We had the good fortune of connecting with Sara Speer Selber and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sara, let’s talk legacy – what do you want yours to be?
I love everything about this question. I have been held up at gunpoint as well as told that my child would not live to see the age of five. Needless to say, I survived the gunpoint and my son is alive and well and he and his sister and their incredible spouses have brought so much joy into my life. They live in Houston and as such, I am able to be a very hands on and present Bubbie to their children, my grand babies. I suspect more than anything I want to be known as someone that lived her mantra that #momentsmatter and that I chose to #GSD with my moments. My family, which used to be full of grandparents, parents, my brother, aunts, uncles, and cousins is still so important to me. In fact many of us are now experiencing the weddings and babies of the next generation of family and we marvel at all the joy. So, besides the love for my family, I hope people remember me as someone that was not afraid to speak up and fight for #ConsciousInclusion, a world where everyone has access to social and economic equity. My entire career has afforded me the ability to work with individuals from very different backgrounds than mine. I have always appreciated the learning journey of getting to work on and with individuals and teams that choose to work together to create a greater good.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have never really thought about my journey as to a career path. When I married and moved to Midand, Texas I was able to use my Masters in Speech Pathology to help build what is today the Bynum School. The Junior League of Midland became my training ground for volunteerism, marketing, future planning, finance, training, resource development and so much more. In fact, with time, I was part of a firm that did trainings for the Junior League System. So much of those trainings are still relevant today as we seem to have failed to make sure that everyone feels included in our teams, especially those that are living with nuero-diverse talents, visual and or hearing differences and other physical differences. Some of my best teachers have had labels that others use to limit their skills, talents and abilities. I am a big believer in right place, right time and just saying a lot of YES’s and if I do not have the answers, build the team that does. The philosophy served me well as I navigated systems at AIDS Foundation Houston, Dynegy and after as a consultant that helped create the teams and vision that created The NFL SuperBuild, Lemonade Day, Care To Spin and other wonderful initiatives. I have become averse to those that wish to build businesses based on greed and speed and choose to work with those that understand the power of grace and pace. I have seen the pain that ego and narcism brings into the workplace and as such choose to work with those that are truly wanting to learn and grow. Much as I have learned the importance of creativity in work, it has been a gift to bring that into the client space as well. One would be amazed at how visioning through the lens of a camera or playing with music and paints can allow for such different outcomes. Today, as managing partner of QuestEssential, a boutique consulting firm that specializes in transition management for individuals, 501-c-3 Corporations and businesses, I am fortunate to have a business partner, Farah Killidar who enriches our portfolio with very different skill sets than I have. Her legal and business mind are sharp and her empathy is always top of mind. Today, my work life balance is exactly where I would hope it to be and even during COVID, there are opportunities to explore the wonderful world of thinking differently and the gift of opportunities.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Houston IS fantastic. As a native, this city has so much to offer. When people come to visit, I love to help build their itineraries. I suggest everyone load the app ALL Trails, because there is so much hiking and biking to be done in this region. I am always amazed at some of the trails I find. Most recently it was Cullinan Park in Sugarland. It is always fun to suggest a hike with a client, especially while we all work remotely. Now as for food, that list would go on a and on forever, but a few of my favorites would be Crumbville for cookies, Dessert Gallery for black and whites, Cuchara for Mexico City in Houston, Eastern Wall in Chinatown, Mi Tienda Grocery on 59 and Little York, La Michoacana on South Post Oak, Street To Kitchen Thai, Burns BBQue, Jenivis Seafood for crawfish and po-boys, and Khybers for Indian food. I love Hong Kong Mall and exploring Chinatown. And our Museum District is full of days of learning and beauty. Discovery Green, Memorial, Mac Gregor and Hermann Park are all wonderful destinations. Poking around the neighborhoods anywhere in Houston is an adventure, Sunnyside, The East End, Acres Homes, Independence Heights, Meyerland, Third Ward, Fifth Ward, Sixth Ward, The Heights, Gulfton, Sharpstown, West Houston, and East Harris County are full of history and surprises. Our bike trails have grown so much and this region is truly best seen when one just parks and rides. I hope that when life gets back to whatever normal is, we are able to resume group rides because the Third Ward bike tour is a must. Our theatre and music scene is admirable and those who visit and live here appreciate the opportunity to experience almost any type of art, dance, theatre and music imaginable. And yes, one day, this thriving part of our lives will return. I miss all of it terribly and watching it via ZOOM or the internet is just not the same as our thriving live arts scene. When Houston decided to bring ReelAbilities to our community, I was exposed to so many talented and exciting performers and I can’t wait for this event yearly. Another must see live is International Voices Houston, one of the best feel goods I attended in the past. I also suggest visitors and those that live here explore all the offerings that our Universities and Community Colleges provide. Some of the best learning available has been at free events offered by our academic institutions and I would add our High Schools, especially those that are competitive in the Tommy Tune Awards are a wonderful escape and so much talent to be found. The River Performing Arts leaves the audience begging for more. Needless to say, this list is condensed and off the top of my head in the world where the region Sio free of COVID.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
We all have our stories and I often reflect on what was the turning point in my life where I was pushed way beyond what my skills were. Hands down, the team at AIDS Foundation Houston that hired me, trusted me and created a vision for the local response to a pandemic in a day and time where the stigma felt so overwhelming. As I think about this period I am deeply humbled by those that saw something in me that I had no idea existed. They pushed me without me realizing I was being pushed. They helped me navigate different cultural and religious approaches to battling this virus and together we were a team that I have not seen since. These larger than life people in their own careers always made time and were as passionate about service and community as our Board and staff. There is that one voice of Mike Mizwa that will always be inside of my head, “There is no I in team.” I have carried that with me no matter where I have worked or the consulting work I have been privileged to experience. And most recently the artists of Celebration Company who pushed me to better understand my talents, skills and abilities as an artist. We are all musicians, photographers, dancers, painters and crafters, oof we turn out the noises of the past and turn on our inner creative spirits.