A Picture of Wellness

Health is Personal

The health and wellness industry sometimes seems as if it only exists to make people feel bad about what they lack or that health and wellness is a single standard. We all know that is not true. It is important that each person decide what health and wellness looks like for them. Sometimes that takes soul searching, trying new things, cutting up credit cards, seeking a therapist, trying new vitamins, meditation, prayer, changing your diet, being creative (YESSSSSSS) keeping a food journal, trying new exercises, switching things up, keeping up to date with physical and wellness exams, learning/exploring non-traditional (eastern) practices such as acupunture, and having a routine for certain things that are working.  

For me, total wellness is most successful in community. I prefer a group workout class at the gym or something like Orange Theory that brings a group of people together for a common purpose. I thrive in my church community where we come together to fellowship and worship under a common purpose. I stay on my budget when I am frequently listening to my guru Dave Ramsey listening to callers and heeding the advice.  In relationships the more I/we communicate openly and often the better. The community around me encourages me and works best to help me stay in balance and having total wellness. 

SPIRIT 

Spiritual health is important for the work that I am tasked to do each day, I need a full cup so that I can pour out onto others and share the gifts that I have been given. For me I still need to attend church services semi-regularly (I too attend Bedside Baptist from time to time) and participate in ministry (at least one sometimes more depending on my schedule) to meet my spiritual needs and also meet others spiritual needs. My current ministry is singing in the choir, which I have been doing since I was a child. This is best for me. 

I would give myself an A- in this area. (That’s because sometimes Bedside Baptist seems better than going to church) 

MENTAL

Mental has to do with my thoughtlife and the story that I am telling myself in my head. I wasn’t taught as a young woman that this was an important part of my health, therefore I have been learning this on the fly as an adult. I grew up with an abundance of support from family and friends and I generally would just take those ‘good’ words and accept them as true. I mean I still think that they are true but I didn’t address the negative thoughts and lies that would sometimes creep up in my mind. I am an academic type and also a minority and also a female so I have suffered from ‘imposter syndrome’ but did the work and mostly overcame it. Mental health is something that can not go unchecked even if it is small negative thoughts they will grow over time. When I was in graduate school I started seeing a therapist and that was very helpful and I have seen him a few times over the years since I got out of graduate school. This is what works for me. 

I would give myself an A in this area. (I have a strong foundation but there is room for improvement) 

BODY 

I rejoice when I think about my body right now and I have positive feelings (value) about my physique thanks to my community and LIZZO! (Houston girls change the game…period) I am a work in progress and I know that each day I open my eyes in the morning is a new day to take the best care of this body. Even when I still have body related goals to meet I still keep a positive outlook and use that attitude to approach the goals I have set for myself.   

Every year I have a physical exam and I also have a well woman exam at my traditional doctors office. I have a close friend who regularly goes to an accupunturist and I want to go but I’m not going to lie I have hesitations. One day I will push that fear aside and try it.  When I am feeling sick especially in the winter months I will immediatly go to the doctor and I generally get a flu shot every year.   If I catch a cold or something similar I try to strictly follow the doctors orders especially to rest so that my body can get well soonest. 

I would give myself a A- in this area. (I have a cavity that I need to have filled but it’s a bit more complicated than just making one dental appointment) 

I work out at the gym semi-regularly, this means 2-3 days a week and I would like to build up to a solid 4 days a week, but I have a lingering muscle injury in my right leg that limits the intensity and regularity of my workouts. For me before and after care is important for my muscles so the days I workout I drink more water, make sure I stretch and I also go into the sauna after my workout for 10 minutes and take an epson salt bath. These 4 things ensure that I don’t have continual pulled muscles which is apparently something my body is prone to because I over extert myself or simply my age….. marching onward to 40! 

My gym routine and before/after care are still something I am working to balance out and be more consistent.  I have heard from professionals that the gym/workout routine only contributes to 20% of body health. 

I would give myself a B+ in this area. (I have room for gradual improvement) 

Within a 7 day week I can honestly say that I eat pretty well. I generally have a smoothie for breakfast. I love coffee, I really do but I like it with sugary cream so I try not to drink it as much during the week and save it for my Saturday or Sunday morning treat. For some reason at work I can drink all the water in the world, but not so much at home – I need to improve on my at home water drinking. I will generally eat a salad for lunch or some type of meat and vegetables. Dinner can be a toss up but it is usually not that bad and consist of mostly meat and veggies. I have heard from professionals that eating is 80% of body health.  

On occasion working late in the office or on the weekends after a long week at work I sometimes eat based on my feelings. I LOVE LOVE LOVE cake – I mean I could just eat cake with every meal. I also love chips. So if you see me going for the cake or the BBQ baked Lays on the weekend just know I am stress eating to neautralize my emotions. 

