RISE SISTER RISE: A Blog Series showcasing VOICES of Extraordinary Women featuring Beth Willis Schauermann!
For the Rise Sister Rise Soundtrack now or anytime you need extra mojo or want to dance in your kitchen click here.
For background information on how this project came to be and other Rise Sister Rise blogs click here.
I am so damn excited about featuring this girl — she is one of my closest friends and someone I have always looked up to. By far one of the smartest, wittiest and biggest champions of women I know, she’s also one of my biggest cheerleaders and supports her girlfriends like no other.
MEET Beth Willis-Schauermann
It was a grey, stormy, dreary, rainy morning typical of Eugene, OR where Beth and I are from and we had to report in to work, the majestic oasis of retail heaven, Bath and Body Works; where fluffing bows was a job requirement, tallying how many hand washes you performed on a notecard and what would now be considered countless HR violations, rubbing men’s shoulders with a tool called a “Happy Massager,” were all part of our job. Thank God we went to college!
Beth and I had to be at work at 7am for a “manager’s meeting” after a night of debauchery. Thankfully, it was at the dim-lit, big booths aplenty, Mr. K’s —Enter Beth: she rolled in, cloaked in a beanie hat, overalls, perfect lip gloss and the magical Covergirl makeup of which I think she still uses to this day. She perfected the grunge look for chicks. It was the 90’s after all.
We were co-managers at Bath and Body Works because retail was the only job I could find with my really marketable Psychology degree. Sidenote: and Beth speaks to this later; retail is probably one of the best jobs you can have after college or in general. The difference between Beth and I is she knew how to handle her night of debauchery, she was smooth, sauntered in like she just got 9 hours of sleep and drank coconut water all night. I, on the other hand, was a disheveled mess, hungover, needed a grilled cheese at 7am and couldn’t wait to get back to bed.
But that is Beth, always prepared and understands her “corporate role.” She not only has always understood the game, she kicks ass at the game. Even in the world of retail she knew her “corporate place” which included confronting employees who were not performing and chasing after thieves in store who messed with our shrink rate (that’s retail talk for inventory). Don’t f-k with Beth, she will come for you, readily chase you down, if she so much as thinks you might have a Red Ripened Raspberry lotion or Stress Relief Pulse Point Cream in your possession.
This GIRL is my hero for not only chasing down criminals but because she is a true testament to overcoming adversity and turning shitshows into rainbows. She’s so damn humble, you’d have no idea, the mountains she has had to climb to get to where she is today. Raised by a single mom with not a lot of money (she’d hate that I am even saying this but I have to give a little context so you can see exactly how far she has come in life.) She is the perfect example of opportunity + hard work can create big-time success. Nothing, however, happened by accident. She worked her ever lovin a** off and it paid off. From Assistant Manager at Bath and Body Works to Cashier Supervisor at Oregon Health Sciences University and now a mofo (and I use that expletive with the utmost class and respect because this sh** is impressive!) Vice Provost for Finance & Administration for OHSU.
1. What did you wish you knew at age 18?
Good grief, I just wish someone would’ve told me that it was all going to be okay. I felt so completely *rudderless with no idea what I was supposed to do with the rest of my life. I was constantly in fear of making the wrong decision. I wish someone had just told me something along the lines of…
“If you’re not exactly sure, that’s okay — just try it on for size” like it’s perfectly okay to just go with the flow until the right decision reveals itself because (hint, hint) it always does. And I’ve learned that it is ALWAYS better to take the leap if you’re on the fence.
Otherwise, you will always wonder “what if?” Oh, and finish college. Someone should’ve told the 18-year- old me to finish college (I did, eventually.)
*author’s note: I had no idea what the word “rudderless” meant so I will save you the time of looking it up… it means “lacking a clear sense of one’s aims or principles.”
2. How did you know this is what you wanted to do? (your current job)
I had no idea! (see #1) Because not many people think to themselves “I wanna be a *University Administrator when I grow up!” Amirite? Somehow it doesn’t have the same cache as Doctor, Lawyer or Fire Fighter. 17 long years ago when I began my career here, it was really just a way out of what felt like dead-end retail jobs.
*author’s note: there she goes being all humble. “University Administrator” otherwise known as Vice Provost for Finance & Administration at Oregon Health Sciences University…
Cue: Drake …
Little did I know that it would lead to some of the most personally and professionally fulfilling work I’ve ever done.
Work that I am proud of and work that I am good at. Yes, I just sang my own praises because you know what, I AM good at my job. Take that, Imposter Syndrome!”
(Ladies can I get a collective FUCK YAH!!!! )
I may not personally cure disease, or train the next generation of health care providers, but in my own small way, I do get to play a part. And I love that!
Sidebar: I’ve never worked harder than I did when I worked in retail. It is such a thankless industry that is so undervalued.”
I made all of my best friends working retail and learned so many professional skills that I employ in my job every single day. If you’ve worked (or are working) in retail or in food service, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Hang in there.
3. How can I be a more effective female?
Stop doubting yourself immediately. I wasted so many years not feeling confident enough about everything — my looks, my relationships, my jobs, my intellect, my parenting — you name it. And I’m not the only one.
I see so many extraordinary women undervaluing themselves and their contributions ALL THE DAMN TIME. We have got to stop feeding that machine. We are literally keeping ourselves down.
And do you know what happens when we beat ourselves up like that? We give others the space to do it, too. Now, don’t get me wrong — I am not placing blame. It’s quite the opposite.
I’m empowering you to defy your conditioning.
4. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
You know, at first, I was gonna give some bullshit answer like “I would do it all the same because it all led me here, and my life is great!” (imagine birds chirping, me running through a meadow, etc., etc.)
But that really is bullshit. I’m proud to be where I am, but if I’m honest with myself, I sometimes lament the roads not traveled. Life is about experiences so I would’ve created opportunities for more of them –even if they were kind of scary.
So go away to college. Spend a year traveling or living abroad or in NYC. Learn a foreign language and then go to that place and speak it with the people who live there. Do things that scare you and challenge you.
Of course most of these things are possible at any point in our lives. But there is a beauty to life when you are young that, sadly, you won’t appreciate until you are older. And then, well, that moment is gone. So you’ll have to trust me.
Carpe the fucking Diem, my young friends.
5. Biggest failures?
Too many to name. But honestly, I don’t see them as failures. Because I like to think I learned something from every one of them and maybe even turned them into successes. Like, how I lived beyond my means, ruined my credit and got my *car repossessed.
You know what happened then?
That low point led to me realize that I never want to experience that kind of shame and humiliation ever again. So I stopped making poor choices, pulled up my big-girl pants, and set about fixing it.
The greatest irony of all ironies is that I now have a job where I am responsible for a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars. Guess the joke’s on you, Repo Man!
Bonus: What song motivates the F-k out of you?!
There are so many! But one that has really stuck with me in recent years is The Joker and the Thief by Wolfmother. It rocks so hard. I love that they play it before Duck games at Autzen Stadium. It gets me so amped! My kiddo loves it, too. She always wants to play it and rock out in the kitchen while we cook dinner. I once asked what her favorite part of the song was and she responded, “The squeaky guitars!”
If you listen, you’ll understand.
If you want to here the squeaky guitar magic click here.
Until next time, I appreciate anyone who is reading this blog series. This is about honoring and uplifting the women in our life and sharing our collective voice to each other and to an amazing younger generation who I hope can continue the legacy of lifting each other up.
Peace, love and pineapples