In a classic joke, a tourist asks a native New Yorker “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The New Yorker replies: “Practice!”
In a Parker version of the same exchange, someone might ask: “How does a recent college graduate promptly become one of the public faces of a 400+ employee organization?” Our answer would be: “Poise and a willingness to pitch in wherever needed.”
Sonam Patel’s initial career plans had nothing to do with elder care services. Her plans began to slowly evolve in her second year of college, at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. She was taking an Introduction to Public Health course and her advisor suggested that she volunteer in a nursing home, to see if she liked it. In 2010, she started volunteering in Parker at Stonegate and found the setting and activities well suited to her interests.
The next semester Sonam took the Long Term Care Management course and her instructor, Roberto Muñiz (whose regular
job is President and CEO of Parker), soon became her mentor. Roberto suggested that Sonam expand her experience with nursing homes by becoming an intern at Parker. Sonam followed Roberto’s advice and secured a public health internship at Parker during the 2011/2012 academic year. Her internship focused on performance improvement and customer satisfaction, leading her to visit all departments and shifts at Parker. She worked with Education Director Lisa Slater and helped Parker to conduct the My Inner View Survey of resident and family satisfaction.
In March 2012, Sonam saw an opening at Parker for a concierge at the River Road residence, applied for the position, and was hired. At the time, this was actually Sonam’s second job; she continued to work as an event coordinator at Chand Palace, an Indian restaurant in Piscataway. Sonam had been working at the restaurant since high school, starting as a hostess then working her way up to a manager position, later becoming event coordinator.
Sonam decided in her senior year that she was definitely interested in pursuing a career in nursing home management so, while other students might have been coasting towards graduation, Sonam doubled up her game. She began studying for the Licensed Nursing Home Administrator exam and applied to the Rutgers Masters in Public Health program. Sonam took and passed the exam in May 2013 and started the masters’ program in September.
Meanwhile Parker offered Sonam a number of professional challenges and she successfully handled every one of them. When Roberto’s executive assistant, Kathy Keegan, took two weeks off for vacation, Sonam served as her replacement. Weeks later, Sonam took on the same temporary role when Kathy took off more time.
In between her stints as acting executive assistant, Sonam was enlisted to help set the groundwork to establish Parker’s newest residence – Parker at Monroe. She worked closely with Donna Silbert, senior director of strategy and services development, to compile all the binders of policies and procedures required by the state. In that role she also worked with the administrator Doreen Illis, other managers, and an outside vendor. The work was intense and she periodically worked late hours and weekends. The results though were quite rewarding, with Parker at Monroe receiving a rare full-residence approval from the NJ State Department of Health in early December 2014 (more regularly, nursing homes are granted approval to fill only blocks of beds or wings at one time). Parker at Monroe officially opened later that month.
Once the home opened Sonam stayed on, assisting with admissions and leading tours of the brand new residence. When Parker’s senior leaders determined that Monroe needed a dedicated assistant marketing manager, Sonam was by then the most qualified person for the post and she landed the job.
Sonam officially started in her new role in February 2015 and has quickly distinguished herself as one of Parker’s most capable ambassadors. Parker, in turn, in quite pleased to have someone with such tremendous poise and adaptability in such a prominent role.
Sonam Patel will likely blaze a remarkable career path in the field of aging services in the decades to come. We are delighted that she has started her impressive career, and already invested exceptional time, talent, and effort, in Parker.