I would give myself a B in this area. (I have room for improvement) 

FINANCIAL 

Often, we overlook the need for managing our finances. But, financial health is an important aspect which largely contributes to ‘a picture of wellness.’  Generally, once a year, I spend some time reviewing my finances – am I managing my debt appropriately? Have I tithed consistently? What do I hope to accomplish – bathroom remodel, new Gucci Bag? (YES!) And am I prepared for an emergency – aging vehicle?

I’d like to think I do ‘pretty good’ with my finances. I don’t typically carry any credit card balances, I pay a little extra towards my mortgage and I pay my bills on-time. While all of those things sound like a good idea – I was challenged when a friend casually asked me about my finances. I had no idea overall how well I was doing but I felt like I was doing well, right? But,  I was unable to answer very simple questions about my portfolio, allocations or even how much I paid my financial planner. And here I thought I was doing well? As, it stands, I’m doing ok but there’s some basic things I should be able to speak intelligently about when it comes to my finances. I have about 3 months of living expenses saved and I can stand to contribute even more to my 401K. But, this idea of a ‘picture of wellness’ has challenged me to do better about my financial health.

In this area, I would give myself a B-. (My goal is to intimately know the bag I have secured) 

Continual learning is a must for us to take care of these bodies and spirits we have. Reading articles on health/wellness/money teaches me about new things to try that work for others, some will stick for me and some won’t. I love listening to podcasts about wellness and meditation (and apparently murder, yes I am a murderino thanks to Dean Koontz and Stephen King) to learn new things and also sometimes it helps me realize things that may be lacking from my wellness routine. 

Stay Personally Healthy 

-Written by: Sophoria Westmoreland & Cecelia Toulson 

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay 

The Prayer

Give all who mourn peace 

Mend the broken-hearted 

Touch them one by one, name by name 

Reveal Your unfailing love 

Show the world Your truth 

Strengthen our common bond 

Bless us with total health 

Guide our descision making 

Consecrate us for the works assigned 

Make us vessesls of light 

Set us on a hilltop 

Give us strength from day to day 

Ignite us towards righteousness 

Plant hope in our hearts 

Optimism for days to come  

Rememberance of Your grace and mercy past 

Fortitude for what remains to be seen 

Eternity in our souls 

A servant’s spirit 

A graceful tongue 

A love for all 

Let us walk in ’This Victorious Life’ 

In Jesus Name, 

…Selah 

…Hallelujah 

…Amen 

-Sophoria Westmoreland 

Image by RÜŞTÜ BOZKUŞ from Pixabay 

Personally Sophoria

Just me. Being me. Doing me.

(This blog post was originally written for a close friend of mine, she hosts a fabulous fashion blog here and also owns and operates a fabulous t-shirt company here

A standard of grace not perfection is a resonating theme throughout my life. Living on Grace and Mercy is the mission statement for my life coming from Hebrews 4:16. Which reads: 

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (KJV) 

What we all need each day, God gives in full measure. His mercies are new every single morning. Life is panful at times, hurtful, disappointing, and if we choose self-reliance over God’s grace and mercy we will easily cave into a life of anxiety filled depression.  Every morning I open my heart to recieve new grace and mercy, joy fills my heart, peace, love and I am content to go, to do, to be. 

Lamentations 3: 22 – 23 reads: 

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (KJV) 

Personally Sophoria – who am I?  A daughter, sister, aunt, niece, grand daughter, great-grand daughter, god mother, and a friend. Relationships are essential to my well being and my history with my native family and with high school and college friends has been the proving ground for my adult relationships. I am also characterized as an intellectual, creative, sassy, complex, well-organized, self-disciplined, reserved, magical, friendly, cooperative, calm, secure, and dedicated – an original, unique, one-a-kind design since 1980. The fingerprint of my personality was fashioned by God in my mother’s womb before I was yet born. God knew that I would  be all these wonderful things according to His intricate design the woman I would be. 

God also knew that I would be stubborn, moody, and judgemental. I am not perfect but I am being transformed by the DAILY renewing of my mind through Christ Jesus. What does that mean? It means that I have to read the Bible daily and pray daily and speak God’s Word to thoughts not like Him, often (sometimes over and over) and more often when I am being stubborn, moody, and judgemental. I have to talk to myself, take time to listen to wise counsel, have a listening ear, and remember that I am not self-reliant.  It means I am not perfect and even when I try really hard I sometimes fall. God gives me grace when I fall and He is always there to remind me of who I am in Him – the perfect picture of Jesus Christ. 

I have come to understand that I am different by design. To be honest I don’t always understand why, but it has always been clear to me even as a young child – I am different. Growing up I was pretty different from my siblings in many ways. Even now as a woman I am different from my peers in many significant ways. I am personally me and in that truth I find contentment. 

