For Oscar Suarez, taking on higher roles at work is not about prestige or power. It’s about being in a better position to help the patients he serves.
“My mindset is that I’m going to have a bigger impact the more I progress through my career,” says Oscar, who in six years has moved from a front-desk receptionist at Neighborhood Healthcare to senior operations manager for the organization’s dental program.
A partner in his progress has been Cal State San Marcos and its suite of professional development programs.
After nine years in the military and then earning a degree in criminal justice management, Oscar switched career directions when he joined Neighborhood Healthcare, a community health organization with 17 health centers throughout San Diego and Riverside counties. He found inspiration in his work with the patients, who shared stories of their life struggles and the barriers they face in accessing healthcare.
As he moved into a lead role as front office supervisor, Oscar signed up for CSUSM’s Supervising Employees certificate program, which teaches the skills to succeed in new management roles, including how to transition from peer to supervisor.
Coming from a military background, Oscar started to think about his communication style, which was very direct in terms of tone and choice of words. He got a seat in CSUSM’s Emotional Intelligence course, which helps individuals develop strong interpersonal skills in order to engage and motivate a team.
“One of the first activities was a fast-paced conversation with a peer and I listened 20 percent of the time. I zoned out,” he says. “Conversations are crucial to the employee because they are expecting you to be in the moment with them and for you to understand what they are going through.”
That course not only changed the way Oscar communicated by building his active listening skills—and more—but it helped him transform his management and supervisory style. This career growth enabled him to transition to his next role as site manager of the Lakeside facility where he began working with longtime employees and started to learn about Neighborhood Healthcare’s operations on a larger scale.
In preparation for his current position as senior operations manager for Neighborhood Healthcare’s dental program, Oscar completed Essential Management Skills for Nonprofits, offered by CSUSM in partnership with the Alliance for Regional Solutions. In keeping with his new responsibilities, this series concentrates on the higher-level strategic planning needed to manage multiple operations.
Oscar is now working on creating efficiencies within the dental program as well as increasing access, and he says he continues to carry lessons from every position he has held at Neighborhood Healthcare.
“My focus now is how we can help the community with dental care,” says Oscar. “I’m looking at the common practices in our facilities and seeing how we can create access to help underserved patients. That’s where this role is really going to allow me to have some impact.”
For more information about business programs at CSUSM, please visit csusm.edu/el/programs/business