SHINICA THOMAS – WAKE COUNTY COMMISSIONER
Both of my parents were born in the West Indies. My father is a retired Army Veteran. I am a first-generation college graduate. I was a non-traditional student finishing college as a military wife. I attended two HBCUs, Howard University and Fayetteville State University. I spent several years working part time in Human Resources for GlaxoSmithKline, Target Corporation and Wake Tech, along with volunteering in my community, so that I could have the opportunity to be a “stay-at home mom” to our sons. It was important to me to spend that time with them. I always knew that I could make money at any time in my career, but time was not redeemable. It was important to me and my husband to raise young men that were going to be intelligent, impactful and feel empowered to be productive world-changers. Our oldest son is currently working in the community with young people at day camp and tutors in math. Our youngest is a student at Harvard University and plays college football.
Some of my proudest work accomplishments are:
- Being a Regional HR Manager with the Target Corporation and responsible for opening and staffing many of the stores in the Triangle.
- Working to build the Compensation, Equity, Diversity and Employee Relations Department at GlaxoSmithKline, and implementing a grievance and mediation program within the RTP and Philadelphia campuses.
- Creating a Virtual Assistant program that helped busy executives and entrepreneurs with their scheduling, travel, calendar management and HR needs.
- Working as a Fund Development professional for Girl Scouts as they celebrated their 100th anniversary and starting a Women's Giving Network among female donors.
- As the Director of Advocacy and Educational Partnership for Girl Scouts, creating relevant opportunities for alumni to engage with current program participants and elevating the leadership experience in the community.
- Being appointed to serve three terms on the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources advisory board in the Town of Wake Forest, where we developed a Master Plan and built a new community center.
Q + A WITH COMMISSIONER THOMAS
What do you see as your greatest accomplishment as an African American leader?
I am an amazing wife of over 25 years. I am a wonderful mother to two amazing and productive African American young men. BUT I feel it is difficult to pinpoint just one accomplishment, so I would say my greatest accomplishment is being resilient. There have been many difficulties and disappointments in my life, as an African American woman and daughter of immigrants. I have learned to #BeMyOwnSuperhero. I am my own best advocate.
What is your “secret sauce,” or the leadership principles that have most contributed to your success?
Accountability. I think one of the main reasons for my success is my support team. As I am leading and pursuing opportunities, I can get caught up sometimes. It helps to have people in my corner to not only offer support, but also those that will tell me when I need to take a seat and rest or take several seats because I’m doing too much.
I have learned to use my time, talent and treasure to make positive impact wherever I am. I live my life as an accomplishment for others to see, and I am always willing to share lessons I've learned.
Finally, I never get “puffed up.” I remind myself that I’ve never arrived, I am always on a journey. Don’t get me wrong, I always take the time to celebrate wins, but I know there is more. I constantly work to improve myself, for myself. Knowing there’s room for growth keeps me striving.
How do you continue to grow and develop as a leader, and what are the keys to developing the next generation of leaders in government?
Exposure is key. Especially when it comes to young people, I feel that you can't be what you can't see. It's important that we all have the opportunity to see people before you step out on faith and accomplish the seemingly impossible, even if it takes a few tries. That's where the growth and development occurs.
I also feel listening is key to the next generation. I have been successful because I realize that I can learn from anyone. I have a wealth of knowledge to share, but I don’t know everything and I never pretend that I do. I have found that I get results when developing the next generation by listening to their thoughts and ideas and sharing mine when prompted. It takes the wisdom of the elders and the energy of the young to move the needle in a positive direction.
With the benefit of hindsight, what advice would you give your 13-year-old self?
That a dream deferred is not a dream denied. I would tell my younger self to be patient with me. You may not always make the right decision, but don’t be paralyzed by indecisiveness and fear. Make the move! Take the Leap of Faith. The work that you think is hard in the moment might actually be taking you closer to your dream. Do not get weary. Don’t forget your end goal. You will make it! It may be in a roundabout way, but you will get there - or somewhere even better than you imagined!
What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
"A Promised Land" by President Barack Obama.