Moments when my differences were revealed to me (or others):I have always loved going to and being in church – it is the place where I feel the safest. The African American Baptist  church raised me and framed me into the woman I am today. Whereas most children can’t wait to get out of church. I left my home high school after the 9th grade to attend the High School for Engineering Professions at Booker T. Washington High School, leaving the school where both my older sisters attended and graduated. I started college in 1998 at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee majoring in Mechanical Engineering, leaving all my family and friends in the Houston, Texas area. In the Fall of 1999 I became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc while most of my family members are in Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. In 2000 I transferred into the dual degree program at Clark Atlanta University and Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia leaving all my dearest friends and TSU family. In 2003 I became the first in my immediate family to graduate with a college degree and I actually earned 2 degrees. After teaching 8th grade in Texas for 3 years I left the Houston, Texas area again and moved far east to the Washington DC Metro area to attend graduate school at the University of Maryland – College Park. In 2012 I graduated with my PhD and Masters in Mechanical Engineering, again the first for my family. I became a college professor at the United States Naval Academy, a small, prestiguous teaching focused institution while most of my peers went on to teach at Research 1 institutions or high paying private sector jobs. In 2016 I started my own company, The Westmoreland Group, a consulting firm established to support the mission of government operations through science and technology. I am still one of only 2 (my sister lives in the Dominican Republic) in my family who does not call the Houston, Texas area home – I still reside in the Washington DC Metro area. 

The reason the moments aren’t all attributed to me is because sometimes I needed encouragement or to be voluntold that I should try another direction in my life. Sometimes I am not able to see the me I will be. The experiences listed above were put into place by my parents, aunts, uncles, teachers, coaches, siblings, friends, sunday school teachers, bible study teachers, sorority sisters, mentors and my life coaches Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey.  

Robert Frost perfectly summarizes those of us who are different by design. 

“I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

When I come to the end of Sophoria – there is God extending beyond my imagination the destiny of who I am to become. My phsycial limitations humble me. My intellectual limitations bring me to my knees in prayer. My financial limitations bring me test God with my tithe and offering. God is faithful, not me! God is great and can do great things (even greater things) through me for my good but for His glory. 

I was here

I lived, I loved 

I was here 

I did, I’ve done everything that I wanted

And it was more than I thought it would be

I will leave my mark so everyone will know

I was here

-Beyonce’- 

This I know for sure: God is with me through Christ and, by the Holy Spirit, He promises new mercies and His perfect strength so that I can do all things.  

Blessings, 

-Sophoria Westmoreland

….

Ecclesiastes 3

It’s Time

Sometimes when I read the Bible, I write about how it speaks to me….

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven — Verse 1 

I wonder what God’s iCal looks like? I am certain He has notifications turned off… I wonder if He uses color codes for all the events that have been planned and appointed under heaven – that means everything! I am glad to know this verse because it means even though I spend time planning parties, dinners, meetings, conferences, anniversaries – God has already appointed times for these events. 

WORK: There was an appointed time for me to start my business (August 2016) and for everything (my current contract and future business) that will come through my business by doing good works. Side note – while in graduate school I started a cupcake business (Hero Cupcakes) and a jewelry making business (The Cirlce Maker) and I secretly want to get into the college prep tutoring business.  These are all a piece of who I am – and who my Bigmoma was (she always had a business idea). 

Every little brown girl needs a Basic Black Bigmoma (BBB). 

A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. Verse 2 

Giving birth looks hard, I’ve not done it so I won’t speculate here. A time to die is a hard truth but  in surrendering to God’s will for our lives we have to accept what God allows. I have found in death that time does help and that the memories eventually are the things I cherish the most. I read the second half of this verse in a more practical way, in May I plant my flowers for the summer and in October I uproot what was planted. Once in my life though I had to uproot a close friend, it was time and God told me so in a dream so vivid that it gave me chills. 

WORK: This one is similar to Verse 1, an appointed time for everything work/career related. A time to uproot from work/career seems to becoming less complicated these days which I see as a good thing. New career fields are being created each year, especially in the scientific and engineering areas. My peers and subequent generations are not staying at the same job for 40 years. That is not a bad thing, it is just not our thing. I am so grateful that my education and training experiences allows me to expand my career and pursue new and challenging job opportunities with excitement. Change is inevitable and sometimes requires uprooting. 

A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. Verse 3 

I beleive there is a time to kill, not murder with malice intent but to kill in self/family/country defense. If I didn’t I don’t think I would be very suitable for my current work within the Department of Defense. The older I get I need more ‘time to heal’ from moving boxes in my garage and after an intense workout session at the gym I have to sit in the sauna, take a vitamin I, and take an epson salt bath when I get home. A time to tear down and a time to build up makes me think of renovating homes and the famous show on HGTV with Chip and Joana Gaines. It is definately more pleasant in all thing that if I am tearing down I already have a plan to build up and that what I am building is going to be better than what was before. 

