Sharon’s Journey

A Career Timeline: Sharon’s Journey to TOOMER STRATEGIES

The making of a specialist & generalist

Insight gathered, knowledge gained, skills sharpened. A journey defined by paying dues, stepping stones, and turning points. Every work experience or career landing was an opportunity to observe and learn, allowing me to develop the insights I can offer today.
Sharon Toomer, Founder, Toomer Strategies

LATE 1980s-1990s

Atlanta, Georgia

After undergraduate studies in English Literature at Spelman College

Early to mid-career: exploring, observing, and accelerated learning in a range of environments.

Journalism was the field of practice I chose to pursue, and it is where I began my career. It was a platform that fed my curiosity about the world and society, and it fulfilled my drive to document and communicate.

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But while the practice of journalism was fulfilling, I found the newsroom to be professionally stifling in its culture, barriers and practices. I ventured away from the news business toward the unknown, and that decision early in my career path led to accelerated learning that I still draw on today.

During this period, I tested my entrepreneurial muscle and launched a thriving business, worked in an array of workplace environments, and formed lasting relationships with people from every socioeconomic, geographic and demographic background. This period taught me things that no formal curriculum could offer.

My stint serving food and pouring drink at the iconic Manuel’s Tavern was the singular experience that catapulted my career into politics and communications. Observing and relating to the community of politicians, political operatives and journalists that frequented Manuel’s schooled me in a real-world sense of how policy gets done and how organizational systems function.

That was the starting point for significant roles in local and statewide political campaigns, working as an aide for a city council president, and a coveted spot as a regular columnist in a local news and culture weekly. I worked in a range of political and institutional settings, where I saw how humans shape – for better or worse – the organizations in which they work.

My work and life experiences from this period came together to serve as a point of reference that I use to this day to compare in assessing new situations, no matter where I am positioned. That ‘point of reference’ is a distinct and enduring tool of a skilled generalist.

Landings

  • Mary Margaret Oliver, Candidate for Lieutenant Governor of GeorgiaPress Secretary
  • Marvin S. Arrington Sr, Candidate for Mayor of AtlantaPress Secretary & Campaign Aide
  • Marvin S. Arrington Sr., Atlanta City Council PresidentAide
  • Creative Loafing Alt-WeeklyColumnist
  • Historic Manuel’s TavernServer
  • Calvillo & Associates [U.S. Dept of Labor Contractor]Public Relations & Recruitment Coordinator for rural areas in eight southeast states (AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN)
  • Robert Greenleaf Foundation Servant-Leadership ConferenceSupport
  • Junior League of AtlantaSupport for Leadership, Committees & Members
  • Home Resources of Atlanta, Inc. (residential & commercial/post-construction cleaning service)Business Founder/Owner
  • NBC News Bureau (Southeast Bureau)Weekend Assignment Desk Editor
  • Gannett Broadcasting Group & WXIA-TV Station
  • WPBA Public Broadcasting Station

1999-2015

New York City

Mid-career to senior level: Explosive career growth, skill sharpening and activation, leadership development, business founder, expanded network of relationships, with deepening insight into a range of workplace cultures, institutions and systems.

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In 1999 I moved to New York City. Within two months of arrival, I landed a consulting contract to conduct a communications audit for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. After delivering my findings to the DA (Charles “Joe” Hynes), I was offered a staff position as Deputy Director of Public Information to implement the recommendations I made in the report. Like Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta, my experience at the Brooklyn DA’s Office was a seminal career turning point. From that point forward, my career in NY advanced rapidly, as did the skills and knowledge I gained along the way.

I worked in journalism and media, higher education, municipal government, and at a labor union, and in 2006 I launched an award-winning digital platform for impact journalism. It was in this period that I firmly entered the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors.

Landings

  • Kings County District Attorney’s Office (Ken Thompson Administration)Director of Internal Communications
  • CUNY Graduate School of Journalism/Charles Revson Political Reporting Fellow
  • Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE)Interim Executive Director; Director of Communications & Membership
  • Black & Brown News (BBN)Founder & Publisher
  • City University of New York Faculty UnionCommunications Coordinator
  • CNN/NYEditorial Producer for Headline News & Financial News
  • Brooklyn Borough President’s OfficeCommunications Director & Press Secretary
  • Columbia University Office of Public AffairsCommunications Consultant
  • Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office (Charles “Joe” Hynes Administration)Deputy Director of Public Information

2016-Present

Washington, DC

Executive leadership and business founder: Era of leadership positioning; coaching and advising; with many successes and ‘teaching moments.’ The period when all proceeding career, workplace and life experiences converge to pair with wisdom, and that ultimately led to TOOMER STRATEGIES.

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Landings

  • Toomer StrategiesFounder & Principal Consultant
  • NYC Mayor Eric Adams Transition TeamCommunications Committee Member
  • Athena Advisors IncuBetter Award2021 Recipient
  • Winthrop Rockefeller FoundationBoard of Directors; Audit Committee Chair; Finance Committee Member
  • New Media VenturesInvestment Team Consultant
  • Solutions Journalism NetworkDE&I Consultant
  • The Chronicle of PhilanthropyLeadership Advisor on DE&I Strategy
  • Rockwood Leadership Institute“Art of Leadership” Alumnae
  • National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ)Executive Director
  • Matlock Advertising & Public RelationsSenior Vice President, Public Affairs & Policy
  • U.S. Representative Franklin GarciaChief of Staff & Senior Policy Advisor (DC Statehood Project)

Skill Set Snapshot

Knowledge, proficiencies & principles of a generalist and specialist

Leadership & Management

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Environments: mission-driven, public influence and social impact organizations and projects

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Positions and roles: executive director, deputy director, senior vice president, chief of staff, policy advisor, founder/entrepreneur, consultant

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Change management: transitions in leadership, strategic vision, and institutional administration

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Advice and guidance on philanthropic and foundation board governance

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Executive and colleague thought partner or coach

Expertise

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Public affairs and policy
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Internal and external communications strategy, tactics, and implementation; narrative and messaging; issue, reputation and crisis management; media engagement, including spokesperson (both on-record and background)
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Institutional, systemic and workplace culture; equity, inclusion, belonging and diversity strategies and initiatives
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Operations/infrastructure/capacity: vision strategy and execution; finance and budget; program assessment; partner, stakeholder and vendor engagement; talent and staffing; tracking performance and production challenges, pitfalls and successes.

Nuanced & Soft Skills

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Knowledge of inner workings of private and public-sector systems and operations
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Fine-grained insight and perspective
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Knack for identifying blind spots, connecting dots
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A viewpoint that sees the whole forest, that sets a path for your horizon
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Objectivity, listening and diplomacy

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Email

Hello@ToomerStrategies.com

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