find something that you enjoy, go and work in that field. And I never listened to that. I said, why would I want to do something I enjoy because then it would be work. And I wouldn’t wear it anymore because it’s work. And so I went to a different field that I just said, this is just my job. And I will do the things I enjoy whenever I clock out. And so what I did, I went and train for triathlons and competed in Ironman races and marathons and other things outside of my work environment. And then when I got older, and kids were on the way, I was like, Hey, maybe I should start enjoying the things I do a little bit more. And that’s what led me down that path. And I probably had to tell my parents, they were right. And I’ve listened long time ago. So I’m sure that’s kind of the if I were to do something different. Maybe listen a little bit earlier.
And you are probably thinking about what would you tell your kids right, like, follow your dreams, follow what you enjoy. And then you have to be a good example for them. And it’s great, because you are a great example right now.
Yeah, exactly. That’s, you know, a lot of things in life. That’s what kind of guides your decision making is, you know, you have four little eyes watching every decision you make, and you want to make sure that you are leaving a good example. And in the spotlight, I am and now and having kids that have friends, you know, you’re not four eyes, you have more eyes on you. And so it’s funny, I go pick up my kids from school. And you know, there’s five kids knowing that that’s Bryce’s dad or Leo’s dad. And you know, they see you in the grocery store or anywhere around town bar, and we’ll say something. So just knowing and kind of making those decisions to set good examples and try and help other people where, where possible, is what the driving factor is behind mind getting up and doing the work that we do on a regular basis.
Oh, I love that. And that’s beautiful, that they kind of make that connection. And yeah, for sure kids kind of put that pressure on. I have a one year old now. And so I’m kind of getting ready to see what he picks up. And already I can see that he will copy little, little like things that we do or say and and you know, you’re kind of like foreseeing that copycat behavior kind of coming up. And so I’m getting a bit nervous as to you know, what, what should I be eating? What should I be doing and the role model that I want to be for him?
Oh, yes. All the good and the bad?
So as long as we are doing more good, you know, I think that’s all we can do is just do our best.
Yeah. Aside from that, you know, excellent advice about pursuing what you enjoy and kind of what makes you happy. What other advice would you have for, you know, either public health students or early career professionals just thinking about where to step in to kind of to grow their career?
If I had to give some specific advice, I would say to find something that you’re passionate about passion is going to carry you through the more difficult challenges that you’re going to have. Because you have a purpose, you’re enjoying what you’re doing, you’re able to stay up, like I said, until one two o’clock in the morning, just reading because that’s what you enjoy. And if you can create, and build on your networks that you have, because the people that you know are usually what’s going to guide your opportunities, or your growth within the field or other fields. So, you know, have a passion, have a passion, because like I said earlier, people are going to request your services, your time, your effort, your energy. And if you are not passionate about the area, or the field that you’re in, it’s gonna- it’s gonna be draining. And I think that’s where, you know, it’s already stressful in a lot of public health positions depending on where you’re at. And so be passionate, know that you’re passionate about it. And if you’re not, maybe find a different area that you can be passionate in still while trying to make a difference in improving the lives of people around you.
Thanks so much, Brock for joining us today. And just sharing your journey with us and all these great tips and advice and reflections.
I appreciate being here and sharing a little bit of my story. And hopefully, you know, if anybody else is an adult or as kids or is trying to change careers, they can take this information and now that somebody else’s has done it and change the careers and had to spend time with some sleepless nights and knowing you’re not, you’re not there and you know, it is enjoyable, there is kind of a light at the end of the tunnel. And just to keep kind of hopefully add to the motivation that they already have for improving themselves and others. I appreciate being here.
Hey, I hope you enjoyed that episode. And if you want to get the links or information mentioned in today’s episode, you can head over to pHspot.org/podcast. And we’ll have everything there for you. And before you go, I want to tell you about the public health career club. So if you’ve been looking for a place to connect and build meaningful relationships with other public health professionals, from all around the world, you should join us in the public health career club. We launched the club with the vision of becoming the number one hangout spot dedicated to building and growing your dream public health career. And in addition to being able to connect and build those meaningful relationships with other public health professionals, the club also offers other great resources for your career growth and success, like mindset coaching, job preparation clinics, and career growth strategy sessions in the form of trainings and talks, all delivered by experts and inspiring individuals in these areas. So if you want to learn more or want to join the club, you can visit our page at pHspot.org/club. And we’ll have all the information there. And you know, as a space that’s being intentionally curated to bring together like minded public health professionals who are not only there to push themselves to become the best versions of themselves, but also each other. And with that, I can’t wait to see how it this is going to have a ripple effect in the world as we all work together to better the health of our populations and just have immense impact in the world. And I hope you’ll be joining us in the public health career club.