WORK: A career is built up one job, experience, paper, conference, brief, e-mail at a time. To say I have made a (short) career here at my current client’s office is to sum up everything that I have done for the past 5 years. I have spent many hours building up my career and my professional persona here. I am grateful that I have had work experiences that has been documentable such as making promotional videos, giving briefs on and off site, writing articles about the programs that I support, planning high profile events, attending high profile events, and many more. I do not have a Facebook profile but my picture has been featured on my client’s Facebook page for supporting a variety of science and technology programs. 

A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. Verse 4 

I have learned as an adult that it is okay to cry, I was raised in a home where we only cried when we were given a valid reason. Discernment is a gift I have, if you have this gift you can always find something to laugh at or someone to laugh with. I don’t fancy myself a comedian at all, but I can be quippy and make others laugh if needed or I just feel the urge. There is always definately a time to mourn and a time to dance. I learned to love LeeAnn Womack because of her breakout hit “I Hope You Dance”. 

WORK: I don’t have much about work/career on this verse other than to say that I am addicted to podcast and will burst out in loud and inappropriate laughter at work at least 15 times a day.  

Here are the rest of the relevant verses for context: 

A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. Verse 5 

A time to search and a time to give up what is lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away. Verse 6 

A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak. Verse 7 

A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace. Verse 8 

He has made everything appropriate in its time…He has also set eternity in their (man) heart. Verse 11 

Let us all REJOICE and DO GOOD in this lifetime. 

From dust we came and dust we shall return. 

It’s time to be HAPPY! 🙂 

Blessings, 

-Sophoria Westmoreland 

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay 

The Polished Professional Pt 1

This Oil Will Make You Sleepy

I would like to tell some short stories about my work experiences. 

The people. 

The money. 

The bosses. 

The co-workers. 

The work. 

I will start with this one … (this is a true story as remembered by the author) 

As a senior at Booker T. Washington/High School for Engineering Professions, (Yes, my high school has 2 names. Yes, I went to both of them and yes, I’ve secured papers to prove it) I applied for a program called INROADS. This is a career development program that still exists today and technically I am officially an alumni. I was elated to be accepted; receiving mentoring, career guidance workshops, and most importantly – assistance in securing a summer internship. Maybe one day I will write about my experiences in high school, if I can remember that far back. 

Born and raised in Houston, Texas but planning to escape (read … go away to college – far, far, far, far away) from what I called ‘Texas Tea’ a term of sometimes endearment but most times not of the antiquated ways and means of some Texans. As a reminder this was 1997 and in my 17 year old mind, I had a vision for my life that would  take me beyond the lone star state borders and into the hypothetical cultured world. Going away to college in Nashville, TN at Tennessee State University was a big achievement for me and one that made my family proud. A summer internship in Houston though, would ensure that I could come home for the summer and spend quality time with family and friends while learning how to be a professional and earning a paycheck. 

The summer after I graduated from high school in 1998, I secured a position with Texaco, Inc. working in a typical office building, with regular business hours, and learning about the Oil and Gas Industry (the other Texas Tea). I don’t remember much about the beginning of this internship besides that the pay was great – I was earning about $18/hr. I was given tasks working in a lab testing samples of oil that Texaco extracted from the earth or from the ocean. When the oil is extracted or sucked out of the earth or the ocean it brings rocks and other sediments. Texaco then uses some chemical reactions to separate the oil out so that it can be useful (read … that’s the part they sell). 

Well, I was testing new chemicals in the lab and recording the separation times and reporting which chemicals worked the fastest. At that time my declared major was Petroleum Engineering, it is important to also note here that Tennessee State University does not have a Petroleum Engineering major or academic department. I had shenanigans for sure but I also had my reasons. 

Nonetheless, as my internship chugged along that summer in 1998, I grew increasingly bored. I mean bored like I started taking 2 hour lunches and closing my lab door so I could take ‘power naps’. The lab I was working in was very small and I had a similarly small office a few doors down from the lab. I would go in the lab and test the samples and go back down to my office to wait while they processed. The truth was I didn’t like the work very much. My reaction was the most unprofessional – napping and taking company time to eat long gourmet lunches. Well as you can probably guess, Texaco FIRED me. Bye Bye Sophoria. This was not my first job, but it was my first time I was ever fired. I was crushed but not defeated, I mean I had to get ready to move to Tennessee to start my freshman year of college. I was grateful that they were gracious enough to allow me to complete the summer as they fired me on my last day of the internship. I listed this job on my resume for many years until at least 2007 when I started graduate school and my resume transitioned into a CV. It was there more as a reminder of what not to do and how not to behave at work. 

