It’s national bosses’ day! So today, we’re celebrating our own CEO — and the beating heart of Cascadia Eye.
Sheri Saldivar, CMPE, has been with this practice since its very first day in 1985. I sat down and interviewed her about those early days, her family and personal life, and her passions and interests. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as we have!
Starting at the beginning
In 1985, Sheri was working at Skagit Medical Bureau (which evolved into Regence insurance). She was a lead on the staff, although she was only in her mid-twenties at the time. But she wanted more variety in her work than just dealing with insurance, so she answered an ad for medical office manager. To her surprise, she was directed to a small farmhouse out in the Skagit flats, where her interviewers were a young couple (Dr. Nannette Crowell and her dentist husband Rodney Brandt) with a newborn baby*. She says “I just used all the buzzwords I could think of to impress them, even though they were mostly insurance related. But I got the job!” As I mentioned in her staff bio, Sheri’s first day on the job was a Costco trip for office equipment — on Halloween. She recalls: “After we did the shopping in Seattle, I remember we went to Dr. Crowell’s mom’s house in Renton and had the best vegetarian lasagna. And that was my first day at this job.”
(How fitting that National Bosses’ Day is so close to Sheri’s anniversary with Cascadia Eye — and of our practice itself, for that matter!)
At the beginning, when Sheri was the only employee, the atmosphere was more like family than anything else. “When it was just me, Dr. Crowell would always be around at the front desk between patients. After we got a receptionist, I had to tell the doctor she was intimidating her employee by hovering!”
Both Dr. Crowell and her husband shared the office space, with joint ophthalmology and dental practices. Their newborn baby played in her baby swing behind the front desk. Sheri says, “The doctors were still behaving like newlyweds, always kissing and hugging in the corners of the office. I didn’t really know what to think about that and occasionally wondered if I’d made a mistake. But I did love that even as we started to grow, it was always a very family-oriented atmosphere. We celebrated everyone’s birthdays and I always had a baby to play with.”
She remembers the first big change to the practice happened while she was still at a seminar in Phoenix. “I called them and said, ‘We need to add an optical shop to the practice. We need to kick out the dental office and turn it into an optical.’ And over the course of just that one phone call, we all agreed to move forward with the plan and make it happen. I loved how fast we could move when it was just the three of us — no committees, boards, or red tape to slow things down.”
She admits that she has had offers from other, bigger practices with higher wages, but she always turned them down because she knew she would never get the same ability to make decisions and execute them, to take action right away. Even though some methods have had to change over the years with the growth of the practice, she knows she can always work with Dr. Crowell and her equally versatile partners, Dr. Siapco and Dr. Pereira, to move things forward.
This flexibility, variety, and action is a huge part of what drives her. “I am really motivated to always be building or learning something. The day I decide to be stuck with the status quo, 9-to-5 kind of job is the day I should probably retire. I always try new things with Cascadia Eye because I get huge personal satisfaction from creating growth and success, even if it’s not my personal ventures.” Being part of a team that accomplishes together is a huge motivator. “It is a joy and blessing to be able to work with intelligent, motivated, talented people. Even if we are their first job, to watch a young person grow and become a loyal, long-term employee gives me great job satisfaction.”
Something she wishes to explore in the future is getting more involved in volunteer work and helping her community, not just through Cascadia Eye’s community work, in which she has always had an instrumental role. “I would love to be able to help young people coming in to the workplace to find and keep good jobs. I think millennials are better at protecting their personal lives and achieving balance, but they could still learn a few things from us old baby boomers! I would like to take that out into real community work, but I need to make more time for that.” When she eventually retires, she says, “My next mission in life would be more involved in causes that need help – disasters, or helping the homeless, just offering my services.”
Anyone who knows Sheri knows she is a die-hard Sounders fan! Her soccer craze began early, when her kids were young and on soccer teams. Now that the ‘kids; are all adults and don’t need their ‘soccer Mom’ to cheer them on, Sheri ended up channelling her enthusiasm into the ‘kids’ on the Seattle Sounders team. One of her big dreams is to go to England and watch one of the English premiere leagues in action.
She also loves her cats. “We were always dog people before, but now I call my cats my ‘babies.'” How did that change happen? Well, Boo (so named because he is a black cat) came to their home via her daughter Haylee, who discovered the stray and smuggled him into her bedroom. Sheri knew that her husband didn’t want a cat in the home, and told Haylee she had to find him a new home. In the meantime, Sheri kept feeding and taking care of the cat while Haylee was gone, and then suddenly Boo was Sheri’s cat for good. A year later, her family gave her Casper (a ‘ghostly’ light-colored ragdoll) for her birthday — “The best birthday present ever.” While she maybe wishes her cats were a little more cuddly, she loves her babies all the same.
Another staple of her personal life is her faith. “Faith is a part of me as is being a part of a church family. Church, to me, is a community of people praising God and learning about Him together. Our role is to represent Christ in our community. Although I’ve been a church member for over 30 years, I’m not ‘involved’ in any business or leadership roles, as I feel strongly about staying away from any politics or bureaucracy that may occur.” But she will share on a personal level, and loves that one of her granddaughters asked her to be a spiritual mentor and confidant. “She wanted to come to me whenever she had questions about her faith,” — something incredibly valuable to Sheri, because the other most important thing in her life is family.
On her husband, Manuel (also known to friends and family as ‘J.R.’): “My husband and I married very young, so we ended up sort of growing up together. We’re very different, but we made a commitment to each other, and we found balance.” She says Manuel is a comedian, incapable of staying serious. While this can make life fun and unpredictable, at times it is frustrating and even embarrassing. But she learned, through a woman she respected, she shouldn’t try to change, correct or control him but rather to just love and respect her husband for who he was and let others judge her on who she was. As for her children:
“After going through some rough patches, I love that my young adult daughter is now my best friend. We couldn’t be more different, in many ways, but I love doing things together with her. She’s trying to become an entrepreneur and start her own business, so I love being involved in that, encouraging her instead of mothering her.”
Her sons are old enough now that the roles are changing. “They probably worry about my health and well-being as much as I do theirs.” A big bonus she got when her sons grew up was having daughters-in-law. “I like the relationships I have with both of them — mutual respect, although we also have fun. They have great domestic skills, so I love to have them around — we are always fed well when we get together!”
Then there’s the babies: eight grandkids: four from each of her sons. “With the next generation, it’s totally different. They aren’t your kids, you don’t have to be the mom but you still get all the benefits…hugs, sweet moments, the joy of more people to love. And I spoil them without feeling guilty! Christmas is massive, Easter isn’t too bad either. I have a bedroom I keep full of toys for the little ones and the older ones enjoy our annual shopping trips together. I really think they enjoy being with me, too…not just for the shopping!” Family is the most important part of Sheri’s life, even more than her job, and especially her relationships with her grandchildren. “I want my kids and grandkids to be better than me — closer to God, happier, healthier–as that is how I define ‘success’– and I’m always looking forward to the next phase in their lives.”
Contact Cascadia Eye
If you would like to learn more, or if you would like to schedule an appointment at Cascadia Eye, please contact us today. We are happy to answer any questions you might have!
In addition, join us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ to ask your questions about eyes, exams, and our practice. We’d love to hear from you — and there might be a blog to address your questions in the future.
*The office baby was me by the way, Alex Brandt, Cascadia Eye’s official blogger.