Name: Kristina

Vocation: Quality Assurance, Mental Health

Location: Rancho Cucamonga, California

1.     What do you currently do now and how did you end up here? Any pit stops along the way and did those pit stops help you get to the career and woman you are now? 

I currently work at South Coast Community Services (SCCS) as a Quality Assurance Specialist. My responsibilities include auditing medical paperwork to ensure services will be rendered without recoupment and aid in additional documentation training for new employees. I initially started at SCCS in 2002 when I was 19 years old as a Direct Care Staff for highly aggressive and developmentally delayed children’s group home. We would be assaulted on a regular basis and would need to physically restrain the children in order to keep them safe as well as others in the home.

Each day was extremely intense and I questioned whether or not to quit multiple times however the staff I worked with became family and so did the children. We worked 16 hours at times waking the children up and getting them ready for school and then tucking them in bed at night. Despite my own personal difficulties, knowing that the kids relied on us despite their acting out behaviors gave me purpose so I stayed.

This position really aided in my own personal development and never realized that those kids have helped me grow into the mother that I am today. My experience at the group homes allowed me to get promoted to house manager and then eventually the position of Therapeutic Behavioral Coach (TBS Coach). In this position, I gained a new skill set which and has been influential in my career at SCCS. In this position I learned how to write medi-cal notes, worked side by side with therapists, created my own treatment plans and excelled in developing individualized treatment goals and interventions for my clients. I had made several attempts to attend college but was unsuccessful due to my working schedule and the fact that I was living with roommates and having to take care myself.

My experience and performance always excelled which allowed doors to open at SCCS even though I only had a high school degree. With that being said I also felt that it created a challenge for me to explore employment elsewhere due to my lack of higher education. At many times I felt stuck however continued to gain additional positions within the organization that continued to challenge me personally and professionally. My next big adventure at SCCS was opening up the first Transitional Age Youth Crisis Program in Southern California. I was the Program Supervisor and my prior experience with residential programs and TBS coaching experience gave me the confidence to fulfill this new responsibility.

I really enjoyed learning all of the laws and regulations necessary and the administration portion which eventually prompted me to return to school and finish my Bachelors Degree in Business Administration in my late late 20’s. I don’t think the degree necessarily help me to make more money or advance within the organization however became a personal challenge that I wanted to fulfill. As the Program Supervisor I worked closely with the county gaining more experience understanding of state regulation and the quality assurance aspect of the mental health field. I assisted the Quality Assurance Manager often and eventually was able to fill her position when she resigned.

I do feel very fortunate that with each position I gained and acquired new job skills that allowed me to advance professionally at SCCS. I was even able to transfer counties where I now provide quality assurance services for all of SCCS in San Bernardino. Needless to say 13 + years later, I am still employed at South Coast Community Services. Even though I have been successful I am now in a position that I am not learning or acquiring any new job skills and there is no longer any additional job positional for me to advance to.

2.     What are your current gaps, barriers, facilitators, or motivators? Any of those in particular that helped you along the way?

My current gaps are my level of education. If I want to advance at SCCS the next step would be to obtain a Masters Degree and pursue becoming a therapist however now that I am a mother of 2 young boys and I love that I have the flexibility to stay home when needed or to come into work late as often as needed. I do not have stress in my job and am very efficient that I have lots of free time. I keep telling myself I need to leave SCCS because I do not feel like I am making myself desirable in the work field however I have another child on the way the so once again looking for employment elsewhere just isn’t ideal as I need my insurance benefits, and my additional benefits when it comes to taking maternity leave. Not to mention that the possibility of raises do not occur at SCCS. I do feel like I am in a difficult situation cause do I stay at an easy job and continue to make the same amount of money (which isn’t much) or do I try and find an employer who I can acquire new job skills and maybe have a possibility to earn more which will help provide for my family. Once my kids are older I would like to find a job that is fulfilling and makes me happier.

3.     What is your ideal state / dream state of being as a woman in your career and a woman in this world? How will you get there?