Now, I pride myself on being a polished professional. 

This was not always the case. 

In the summer of 1998, I was a very much, an unpolished professional. 

-Sophoria Westmoreland 

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay 

The Mountains and The Trees

There are many self-help and business related books on the topic of focus. When you have an exam to study for, how do you know what topics or problems to focus on? When you have 100 items on your to-do list on a Saturday, what items do you do first? When you have a busy week at work, what tasks do you do first second third etc.? How does one decide what to focus on? I have learned some lessons since starting my business in 2016 about focus and actually this blog was birthed out of an important lesson about focus that I am still learning. 

When I started The Westmoreland Group in 2016 I set out with a vision to start a company that would provide the government with first-rate service and also build a company with a family friendly and giving environment. I had BIG ideas and BIG dreams. That is an excellent place to start but where do you go from there? What are the next steps? I started with what I will call ‘The Trees’: 

1. Business Cards (I have cycled through 3 different designs of business cards since starting in 2016) 

2. Website (I have a basic website that uses a drag and drop type template that I spent hours changing and re-arranging over and over and over again) 

3. Polo Shirts (yes I have polo shirts and I wear them on casual Fridays at my client’s office to help put my name out there) 

4. Marketing Folder (I have a home-made but professional-looking version that includes my business card and a one page data sheet about my company – there are websites that will pop these out as well) 

5. Employee Handbook (I spent countless hours creating an Employee Handbook while I don’t have any employees yet – there are websites that will pop one out for me in like 7 minutes) 

6. Workshops (Every single day and even some weekends there are workshops in the DMV relating to government contracting and how to capture business with the government…..think 20 extra e-mails per day) 

7. Webinars (Every single day there are multiple webinars online which are helpful but how much time can or should I spend listening to webinars????……think death by webinar) 

8. Networking (Hey – you need to meet this person? Hey – I am going to connect you with this person? Hey – do you know such and such? Hey – do you need me to build you a website? Hey – do you need me to build you an app? Hey – do you need me to sell you all these services now that you won’t really need until you get employees?) 

Here are things I will call ‘The Mountains’: 

1. Contract Capture Process (Today – August 16, 2019 I am still learning about this process) 

2. Accounting (This is all about money, taxes (respect the IRS and follow all their rules), benefits, payroll, and keeping all those things compliant for the government agencies I am trying to do business with) 

3. Facility Clearance (This is what I need to prime a business contract in my current arena and I am in the process of being sponsored for it) 

4. Mentoring (This is where this blog was birthed so that I can share the wisdom and mistakes I am gaining/making along the way)

5. Legal (I have an attorney on hand and have had several conversations about services I may need in the future with a reputable law firm that specializes in Government Contracting) 

6. Banker (I have a trusted Bank and keep regular tabs on my Business Checking Accounts)  

There are even some smaller trees that I did not include in this list such as selecting a logo, writing a mission statement, selecting a company name, company colors, etc. The point is that The Tress DO NOT NEED my attention daily, weekly or even monthly. Some of them are one and done, but I’m human so sometimes I get caught-up. I can spend hours online looking at polo shirts; trying to decide which ones will flatter my body the best (YES! I am an all-american girl). Who cares? Nobody does and I know that, but sometimes I still get caught up. When I started in 2016 I wanted to go to every workshop I got an e-mail invitation too and listen to every webinar that was sent to me by e-mail, I even dragged my former roommate (who is also a former CEO of her own government contracting company – Better Solutions) to a few of these workshops. 

The key I am learning is how much time to spend focusing on ‘The Trees’ versus ‘The Mountains’. 

The Mountains will move the needle into the future and also ensure that I have a sustainable growth plan for my company. The Mountain that I am focused most on these days is the Contract Capture Process which will make or break a winning proposal for a government contract. Items 2-6 on The Mountains list are important but I don’t need to have them on my to-do list daily. Although I have learned many lessons since 2016; writing this blog helps me to be self-reflective which is a key to success in my opinion – so I try to touch it a few times a week (some seasons I do better than others). I recently heard a podcast that said no matter how many to-do lists we write, or how many books we read, or apps we use or tricks we come up with to help with time management, we essentially will do what is most important – period. I have an excellent pair of mentors within ADS Federal and between the 2 of them I am navigating how to balance between ‘The Mountains’ and ‘The Trees’. Sifting is a daily exercise of mine – sifting through e-mails and my schedule to decide what is important for me to focus on, determining what I can put in a sub-folder and focus on at another time and figuring out how to keep the main thing the main thing. 

Stay focused. 

-Sophoria Westmoreland

Image by Pexels from Pixabay  

How Did I Get Here?

