“I believe luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn’t been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn’t have been lucky.” Oprah Winfrey
By Columbia Southern University
Some people struggle a little to find their stride on a career path.
As Patience Adagba can attest, you might not know where that path will lead or if it’s the right for you until you truly begin the journey.
While finishing a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in 2010 at San Francisco State University, the Nigerian native was the recipient of a Maximizing Access to Research Careers scholarship that prepares minority students for entrance into a competitive graduate program and successful completion of a PhD in the biomedical or physical sciences.
After two years in this program and presenting her research in 2011, it was finally time to make a decision about applying to graduate school. She spent a semester mulling the idea and then…
“I realized very quickly that I didn’t want to continue in biochemistry or work in a research lab. It became apparent that I needed to find a new passion,” she explained.
During this time, she was working for a major airline in San Francisco where she gained several mentors “that observed I cared about workplace safety and was always trying to work with management to resolve safety issues.”
This exposure to safety risks on her job soon fostered an interest in Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations and workplace safety. Thus, a new path and passion emerged for Adagba: a career in occupational safety and health.
“I understood I couldn’t accomplish this through a traditional school. Columbia Southern University was at the top on my list of schools to consider for this program. After speaking with an admissions representative, I felt the occupational safety and health program was a perfect fit for my work life.”
Coupled with on-the-job training, Adagba grew as a safety official at the airline while completing her online master’s degree in occupational safety and health with Columbia Southern University.
“It was also no coincidence that I was soon promoted to a safety supervisor role after earning my master’s degree from Columbia Southern University and attained one of the highest safety awards— Silver Safety— for the company,” said Adagba, who graduated from the online university in 2013. She now works as a senior program manager in environment, health and safety for a large San Francisco company.
During the transition of career paths, she realized the importance of being steadfast in her goals…and something else.
“I needed to stay true to myself and work on myself continuously to find the path that provides me the most happiness,” she explained.
Adagba, who emigrated to the U.S. in 2004, has worked hard to stay on that path while keeping a disciplined lifestyle.
“I made sure that education was the first priority as I created yearly goals. The simple principle that influenced my decision to place schooling first was, ‘Stress now so you can relax later,’ ” she said. “Indeed, I am relaxing now in the sense that in the last six years, I have made significant progress in my finance and work-life balance mainly because my first few years here were spent focusing on earning a degree and working through my educational goals.”
From this experience, Adagba offers some advice to fellow women of color: “Find the passion in your goal and stay true to it. Ask yourself: ‘What do I need to accomplish now?’ Make the plans and stick to it. But stay in your lane in doing so. Do not compete with others to prove a point. Compete with yourself to prove yourself.”
As Black History Month draws to a close, Adagba added a personal note on its meaning to her.
“As a woman of color that has lived in the United States for 12 years and counting, I realize how much sacrifice the civil rights heroes have made in decades past to allow me to work free and live free in the U.S. Black history should be appreciated daily."