I struggle with this because I would love to be high power business women one day but if that meant little or less time with my kids I would rather keep a simple career. I take a lot of self pride in the work that I do and want to do a good job and know that I am helping the agency. My ideal state as a woman in my career would be to know that I am valued as an employee and that I truly am making a difference, I enjoy being productive. My ideal state of being a woman in this world to raise children who are loved and end up as a productive member to society. If I can accomplish both there’s no greater success. So far I know I am doing a job as a mother because I love my boys and husband with all my heart and take great pride in being their mother. I have two choices career wise and that’s to either go back to school or look for employment elsewhere. I have no desire to go back to school so once my baby girl is old enough I will actively pursue looking for employment elsewhere.

4.     What common misconceptions do you find about your field, your life, about women in general?

Working in the mental health field that it’s all women that have too much emotion and try to be everyone’s therapist. There’s not too many misconception about my life. I keep it real with myself, husband, and family. I know I keep repeating “as a mother” however becoming a mother has changed my life forever. I now need to be responsible for them and then I am a wife too. Sean and I are not perfect nor do we ever claim to be but we are definitely honest with each other and ourselves which I feel helps us stay in reality. We don’t try to compete with what others have nor do we try and pretend that everything is perfect. We argue and disagree but we love each other. I know my truth and my focus is my family so I don’t allow myself to be influence by others who remain negative or unhappy with themselves interfere with my purpose and happiness.

5.     Any advice or tips & tricks you want to give to a younger you? Whether it be how to apt hunt on craigslist to getting your shoes cobbled to getting a work mentor etc

I struggle with this question as well because as much I as would like to have done things differently I know if I hadn’t encountered the difficulties that I did, that I wouldn’t be the woman/mother/wife that I am today. Let’s get real! I chose to drink and party a lot and in doing so made some poor choices which include 2 DUI’s. My second DUI included jail time of 30 days which luckily I only served 2 weeks. I lost my drivers license for almost 2 years and had to take the bus to get to and from work. I would even walk the long way in fear that someone would see me. This was truly a humbly experience that I can now appreciate.  Towards the end of my probation is when I met my husband. At the time I wasn’t interested in dating him and he turned out that he was sober. Our parents had known each other for over 18 years so we knew of each other and that each of our past was troubled. After dating for awhile I fell in love and would go to AA meeting with him even though I would still drink every once in awhile. I didn’t realize my drinking was negatively affecting our relationship and decided that I loved Sean more than I did drinking. Sean is now 8 years sober and I have 5+ years. I don’t know if I would have stopped drinking if it wasn’t for the fact that I loved Sean more. Sean and I grew up with domestic violence due to alcoholism and divorce. I honestly feel that Sean is my soul mate and we now have to opportunity to break the cycle of divorce and domestic violence. Our children will get to experience both parents who don’t run from problems but deal with them head on and hopefully our kids will learn a different way to deal with problems other than drugs, sex and alcohol. It’s crazy to think that my life has turned out far better then ever expected especially if I had tried to plan it myself.

BONUS QUESTION: What should lead your life: passion or pragmatism? (general thoughts, could be a convergence, could be one or the other!)

I say passion because life is to be enjoyed because we never know when it will be our last.

BONUS BONUS QUESTION: What are you most proud of?

Is it selfish to say myself? I have made awful choices in life and many regrets, I’ve lost friends but what I’ve also gained is pure happiness. The feeling when I look into my son’s eyes and feel honored to his mother. I did so with help lots and lots of therapy but I do need to remind myself more often how proud I am of whom I’ve become.  Although I am not claiming to be perfect because I feel each situation we encounter allows us to continue to grow and evolve. Sean and the boys challenge me at times and I’ve been know to lose my cool but its keeps me grounded knowing that I can learn from each situation and try to do better next time.

I do feel as women we are have a huge burden to fulfill especially if we choose career and motherhood or faced to choose between the two. I would hope that we as women do what makes us happy and to not care what everyone thinks or what society dictates how we should act or dress.