It Girl | SHARREE WALLS
Meet Sharree Walls! Executive Director of a non profit in NOLA and creator of Solace custom throw pillows! I love this interview so much and the wisdom Sharree shares from one of her favorite pieces of advice, "already am." Read all about her journey here!
Name: Sharree Walls
Job Title/Company: Executive Director, Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans
Education Background: University of Pennsylvania, Urban Studies
1. Tell us a little about who you are.
Every day I get a little closer to discovering who I am, finding my desires that must be filled. So far, I know that I love thinking, engaging in imagining and creating plans for a better global society. I love running through parks but also feeling myself push past physical limits. I like to dance because I love listening to music. And most confusingly, I’m an extroverted introvert.
2. What sparked your interest in your work?
I’m an Executive Director of a giving circle where young professionals pool together funds, we match their contributions, and provide them with a curriculum to strategically give away their pool of funds to nonprofits. I’m energized in knowing that I’m allowing people to explore their interest in making a difference and that at the end, we fund organizations doing great work.
I took a class my last year in undergrad that exposed me to the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, although I’ve always had an interest in improving society, I hadn’t thought about it as a career before the class.
3. Who are you most influenced by?
Boss ladies: Michelle Obama and Angela Davis, they speak their mind. I feel empowered just thinking about them
Gets me in my feelings: Nayyirah Waheed, I’ve read Salt over and over, she still helps me find feelings I try to hide from myself
Style: Tracee Ellis Ross and Rihanna, they’re both unafraid to wear what they feel. I recreated Rihanna’s 2015 Met Gala coat for Mardi Gras one year.
4. What was your first job and how long did you hold that position?
I was a waitress at a small chain restaurant for about a year when I was sixteen. I wanted a job to save for a volunteer trip abroad, the job was cut short by the 2008 recession, the whole restaurant closed. Unfortunately, I didn’t make enough to go on my trip.
5. If you have a full-time job and a side hustle, tell us about both and what you love about them!
My full-time love is leading Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans. Right now it’s a great outlet to develop and enact strategies to inspire young professionals to take action and directly support some of New Orleans’ most underserved populations.
My side piece is Solace. I design custom throw pillows to personalize your space. I have grown to love designing, encouraging people to be creative, and generating extra income (of course) through my business. I also enjoy that I have the freedom to do whatever I want with the business. It was worth working through the fear of failure to get to this point.
6. Can you share one of your proudest achievements with us?
Killing it academically in college. I graduated magna cum laude from an ivy league university. My first days on campus I remember thinking, I’ll be lucky if I get out of here with a 3.0. I found classes, topics, and professors that allowed me to explore my thoughts and in turn they allowed me to thrive. More than anything, I gained confidence that I can create the outcomes that I want.
7. What were your initial goals with your work? How have they evolved?
It’s hard to say. I haven’t been operating off of a plan other than get an idea, make it happen, move on when it’s time. I don’t think I could’ve predicted any of my career moves. Looking forward, I’d like to expand what I consider work. I have so many interests, especially spending more time experiencing and creating art. I want to be systematic about including it my weekly plans.
8. What do you think is the most important life skill you learned through your work?
Learning how to build work relationships with trust. The relationships you cultivate provide meaning in your work. If you find yourself working with too many people who you don’t trust, it’s time to move on. This applies for friends and acquaintances too.
9. Where do you hope to be in five years?
I’m reading this book, Nothing’s Personal. I’m only about 30 pages in, right now it’s asking me to be comfortable in the “I don’t know”. When I need to know something, I’ll know when it’s time... I know right, next level of spiritual awareness. I can’t wholly process what the author means, but I think that’s the point.
But, if I were to fantasize a bit, I hope to be traveling the world as a part of my work, meeting people to hear their stories and explore different ways to live, in love with a kind and supportive partner, and curating a dramatic home art collection.
10. What is a typical day like for you?
I wake up and journal if I don’t oversleep, I oversleep often. I go to OrangeTheory, goodness I love that place. It’s one of my guilty pleasures since it’s expensive. My typical workday includes sending fundraising emails and/or meetings, community meetings to stay current on new projects, data, etc., pulling together reports for myself and board members, and running our giving circle program.
When I’m home, I’m likely spending an hour or so doing community work. I serve on committees for a few nonprofits and community organizations. Before I go to bed, I attempt to read and journal, after I get in an hour of Netflix of course.
11. What was the biggest obstacle you’ve faced so far in the process of pursuing your goals?
I didn’t have a job for about six months when one of my contracts fell through. But honest to goodness, other than the fear, the days and hours that I accepted I wouldn’t always be without a paying job (I was still working on my business, it wasn’t making enough for an income though) I had a great time. I cooked, painted, spent time with friends. I found myself outside of a job which provided me with a sense of relief from the pressures that usually come with work.
12. What is the best piece of advice you have received?
Not quite advice but my favorite words, I have part of it as a tattoo. By poet Anis Mojgani, What made the beauty of the moon, the beauty of the sea, did that beauty make you, did that beauty make me? Did it make me something? Am I something? Will I be something? And the answer comes, already am, always was, and still have time to be. My tattoo says “already am.”
13. When do you get your best ideas?
Often when I’m reflecting on a conversation or something I’ve read, I can see and feel a light go off. The problem happens too often, so I’m continually learning how to focus.
14. Can you share with us one time that you failed and what you learned from that failure?
I’ve processed most of my experiences as learning. I will say that one of the lessons I keep learning is how to determine my limits, how not to put too much on my plate. Sometimes I get so excited that I forget to take care of myself, then I’m out for the count for a couple of days (or more). Then I get even more anxious!
15. How do you unwind?
I try to give myself a curfew of 8 pm on Sundays. I take a bath, play music, read, give myself a mud mask. On other days, not rushing is enough to slow down and take in moments at a time.
16. What would you tell someone else who is interested in entering your field?
Volunteer consistently with an organization, especially if you currently work for a company. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with how nonprofits work. They have different metrics for success so they operate differently. It’s an exciting time to work for nonprofits and philanthropic institutions, there is increasing emphasis on collaborative giving models and catalyzing equity and inclusion.
17. What do you hope people take away from your story?
I’m a Gemini/Cancer cusp, apparently we are very caring. I think that’s about right.
18. Anything we missed that you would like to share?
Sunsets in New Orleans are my favorite thing.