Career Spotlight - Belinda Esther Oliver

Photo of Belinda Esther Oliver
Friday, January 31, 2020

What is your title?

I am a financial assistant, level 4, within the Child Study Center’s business office.

What are your main responsibilities within that role?

I initially started on the Pre-Award team (Other Sponsored Research). As of November 1st, there has been a change in staff, and I now provide support in all capacities.

How would you say you started off your career? Can you walk us through your journey while at Yale?

I had been trying to enter the University for quite some time. I began in April of 1991 when my eldest son was a baby.  My first position was as a receptionist for the School Development Program with Dr. James P. Comer. Our office was located at 314 Prospect Street. I quickly worked my way up to a C-level, and eventually to a D. I have been at Yale for over 28 years. As of October 2018, I hit the mark for early retirement. While at Yale I birthed two sons, put two through college, and gained three grandsons who live in Hawaii. Their father is my son who is in the Air Force. In addition, I obtained my undergrad (B.S. Psychology) degree, a master’s in organizational leadership, and I am currently working on my second Master’s. Yale has afforded me not only an academic atmosphere (working around researchers), but also the ability to begin a second career late in life. It has truly been a journey! 

Can I ask what you’re studying?

I was trying to determine if should pursue a PhD or another Master’s. However, after talking with Maysa Akbar, the author of “Urban Trauma,” I decided to study Marriage and Family Therapy.  One of my passions is helping other people. However, “cultural competency” is necessary to help people of color, hence, my decision to become a therapist. There is a book by Sue & Sue (2015) called “Counseling the Culturally Diverse.” There is one paragraph in the book that solidified my new career path.

Would you say there’s something you know today that you wish you knew when you first entered your career, or mid-career, even, that might have helped you get to where you are today, sooner?

I would encourage people to return to school sooner. I was married, now divorced. School is rough while raising children, which is where I was when I started back in ’07. I now wish I had finished when I was younger, but what typically happens is you change academic tracks. I started off with a Bachelor’s in biology, but my undergrad is in psychology. Once I finish this Master’s the next goal is to complete my PhD. So, I would have to offset that with hopefully you know exactly what you want to do when you go back to finish up your academic goals.

That’s incredible, and you’re doing everything while raising a family. How do you find you managed that balance between work, your personal and never-ending development, and the development of your family?

They’re older now, but yes, I completed my undergrad while the boys were in elementary, middle and high school. You must have a schedule. I don’t multitask as well as I used to, but when I was younger I had a schedule for the entire house. This was before we had cell phones, so I used a PDA. I also found other tools to keep myself and the boys organized. It did get rough at times but being organized is key to any situation. 

So, organization’s definitely an essential skill to have in general. Would you say there are any others?

Uh, be superhuman *laughs*. No, it’s understanding you’re trying to accomplish something, and so you find the time to manage it. My children are older now; my youngest is 21 and does not need the same amount of time as he used to. Now it’s making sure his car is running and he finishes college. I really do not know how I did it, Deni, I really don’t. I look back now and I’m like, “Oh my God!” One year, I took 24cr., I dropped my Neuropsych, but that still left me with 21 credits. It was nothing but the grace of God for I was a full-time student, working full-time, and doing ministry at my local church. And I was a mother to three boys! Somehow, I managed to graduate with honors, a 3.7 GPA.

So about being superhuman! Even today, you find yourself using organizational skills in your current job. What are some other skills or personal attributes that you find are most needed?

Well, one skill that helps is the ability to interact with people. I have learned that interpersonal skills are necessary to put people at ease. Making them comfortable around you helps foster relationships. Also, understanding that we all come from different backgrounds and perspectives. That is a skill I have learned over the years, not just here at Yale but also within the community. Because I am an author, I am always asking people questions about their life.  Recently, my professor gave me accolades on my ability to interact with my peers within class. She also mentioned how my thinking is become more systemic. Personally, I believe it is important to know how to encourage people, to mentor, to know that for every opportunity that arises, there’s always something you can do to push others to greatness. One of my favorite adages is, “it is not about you.” Meaning, if you understand your purpose on earth is to help others it will help drive your passion. 

I’d like to ask, and I’m backtracking a bit, because you said you were an author. Can I ask what write, have written?

Yes, I have finished 4 books—two are hardcopies, and one is online and one is about to be published. I write in different genres. Two are prayer books and two are poetry.  The newest book is a remix of the initial prayer book. We will be launching that the end Q4 2019 / Q1 2020 after the seed launch. Recently, I just rebranded using a phenomenal team. I can be found at Sign up for my free love notes. I am so excited about the changes that the team has done.

You’re doing a lot, you’re still on a path of growth, learning, and personal advancement. I have to ask: If you had a choice of redoing something, or, in reflecting in everything you’ve accomplished so far, would you change anything you’ve experienced throughout your journey? Would you choose a different path for yourself at any point?

I love psychology and I love dealing with people most of the time. The reality is I’m an introvert who’s learned to come out to be the extrovert. I have learned so much over the past few years, and as I reflect, I believe I have come to where I am in my journey on purpose. Meaning, I believe everything happens for a reason, and the timing is based upon where you are in life. Does that make sense? I have learned I am a teacher, so everything I attempt to do, if anyone else is interested I will drag them along. Currently, I have quite a few women of various ages that I am mentoring. Overall, I am not the sort that goes back and reflects on “should’ve.” It is what it is, and so the path is here, thus, I continue the journey. I am a life-long learner and will be in school for the rest of my life whether it is certification or updating my therapeutic license. I try to be very strategic in whatever I’m doing–the Master’s in Organizational Development is for my nonprofit. The undergrad in psychology is the underpinning of everything. Each degree  has a goal behind it—everything that I try to do, I make sure I can use it somewhere else. Even my academic papers are on purpose. One professor is waiting for me to send her an autographed book on the African American Nuclear Family. We must always remember that our lives our journey’s. Thus, whatever we decide to do it becomes part of our repertoire, i.e. our suitcase in life. Always remember to pack it up. If you need to forgive, pack that up too so you can share and tell others that part of your journey. Trust me, that will be a blessing to them. 

Throughout your journey, and you had mentioned that you had spent a few years trying to enter the university system, can I ask what some of your roles might have been prior to your arrival?

I worked for the City of New Haven when I was 19. I went to them from a temp agency. They ended up creating a job for me. Next, on the list was Christ Church on Broadway. Finally, I got into Yale University. Sandra Greer, who has since retired hired me. When I left Yale for a bit, she re-hired me upon my return. We are still in contact. She has never been surprised of what I have accomplished down through the years. She was an excellent guide and mentor once I got into the University. Back in the day you had to be able to type around 60-70 WPM. Clearly, the requirements have changed over the years. 

Closing statements. If there’s anything you’d like to get across to your communities.

Seek to know, so you can grow, because education really is the key to success. No matter what situation we’re in, there’s always something you can take away from the table that we can learn from, not only for ourselves, but to help others as well.

-Interview By Deni Cifuentes