I was just asked by a recent college grad: How did I get where I am in my career? This is a typical question for persons early in their career who are trying to determine what paths they may want to choose. I think one of the best things about telling your story is that everyone will glean something different from it and remember different parts of it as it relates to their own journey. My yoga instructor always says that we are all connected and this blog is one way that I honor that connection. 

‘He will open doors’   

My last 3 jobs were opportunities that opened doors for me: 

1. Working as an Assistant Research Professor at the United States Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD) 

2. Working as a Business Specialist (contractor) at the Office of Naval Research (Arlington, VA) 

3. Starting my own company, The Westmoreland Group and continuing my work as a Business Specialist at ONR under a subcontract with ADS Corporation (now ADS Federal) 

As I entered my final year as a graduate student (ABD – all but dissertation) at the University of Maryland – College Park (my 5th of 5 years – Wooosa..) my advisor heeded that it was time to start searching for a job. I researched schools with top Mechanical Engineering programs with a design emphasis, as the Capstone Design Process was my (and my advisors) specialty. I purchased a shiny new teal notebook where I would collect ‘job’ information and keep need-to-know details, because buying something new and shiny is my love language to myself! I was now ready to find a job. I did the traditional online job searching and also attended a few job fairs. I spent plenty of time searching for the best school for me to become a faculty member, reading school profiles, reading job descriptions, reading research agendas, and learning about course curriculum. In the end I was offered 3 opportunities: 

1. Texas A&M University (College Station, TX) [read…home] 

2. Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ) [read…I’m no city gal] 

3. United States Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD) [read…yep yep yep] 

In the end I chose (and they me) USNA because of (1) my prospective mentor who also happened to be the chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department and (2) the student centered focus of USNA. The pro was that I could focus on students first but the con meant that research would have to be fit in after my teaching responsibilities. The learning curve was steep and challenging but I was more than prepared. I signed a 2 year contract as an Assistant Research Professor. 

As I entered the second half of my second year at USNA, it became clear to me that I may want to choose a different path. I pulled out my shiny (old) teal notebook and started my job searching again. Enter the age of LinkedIN, I had a profile but hadn’t updated it in a while so I dusted it off and updated it with my latest accomplishments since being at USNA. What happened next was surprising – the job found me. A recruiter for ADS Corporation contacted me via message on LinkedIN and I responded and set up a phone interview. The interview was pleasant and informative. I followed up with an in person interview at the ADS Corporation office in Arlington, VA. The contract for my position had not yet been awarded but I was offered a contingent position. I was thrilled but understood that no contract meant no position for me so I continued to search. In December 2014 the contract was awarded and I started my new position at the Office of Naval Research as a Business Specialist. 

The government contracting world was brand new to me, there was so much for me to learn. I thrived in my new office environment and learned my clients’ needs and exceeded them with efficiency that even surprised me. As a Business Specialist I work on finance, project management, program management, technical reviews, technical reports, briefs, speeches and presentations, program outreach, program planning, and ‘other duties as assigned’.  This means I can do many important things for the programs I support (within the confines of my contractor position). During my second year in this new position I started talking with the CEO of my company about pursing a PMP Certificate. In talking with the CEO regularly I gained a lifelong mentor and I was able to successfully obtain my PMP Certification through training at Georgetown University in November 2016. 

In August 2016 I formed The Westmoreland Group LLC as a company of 1, woman-owned small business firm specializing in Project Management, Financial Management, and STEM Programs. Through the guidance of my mentor I was able to go through the steps of forming my own company; acquiring government permission to sub-contract to ADS Corporation and continue to support my same client.  In December 2019 I will have spent 5 years at the Office of Naval Research and the future for me and The Westmoreland Group is bright and abounding with opportunities. 

www.thewestmorelandgroup.com  

In the right season in my life God has opened doors for me. 

I am grateful for the opportunities and also for Him preparing me to walk in them. 

He will open doors for you. 

DREAM BIG! 

-Sophoria Westmoreland

….

Image by seth0s from Pixabay

An ‘Unlikely Accomplice’ …

Becoming Better is the brainchild of my dear friend and our generous benefactor, Dr. Westmoreland. She is a perpetual optimist, you know – the type that’s an early riser, never late, generally good-natured, smiles on and off cue and sees the proverbial glass as half-full. 

She challenged me to blog a few years back … I’m not sure if she knew it then but I secretly thought about blogging … but I blew it off. I was no writer. I didn’t have anything special to share. But, I’ll tell you – it was life changing for me, personally, and for two of my dearest friends and my BFF’s mother who read it faithfully. Dr. Westmoreland was even kind enough to share that old blog, right here on Becoming Better. 

