I entered Spelman College with hopes of becoming a counseling psychologist; however, my career trajectory changed when I learned about the devastating effects that HIV/AIDS was having on the African American community. I had to make a difference!

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NAME

Jessica

JOB TITLE

Program Manager at the Urban League of Greater Atlanta

LOCATION

Atlanta, GA

SALARY

$40,000 - $60,000

Education

Spelman College
B.A.,

Career Bio

The profession

Pursue a Master of Public Health degree; complete internships in public health; and know as many people in your industry as possible.

How I got here

I entered Spelman College with hopes of becoming a counseling psychologist; however, my career trajectory changed when I learned about the devastating effects that HIV/AIDS was having on the African American community. I had to make a difference! I started taking public health courses at Morehouse College; interned at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; participated in public health research studies and was chosen to represent the Atlanta University Public Health Association on my college campus, in hopes to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS and other public health issues. In September 2007, I entered a graduate program in public health at Boston University. I completed public health internships at the Boston Public Health Commission, John Snow, Inc. and Management Sciences for Health (Nigeria), before landing a full-time position at The Balm In Gilead, Inc. I supported HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer research projects, which I absolutely loved! This opportunity also exposed me to program management and finally in February 2013, I was introduced the CEO of the Urban League of Greater Atlanta who informed me about an opportunity to start up a health and wellness program at her organization. The rest is history.

A typical day

I get into the office around 8:00am; check my e-mail. Next, I prepare for my class, which is usually held on Tuesday afternoons. I create my agenda, contact facilitators, and contact participants. I create and print handouts. I create a list of expenses and supplies to finance department that will be needed for my session. I purchase supplies. Next, I obtain approval from the department chair on my materials. I set up the classroom, greet students as they enter. I also take attendance and log any incentives (gift cards or transportation passes) they are given. Next, I set up refreshments for students to eat. I break down after the session ends and complete a detailed report on the session. I leave the office at 9pm.

The hardest parts

The biggest challenge that I face is complete a large task list with limited funding, supplies, and staff. It encourages me to be very resourceful and very efficient, which is extremely important to this industry.

The best parts

I have the pleasure making people's lives better and witnessing the smiles on their faces when I do so. I love when my participants write on a survey that my program empowered them and that they cannot wait to return to the next class.

The myths of the profession

People believe that because the word, "public" is in the name of my degree, professionals are paid low. For my first job in this industry, I had a pretty decent salary and excellent benefits. It just depends on where you work, so don't believe that hype!

The workplace

My workplace is an office space in a large office building in downtown Atlanta. There are 3 classrooms and 2 meeting rooms for presentations and classes.

Advice for someone thinking about going into the field

I'd say learn the basics and master them. Become an expert in Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Learn how to complete tasks efficiently. Obtain experience managing projects and perhaps pursue an MBA, to open up more options for you. Don't burn bridges and be as open to learning as much as possible.

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