Staff Spotlight – Women in Construction • Sheri Stanley, Administrator for Facilities Development
Sheri Stanley wanted go into ophthalmology. But a job washing dishes at a hazardous materials laboratory changed her path in life.
In high school, Sheri loved science and was inspired by her female chemistry teacher. A high school science lab dissecting a cow's eye introduced her to ophthalmology. "I got to take out the lens and look at the rods and cones inside the eye. The colors were gorgeous and I started to be fascinated by the eye."
Sheri started college at the University of California, San Diego planning to do pre-med and major in Chemistry. She was working at a jewelry store part-time. Her father suggested she look for jobs in the sciences to build a network and make connections. Sheri answered the dishwasher ad in the newspaper. "I thought, 'how bad could it be?' It was bad. We were cleaning toxic sludge out of containers."
Three days into the job, Sheri was observing the chemists in the laboratory writing their calculations out in lab notebooks. In school, she was using a spreadsheet program that could do those calculations. Sheri told the chemists about the program. She took their notebooks and entered all the data. "Just like that, the calculations department was born and that was my department."
As Sheri explored her interests in college, she changed majors twice. First to chemical engineering, then to mechanical engineering, keeping chemistry as a minor. All the while, she continued to work at the hazardous materials lab. By the time she graduated, her network of industry connections had expanded. She applied to the Navy's "New Professionals" program. In the program, civilians do four tours of duty in four different areas in the Navy's research lab. At the end of the program, the civilian can select which field they want a job in.
The program provided Sheri the opportunity to participate in some incredible projects. In addition to assessing hazardous materials on the ocean floor off a boat in San Diego Bay, she researched ways to streamline submarines in a water tunnel.
After moving to Oregon, Sheri continued engineering consulting, but now from home while she and her husband raised their kids. While volunteering in Beaverton schools, a friend suggested she apply to be a substitute instructional assistant. Then in 2008, she applied for the position of Energy Manager and eventually moved into project management.
Two and a half years ago, Sheri was promoted to Administrator for Facilities Development. The position oversees 27 people working on the $680 million bond program approved by voters in 2014. Sheri's job is to make sure the program, which includes the construction of six schools and hundreds of other projects, is completed on time with the funds available.
"I can't say that I had this path planned. Doors opened a little and I kind of pushed on them to open them even more," says Sheri. Her number one piece of advice to high school and college students? "Say yes to even that random opportunity, like washing dishes in a haz mat lab – you don't know where it will lead!"