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My Stars Aligned

Sara McNamara, MSOD Candidate

As I reflect on the last 10 months I am amazed at what I’ve accomplished. My story about my journey to MSOD is a true testament of how possibilities emerged when I made space for them.

For most of my career, I knew I was unfulfilled yet happy with other aspects of my work- the money, the status, the location. So when my company went through reorganization and my position was moved to the East Coast, I accepted a severance and the opportunity to make a change. I spent 6 months enjoying time at home with my twin 2nd graders while looking for meaningful work in Leadership and Employee Engagement roles. One of my career mentors suggested Pepperdine’s MSOD program as a way to gain the education to enable me to reach the next level of work and contribution that I sought.

That email was the first of many stars to emerge. Instead of bore you with the details, I’ve listed the stars, or the critical part of this short narrative in the order in which they appeared:

Star #1

Email received containing information about the MSOD program. I immediately thought it to be an insanely unrealistic suggestion and was quite confident that I would never be accepted, could never leave my kids for the 6 trips and the costs of tuition & travel were not even a possibility. I was annoyed that the idea of attending graduate school at Pepperdine was even presented. Despite those self-defeating thoughts, I found the next local recruiting and networking event and emailed Shany.

Star #2

I confirmed childcare for the evening. This is always a challenge since my husband often travels for work. I am still amazed that I found a babysitter on such short notice.

Star #3

I walked into the room at the event and felt welcome, immediately. Shany had a name tag waiting for me. This seems trivial to most, but it made me feel special. Terri Egan led the panel discussion and I can honestly say I recall very little of what was discussed. However, I will never forget the way I felt. I was scared a few times that my tears would be discovered, regretting my decision to sit in the front row. I felt like I was home. That night I admitted to myself that the MSOD program was right for me and decided to continue with the application process. I recall adopting the “Can’t be rejected/rejected without applying” mindset, so I went for it.

Star #4

Nervously talked with my husband about the program including the costs and required travel and time away from our twin 8 year-olds. He said, “Do it. It will change your life”. I requested transcripts from San Diego State which was surprisingly easy.

Star #5

Requested letters of recommendation from 3 previous employers who all responded within 3 days which was amazing since it had been years since our last connection. I spent an entire weekend completing the application and got it done, at the last minute.

Star #6

Received the Letter of Acceptance from Pepperdine. Stared at it, and smiled.

Star #7

The very next day, I received the offer letter for employment with the US Chamber of Commerce. I called my new employer to let her know of the MSOD travel requirement (6 trips in 2 years), and she said “We will make it work”.

Star #8

Applied for financial aid and was approved.

I did it. I was in. I was accepted. Yes, I cried.

This journey seemed insurmountable several months ago when I considered the possibility of attending the Pepperdine MSOD Program. What saved me, and the very reason I am part of the program today, was my decision to take action even if it was one small step, like getting a babysitter.

Today, after having completed several courses and two 10-day intensive sessions, I feel the same as I did when I shook Shany’s hand. I felt at home then and I feel at home now- in a place that will provide me the opportunity to design the framework for the personal and professional contributions that are coming soon, one star at a time.

In Summary

As a military spouse with over 20 years of corporate experience, I am uniquely qualified to support transitioning military leaders as they prepare for their civilian careers. My experience includes roles in Business Development, Employee Engagement & Recognition and Leadership Development capacities within both large and small companies.

I’ve hired Veterans, personally worked alongside them and even married one. I know first-hand the value Veterans bring to their civilian employers. One of my goals as the Program Manager with Hiring Our Heroes is to help each service member to be emotionally prepared, to be aware of their value & worth, and to be equipped with relevant information during their fellowship to ensure they transition into meaningful civilian careers.

Being a company that is “Military Friendly” is one thing, yet hiring and retaining Veterans is another. In addition to working with active duty service members in transition, I spend time building relationships and partnerships with business leaders nationwide to grow our employer base for fellowships. Additionally, I assist with the design of their Veteran hiring, on boarding and retention initiatives.

I am honored to do this work and I'm driven to contribute to the greater good of our country by helping service member’s transition into meaningful careers where they will thrive and continue to serve within their civilian communities.

About Sara McNamara

Sara McNamara is the Program Manager for the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program. In close partnership with local employers and Marine Corps leadership, Sara has done groundbreaking work to launch the first fellowship cohort at Camp Pendleton in January 2017. She is committed to supporting organizations design and grow their veteran hiring initiatives. For the Marines and Sailors she serves in Southern California she is dedicated and passionate about raising awareness around self-worth and overall emotional preparedness to successfully transition into meaningful civilian careers.

She has over 25 years of corporate work experience, primarily in executive roles with accountabilities in leadership development, employee engagement and business development with companies including T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.

McNamara is currently pursuing a Master’s of Science degree in Organization Development from Pepperdine University. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Psychology from San Diego State University.

Sara is a military spouse of a Marine Veteran who served 20 years and transitioned out from Camp Pendleton. She lives in San Clemente, CA with her husband and their 4 children where she enjoys volunteering with Little League and Girl Scouts.

About Corporate Fellowship:

The program matches pre-transition service members and spouses with management and professional level internship positions at local companies. Throughout the 12-week program fellows receive training, mentorship and an interview prior to graduation. The objective is for each fellow to receive a job offer and transition directly into their civilian career soon after their end of active service (EAS) date.

Sara McNamara
Program Manager, Hiring Our Heroes
Marine Corps Installations WEST / Navy Region Southwest
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
1615 H Street NW
Washington, DC 20062
Cell 202.302.6631