Sandra Schrift may have come of age in the 1950s, but she has embraced the 1980s with fervor. The 50-year - old Mount Helix area resident is a former teacher and mother of five children between the ages of 21 and 27. As her own children progressed through school, Schrift worked as a volunteer coordinator at the junior high, high school, and ultimately the adult-school level. Then, by incorporating some of the programs she had created while working with the schools, she began to conduct seminars for small businesses. Eventually this led to the creation of Podium Inc . , a professional speakers' bureau, of which Schrift is president and owner. For the past five years she has been helping groups find the right speaker and the right topic for their trade show, convention, seminar or meeting. She has handled close to 2,000 clients and the same number of speakers during that time, and supervises three full-time employees and an intern. Such '80s terms as "networking" and "buzzword" creep into Schrift's vocabulary as she speaks of her job, and she says her only hobby is working out. She was interviewed by Times staff writer Kathie Bozanich and photographed by Times staff photographer Vince Compagnone.
\f7 I started out teaching in New York City in the late '50s at the high school level. In fact, I started teaching at the age of 20, which was an interesting experience in that students were 16, 17 years of age. I was having an identity crisis. I used to wear my hair straight up in a bun, real severe, so that they would "respect" me.
I grew up in New York City. It was nice in that I received a lot of culture, and I especially enjoyed the trips to Manhattan where I was exposed to the arts and music and good eating.
Uncle Sam brought me to San Diego. I was married at the time to a Navy doctor. It was during the Cuban missile crisis and President Kennedy decided that the physicians in his age group needed to be in the service. (My husband) was assigned to Camp Pendleton, and it took just a few days of being out here in this climate that convinced us to never go back.
My parents were always leaders in what they did; they were also very entrepreneurial. Probably more important is the fact that they acknowledged us children and respected us as human beings. They had a very good, positive attitude about raising us, telling us about going for things and that we could do it if that's what we chose to do. It was a very up environment, a very positive environment.
I am a very driven person, one who likes to manage. In this job I have to do a lot of research, so I know at all times what is going on in the world, with my clients, and with my speakers. I have to know what people want to hear about.
I think the buzzword, or phrase, this year is, "The future is now." A lot of my clients are from financial, real estate and insurance institutions, and they are all looking at big changes. They are pumping into the future, and they want their people to make the transition, to take the challenge of the changes and bring that future into their now.
The most popular speakers we book are the ones that have a particular expertise that happens to be in demand at that time. Also, the popular speakers have something that allows them to be adaptable to the different types of groups they might address.
I miss the classroom in an aesthetic sense, but I still feel like I am in the classroom. I miss having my own classroom, my own space, and a specific group of students, but I'm still learning and still teaching all the time.
I feel that a lot of what I did in the classroom was similar to what I did at home with my five children, and I'm not sure which came first. Something would happen at school, then a few days later the same type of thing would occur with one of my children. I would catch myself saying the exact same things to my children that I had said to my students.
I think the learning and teaching process has carried over into this job. There's a lot of teaching going on all the time, whether I'm in a classroom, at home with my children, or in this job. I have been constantly learning from my students or my children, and now my new employees. Also, I feel I learn something new from my clients every day.