Dr. Westmoreland’s challenging me to blog back then …  gave me license and freedom to write about everything and nothing. It made me believe that I had something to say and at least one person who would take the time to read it. Thank you, Dr. Westmoreland

One may call that affirmation, encouragement or perhaps, Dr. Westmoreland was simply being a good friend. Aah, but I’d say that in that moment, Dr. Westmoreland was an ‘unlikely accomplice.’ That’s the term I use to describe those moments in life when you need something extra – some kind word or nudge that puts you back on the ‘proverbial path.’  I’ll share with you, the unlikely accomplice can manifest in a number or ways. 

My grandmother passed in December 2017. And just one day afterwards, my dear friend lost her husband and asked me to speak at his funeral. I called him “My Brother” and there wasn’t one phone conversation where he didn’t end it with ‘Love ya, Sis.’ I couldn’t speak at his funeral for it was the exact same time as my grandmothers. And it had me in a bad way.

To tell you the truth, my mind was blown for quite some time. I was surprised to be so sad about my grandmother for she had lived a full life. But all I could think about were the things we never did. She took me on my first trip, she taught me how to play cards (for money no doubt to my mother’s dismay), she taught me the importance of grinding, having a side hustle, fun money and how to run a house. And she took me everywhere with her. And of all the fond memories I had … I couldn’t stop regretting that she had never been to my home. 

Oh, we talked about having Sunday dinner like we used to have when I was growing up. But needless to say it never occurred. For quite some time, I was stuck. Stuck regretting, reminiscing and focusing … on what I didn’t have or didn’t experience. I struggled, in a way, that I couldn’t even communicate but grief will do that.

There were all of these things I wanted to say to my grandmother and share with ‘My Brother,’ but there was no time. Looking back, I needed something … and that something was … an ‘unlikely accomplice.’ I needed something to remind me that life is for living. That my focus now and forever should be on being grateful. 

Say out loud, “I’ll never be happy” and trust me, you never will for that is a declaration. Think to yourself, “I’ll never amount to anything “ … and sure enough, your proclamation will come true, you never will. Proverbs 23:7a says “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:” They don’t say words have power for no reason. 

What I needed was a reminder – and in that moment and even now as I capture my thoughts, I’m sitting here with my current ‘unlikely accomplice’ … my Christmas Tree. Yes, it’s April but this ‘unlikely accomplice’ helped me get through. It made me smile during that December and this one. How many times have I had prayer by its light? How many times have I hit that door in a bad mood only to feel better simply by its sheer presence? How many times has it caused me to remember fondly past Christmas’– where I felt safe and sound? This ‘unlikely accomplice’ is my daily reminder to choose joy and to be grateful in any and all circumstances. Now, I have in my mind that I will take that tree down on Good Friday. And I will but … there are one or two things I’ve learned with this ‘unlikely accomplice.”

I’ve learned to live better in the moment, to be present, and less distracted, when spending time with others. I’ve learned to cherish those moments doing absolutely nothing. And, I continue to learn to be still and relax with what I have. 

A word of advice … Whenever you experience one of life’s moments when an ‘unlikely accomplice’ is needed … remember Dr. Westmoreland’s outlook that the proverbial glass is half-full and that becoming better requires your daily, active, intentional participation. Be Better.

Black Inventor Brilliance

During Black History Month we should all take the time to learn the inspiring history of notable African- Americans, both past and present. African – Americans are famous by leaps and bounds for everything from Hollywood to Wall street. As an engineer, most fascinating of these icons are the inventors, who have taken an innovative idea from conception to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Inventors are out-of-the-box tinkerers who are able to see the unseen and in most cases willing to fail forward.


“Education is the key to unlocking the golden door of freedom”  

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver (peanut products), Thomas Jennings (dry cleaning system), Norbert Rillieux (sugar-refining process) Garrett Morgan (improved gas mask), Marie Van Brittan Brown (audio-video alarm system), Charles Drew (blood preservation for transfusions), Dr. Patricia Bath (laser cataracts surgical device), Lonnie Johnson (super soaker and more than 80 other patents), Frederick Jones (refrigeration machine), Granville T. Woods (streetcar and telephone), Madame C.J. Walker (hair care products), Elijah McCoy (cotton gin and 57 total patents), Percy Julian (chemical synthesis of drugs), and Henry Blair (seed planter) just to name a few. These are some amazing pioneers that were able to achieve success through perseverance and trial and error during times in American history that were not so favorable for professional African – Americans. These genius inventions help us in our everyday lives and most of them we can’t live prosperous and comfortable lives without. 


