Interview With Rising star: Shontieka Adeogun

Linda Crerar: What initially drew you to Homeland Security Emergency Management?

Shontieka Adeogun: I thought at first that I wanted to be a nurse. My grandma, a nurse, raised me, and I initially thought that I wanted to be a nurse to honor
her because she was my mom. But, unfortunately, she just passed away recently. And when I was doing my clinical, I was, you know, I thought to myself, this probably really isn’t my calling—one-to-one patient care. And I don’t have the temperament God gave people to do one-to-one patient care. Michelle Galaz, who worked for Pierce College, told me to watch this Homeland Security Emergency Management video. I watched the video, and I was like, wait, we can help people on a large scale, and I don’t have to do the whole one-to-one patient care. I didn’t know that I would love emergency management the way I love emergency management. I was just excited to find a career where I could help people.

Linda Crerar: What did you enjoy about your time in
the BAS HSEM program?

Shontieka Adeogun: I remember when I first was interested, I sat down with Robert Lord and he told me, “If you want to get into this field, you have to get your boots muddy.” He was explaining to me that experience in this field is what sells you. As I started to look into what Emergency Management jobs required, it was pretty much the degree or the equivalent of experience for the positions. The first thing that popped open was the 2016 Cascadia Rising exercise.
I hopped on that. I went with Thurston County Emergency Management and I sat in and did ESF 15, the public affairs. I was so excited and I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. But it wasn’t just opportunities. There were opportunities all the time. Robert was always giving us trainings or exercises that
were going on for us to get involved.

It’s interesting to see that folks like myself or Shane Moore or Tamara Corpin, the first group of people to graduate from the program.We have this experience behind us because what was ingrained in us is that experience. I’ll always appreciate my connection to Thurston County Emergency Management because Vivian Eason put me in everything. I remember I would tell her this is what I wanted to be involved in, or she would share with me her vision, and I was like, “Let me take it, let me do it, I’ll figure it out.” I had those opportunities with emergency management and was sponsored to go to different trainings. I got to go to the EMI for the whole community training, which was one of my favorite trips ever.

When it came to interacting with others in the program who did have some experience, but no degree, and then moreso; having that education allowed me to understand and comprehend some of what I was seeing and hearing. I had circumstances where I could apply my education and my experience. You need the book knowledge, you need to understand the basics, but you have to have the experience so that when you’re in the field, you’re not behind. I think that if you don’t have both, you will be behind. You can have all the experience in the world, but no knowledge of what’s going on behind that. I’m always up to date with what FEMA is updating and trainings that they’re doing because if I’m not getting that knowledge behind me, it won’t matter how much I’m sitting at the desk, doing the work.

I have to know and keep up with how things change and how they work. Things are changing these days very rapidly. We understand that that change is always there and, in most of us, don’t particularly like a lot of change, but that you know in the field particularly of emergency management. It’s in all fields, I think, these days. It’s just happening so much more accelerated.

Linda Crerar: Do you have long-term career plans?

Shontieka Adeogun: I found a program at Clemson University that does a public administration degree with the Homeland Security focus. My long-term goal would be to finish my degree, (which I’m starting the application process) finish my degree, and then work in Homeland Security. I would love to work in counterterrorism, so I would love to do that somehow. I think, as the world changes, and we see the capabilities of extremist groups, domestic or foreign, there’s a change in the tide every day. And things that we used to have to worry about before or didn’t have to work before, we have to worry about now, more often than not. So to me, I would love to be a part of the work they do to find these terrorist groups or see what’s going on so that they can stop it before it starts.

Linda Crerar: Anything else that you had run through your mind while we’ve been talking that you want to share with folks?

Shontieka Adeogun: One thing I think about all the time is I think a lot of people do get jaded in the work that we do, or in response roles period, or responder roles. But I have to say that when I was burnt out from COVID, it was 17 hours I had been working. I was exhausted and it was snowing; it was like six inches of snow on the ground. And here we are, giving shots in arms. When we’re doing our older population, I remember walking up and down that first day to greet the cars and the observation lot, and so many people I think I want to say was 20 cars were of people crying, just crying because we were giving them hope.

I remember I went back to my hotel room, and I was like, “This is why I do it. This is worth every sleepless night. This is worth a 17-hour workday that doesn’t end.” Because you’re always on the call, but I remember thinking, this is why I do it. You can never forget why you do the work you do because it’s easy to get frustrated and get mad. If you remember it’s not about you at the end of each day or the headbutting or the politics or any of that, it’s about doing what you can to help people’s lives to prevent one death (if that’s all you prevent) it’s at least one. But to help people have some hope. And if that’s all you remember, and if that’s all that holds you, and sometimes that is all that holds me together, is just recognizing that this is why I do the work that I do, so that people can have hope. I think that’s just important to emphasize because it’s easy to get burned out, and it’s easy to really to feel like, “Why did I do this?” But you always have to remember your why. And if you can do that, you’ll go a long way in the field.

*Note: Video links for all recipients to follow in January 2022

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