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How Combining Our Strength™ changed my life

My name is Sheena, and I am a proud member of the Heiltsuk Nation. I was raised in the hustle and bustle of Vancouver and have worked in the hospitality industry for my entire career. I have always been what you would call a “people person,” and found this business best suited my personality and lifestyle. It was easy to fall into a routine of late bartending shifts and extra tip money to spend at my leisure. I took some college courses and found that creative writing was the only subject I truly enjoyed. I dropped out of my other courses when my personal life took centre stage, and I focused on working for the now and not the future. Slowly but surely, caught up in the chaos of the city, my social life and personal habits began to take precedence over my work and future goals.

In an abrupt decision to change our lifestyle, my boyfriend and I moved to his hometown of Bella Coola. I applied at the local Inn the first day I arrived, as they had a restaurant and a bar that needed workers. I felt I was taking initiative and being responsible. I thrived there, and within a year became the bar Manager. My boyfriend proposed and I settled into a domesticate lifestyle. At first, I was proud and content with my position and the responsibilities it entailed. But as I became more and more immersed in the Nuxalk culture and the Bella Coola community, I developed a strong urge to do something more fulfilling – not just for myself, but for the people around me. I realized I had become complacent, unchallenged and uninspired.

I formed new visions in my head but that’s where they stayed, locked up under the fear of change and failure.

I tried to figure out how I could utilize my skills to become a more productive member of the community, whilst satisfying my personal aspirations and financial needs as well. I dreamt about working for the band, or – better yet – working for myself and helping the band. I formed new visions in my head but that’s where they stayed, locked up under the fear of change and failure. My inner compass wavered daily and I struggled with the concept of shifting careers completely, so I remained at my place of employment, going through the motions but unfulfilled.

Sheena Robinson - bw webIt was at this time that the Minerva Foundation for BC Women sent Lisa Tallio to present the Career and Education Exploration program to the women of Bella Coola. I was skeptical of what the program could offer me at first, but decided it couldn’t hurt and would give me something new to do in the least.

It ended up changing everything.

Lisa encouraged me to create a vision for myself based on my dreams, values and personality type. Suddenly my vision of working with First Nations communities and putting my writing skills to use didn’t seem so far-fetched. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator revealed my strengths and showed me that I could indeed utilize my skills and values to have a rewarding career in something other than bartending! An action plan followed, along with extremely helpful tips on changing careers and managing the transition successfully. Helen Dewar joined us in the second half of the program and provided us with invaluable advice regarding resumes, cover letters, and interviews. She was kind enough to meet with me outside of class and offer prolific insight into the field of Communications and how to market myself to First Nations communities.

It took some time to recognize that my relationship at home was not conducive to this career and life change. When I did realize that I needed to follow my dreams independently, I moved back to Vancouver with a new lease on life. I am now attending a Continuing Studies program at Vancouver Community College, earning a certificate in Business and Technical Writing. I am also writing my first novel that I am submitting to an Aboriginal Writing Contest, in which the winner receives a publishing contract. I aspire to become a published author. I have applied at Vancouver Island University, where I plan on attaining a Bachelors Degree in First Nations Studies. My goal is to eventually run my own Communications business that will provide services to the First Nations bands throughout BC.

I am finally allowing myself to pursue my dreams and it was all put into gear in one week with the Minerva team, for whom I am eternally grateful.

Who knew one week could change my life and ensure a brighter future for myself?

– Sheena Robinson

The Career and Education Exploration program is available through Minerva’s Combining Our Strength™ initiative which brings personal and professional development programming to Aboriginal communities throughout the province.

The next Career and Education Exploration program will be coming to Kamloops in June and to Prince Rupert in September. To learn more about these opportunities and to fill out an Expression of Interest please click here.

Thank you to Combining Our Strength™ Presenting Sponsor, Teck, and to Imperial, TD Financial and RBC Foundation for making this program possible.

the face of leadership is changing

but it's not changing fast enough.

Minerva BC is a Vancouver-based charity that is
dedicated to advancing the leadership of women and girls.

Our office is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

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