“I want the great masses of my people to take a greater pride in their personal appearance and to give their hair proper attention” 

Madame CJ Walker

An awarded patent is automatic monopoly for the inventor for a period of time – which is a dominant asset. In American history there existed a time when African – Americans were not permitted to apply for patent rights because they were considered property and not extended the rights granted to those considered a whole human. At times some of the unknown inventors would apply for a patent under the name of their white slave owner of their respective lawyers, also generally white males. African – Americans knew during these times that they were more likely to have their patent approved using a white person’s identity. Unfortunately, during this time many of the slaves’ inventions were exploited by their white owners for economic and social gain. Nevertheless, these pioneers have fully contributed to the industrialization of a nation and the progress of a people. 


“Excellence of performance will transcend artificial barriers created by man” 

Dr. Charles Drew

I’d like to take this time to say “THANK YOU” to these black inventors who embody the true entrepreneurial spirit. The intellectual contributions they have made to society through their devices and products will forever stand in perpetuity. I stand on the shoulders of these brave titans and others whose names we do not know and I celebrate their achievements not only during Black History Month but 365! 

-Sophoria Westmoreland

Becoming Better … A Journey

In January of 1980, I was given the news that I would not graduate with my class. I was one credit short. So with that blow, I decided it was time for me to change my life for the better. I pushed through; passing my test in summer school. And in the summer of 1980, I graduated and gave birth to my third daughter Nicole that evening.

except from “The Start of My Transformation” by Anita Westmoreland

On that evening in the summer of 1980, Dr. Sophoria Westmoreland, CEO and President of The Westmoreland Group, was born – that was an excerpt from her mother’s testimony.

And with that our story begins.

It was just over two years ago that my generous benefactor, good friend and colleague, Dr. Westmoreland would launch her company, The Westmoreland Group, secure a contract and become employee #1. Congratulations, Dr. Westmoreland. 

So, it was no surprise that Dr. Westmoreland would elect to embark on a new journey – to share her dream. One that celebrates her entrepreneurial spirit. One that promotes women in leadership. One that embodies her commitment to serving others. One that hopes to leave a legacy for future Westmoreland generations. And one that promotes her relentless pursuit of joy and encourages others simply to do the same. That’s a good dream.

If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.”

Dolly Parton

Becoming Better, is Dr. Westmoreland’s new journey, a dream to simply encourage others in becoming better both personally and professionally. 

While, Dr. Westmoreland’s mom graduating and giving birth on the same day could be an interesting coincidence, I beg to differ. Dr. Westmoreland was ‘different by design’ even before she was born.

Dr. Westmoreland holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, a B.S. in General Engineering, and dual degrees, M.S. and Ph.D., in Mechanical Engineering. Clearly, she is bright, accomplished (just google her) and well educated. But, wherein lies her strength, is her desire to exceed expectations, express joy by how she elects to live her life and empower others to do the same. 

Dr. Westmoreland believes that the key to succeeding is through service. She is an active member of her church, Metropolitan Baptist Church, participating in various ministries to include the choir, Vacation Bible School and P.U.S.H., the prayer ministry. She is an active member of her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., having served as her chapter’s chaplain.

Dr. Westmoreland’s past work experience includes teaching an 8th grade engineering design course at the Grantham Academy for Engineering and Senior Design, and Statics as an Assistant Research Professor at the United States Naval Academy; where she mentored and served as a faculty advisor to the academy’s NSBE Chapter.  

Currently, Dr. Westmoreland supports the Office of Naval Research (ONR) as an employee of none other than the Westmoreland Group. Dr. Westmoreland seeks to provide customer-focused, technically astute support – believing that clients should be served, not simply supported, with integrity. Dr. Westmoreland is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and currently supports her client, ONR, as a Business Specialist, providing Navy financial management system expertise; giving administrative direction and support to ONR research, STEM outreach and NREIP/SEAP internship programs. Her other duties encompass event planning, logistics and administrative program support. 

Dr. Westmoreland is published in a number of academia and technical publications and has been formally recognized by both NSBE and the National Science Foundation to name a few. Her dissertation, entitled ‘Design Thinking: Cognitive Patterns in Engineering Design Documentation’ was featured in a book, Sisters in the Dissertation House. She is a consummate thinker, problem solver and continues to color outside the proverbial lines. 

In her free time, Dr. Westmoreland enjoys writing, baking, event planning, reading, singing in the choir and working out. Her hobbies include history (she volunteered as a docent for the Smithsonian), photography, being punctual and helping others become more organized. 

Dr. Westmoreland is outgoing, engaging, easily affable, humorous and comfortable with herself. She is well versed, unpretentious, unencumbered with titles or pedigree; and her humility belies her personal and professional accomplishments. 

One of her favorite poems is Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken which she has prominently displayed in her home. The last two lines read:

“I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

That is Dr. Westmoreland’s daily reminder to be fearless on this journey to becoming better. We hope you enjoy the ride.

“Be light … be you … be better.”

~Blog by Dorothy’s Daughter