Picturing a typical interview scenario, what do you see? A stern interviewer leading with provocative questions and an obliging interviewee offering generalised answers. My conversation with Sandra Wright quickly demolished any preconceptions of such a format, as we delved into her insightful and personal journey.
In the mindset of the interviewer, I greeted Sandra with an open-ended question: “Is there anything you’d like to ask me before we start?”, a question I presumed would warrant a straight-forward response. Sandra replied, asking “Who are you?”, in terms of my interests, goals, achievements and passions. Surprised, I realised that the direction of our conversation would be far more interesting than the rehearsed questions I had in mind. As I stumbled to pull together an answer, Sandra explained to me the reasoning behind her question. “In the past, when people asked me about who I was, I’d tell them about my job”. She explained that during her previous career paths, she found it difficult to maintain her personal identity. “As the corporate world served me, I became my work”. Sandra believes that her experience isn’t an unfamiliar one, and she’s passionate about encouraging professionals to look after themselves personally too. “I want to be an activist for good. Instead of shining my light in people’s eyes, I want to use it to direct them and help them to navigate”. Describing herself as a luminary, Sandra’s outgoing personality made our conversation an especially poignant one.
Sandra speaks openly about her own experiences, both personal and professional, that led her to become the insightful and knowledgeable person she is today. A ‘lifelong learner’, Sandra’s approach to mindfulness centred around asking a single question: ‘Is this serving me?’, an ideology that shone through during our chat. She disclosed that her journey to date has not followed a straight road, but explained that by asking that question, she felt better equipped to navigate the twists and turns that life presented. Sandra talks fondly about her moment of ‘great escape’. A lover of nature and animals, the volunteer Royal Parks community ranger tells me about her hustle to buy a home, a place she conceptualised to be one of true happiness. In reality, an apartment with no outdoor space and a strict no-pets policy. “In lockdown, this hasn’t served me at all. I’m truly contemplating leaving, as I have done before; abandon my home to lodgers and set off with a suitcase and a car”. Previously ending up at a residential course, she describes the experience as a ‘life-changing’ one, telling me “I felt like I finally had a voice again”.
Quizzing Sandra about her Mondrem job title, she shares her apprehension, based on previous experience. “I never took the time to enjoy where I was at, I was always craving the next step. It’s that idea of getting on a train and closing the blinds to the scenery outside”. She talks about the competition that people face throughout their personal and working lives. “I almost felt like I had to be over-amplified to fit in. I had to be extra sporty, outgoing or funny”, a statement which at first may have seemed unlikely coming from someone who appears so comfortable and confident in their identity today. “When I was in my late 30’s, I think that was the wake-up call. Just be you, and find your happiness”, her passion was evidenced and overwhelming. Sandra takes inspiration from Steven Covey’s book ‘The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness’, particularly his concept ‘Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs’. Sandra explains that ‘voice’ is Covey’s code for ‘unique personal significance’. “Those who inspire others to find their voice are the leaders needed now and in the future”.
A common theme which ran through our conversation was Sandra’s genuine ambition to help people. “I’ve always been a ‘people person’” Sandra continued. “I see the person before the customer, and bettering wellbeing before gaining advocacy”. Sandra is an action-orientated individual, whose strong will and passion illuminated our interview. “I’m not a perfectionist, but an exceptionalist. I believe in diversity and see more value in an individual rather than herding people together”. She enlightened me with the impact this has on her professional life now. “I’m a bit of a rebel and like to ask ‘Why?’. I’m confident enough to approach new situations while maintaining a focus on the needs of an individual. It’s important to really understand what other people need so you can provide the best outcome for them. Of course, you have to look at the bigger picture, but then translate it to fit with each person involved”. From her business venture Swish (an organisation surrounding neurolinguistic programming to address the evermore present health concerns of stress, anxiety, depression and burn-out), to her interest in Equine Animal Assisted Learning, Sandra’s calling is crystal clear – to be a helping hand to others.
During our conversation, Sandra’s outlook on life served as a reminder to me to look inwards. I resonated with so much of what she said, and have been genuinely inspired to get to know myself that little bit more. She talks about self-awareness and growth in such a poetic and accessible way, it’s hard to leave a conversation with Sandra without acquiring stacks of wisdom and inspiration. “Be conscious all the time of who you are and where you’re going” she tells me, a snippet from our interview that I know will stick with me from now on.
So, Sandra, in answer to your opening question. While I’d initially strung together a hasty answer about being a Keele University student and Mondrem’s Communications and Marketing Lead, I’m in fact Kate: a friend and a daughter; a lover of indie-rock, animals, travelling and fashion; a feminist campaigner, an outgoing introvert and an ambitious optimist. While that perhaps doesn’t roll of the tongue as easily, it’s certainly a more interesting way to start a conversation.