Milspouse Spotlight: Nikole Schmidt
- Tell us about yourself and your role at The Paradigm Switch: My name is Nikole Schmidt, I am the Executive Director for The Paradigm Switch. I am responsible for running our organization: seeing that the daily operations are going smoothly, departments are communicating and have what they need for success, as well as the business functions (accounting, HR, etc.) of TPS. All of our programs, scholarship processes, marketing, and content creation are kept moving by the amazing people I help lead and manage. Setting the stage not only within our organization culturally, but across the military spouse community, is my focus to creating a better future for all of us.
I am a very proud 10-year+ Air Force military spouse. I have been with my husband from the start of his AF career, and we’ve been on quite the adventure – 9 moves in 10 years! We’ve lived everywhere from New Mexico to the United Kingdom, just finishing a four-year tour OCONUS. We loved it! I am a mother to two children as well, and they keep me busy. I enjoy traveling, painting, baking, and spending quality time with my friends and family!
- How did you prepare for a remote position, and what tips would you share with other Spouses wanting to do the same?
Remarkably, I am going on my 10th full year of working remote – so I have learned a lot along the way and found what was best for me with each new move and life event. I went from working without children, to one, then two. Working overseas in a different time zone. And working with a small team to a large group. Here is what I know:
- Prepare your space to help you be the most productive. That means, you must be comfortable and functional, as well as healthy. If you intend to make this a career, be sure to invest in your space for the long term instead of adapting your body to fit that desk/chair/etc.
- Remote work is flexible, but your schedule will eat away at all parts of your day if you let it. Learn to set boundaries to protect your work productivity as well as your personal life. Turn work off and leave work when you are “done.” As much as possible!
- Working remotely doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Find some time in your week to still be around other people, or find people you can remote work with in a “hive mind” setting. The social aspect of work is real for some people, so don’t isolate yourself and suffer in silence.
3. You are a doing amazing work for Military Spouses! What inspired you?
I was inspired by Justine Evirs, President of TPS, and her call to spouses – it was like she was talking directly to ME! I had been through that fight to a career. I had gotten another degree that just didn’t work. I had experience that wasn’t being used, I was being passed over, ignored, and I was frustrated. I put my skills to use for The Paradigm Switch and worked HARD to get to the point I am at today. Just like every other military spouse I meet, I knew I deserved more and I went out and got it.
I believe in every one of the spouses that comes to The Paradigm Switch, and I am willing to fight and work to give them the chance to have their dreams come true, too. We are building a sustainable program to take military spouses into their personal next phase, but also the whole community into the future of work. Remote work and distributed teams are the next thing our economy will be shifting to – and military spouses are poised to take those jobs in the most perfect way.
- How do you feel being a Military Spouse helped you advance your career?
I certainly did not think my career would take the turn that it has – but it has, in fact, taken many turns. But that is my secret sauce: I am so diverse and well-rounded because of that pivot I’ve had to make more than once. I come to any new position with a wealth of knowledge and experience from many different fields. My perspective is different and I appreciate adaptation of the old to fit a new time. I enjoy being resilient, adaptive, quick-thinking, great at communication, having excellent time and resource-management. Just an average day in our lifestyle.
- How do you find other Military Spouses to connect with?
I really believe in getting involved both locally and via technology. I am very involved in our unit and on the bases we have lived at – spouses groups, resiliency programs, even volunteering at the hospital with families. It is very rewarding to come and connect with people where you find they need help – meet people where they are at in their lives. Likewise, those same people are there to help you if you need it!
Online is great; but it can also be hard to fight through some of the negativity that comes with the space and if you are having a hard time already, ouch. The TPS Network has driven away those negativities and aims to connect people with a safe space that they can then take anywhere. We really aim to try to provide people that place they can go, open up, and receive warmth and light.
6. What challenges did you face that you did not anticipate?
When I chose my second career (yes, strike two due to military; and yes, I’ve changed again!), I didn’t think job shortage in the local area or licensing would be as big of an issue as it was. I thought having an MAT would allow me to work from wherever we moved but the fact is, it was no more accessible than the other things I could have considered and would have been better off financially for doing so. 10 years later, the world is a bit smarter for us military spouses, but I encourage everyone to do their research for sure.
- How do you juggle running a nonprofit and making self-care a priority?
This is a SKILL – it needs to be developed and nurtured! And I still struggle to do the right thing, everyday 100% of the time. Some days I am all in on TPS; other days I know I need to do something for myself. I have tried to set healthy boundaries for myself regarding when I work and when I do NOT work. That is easier said than done remote – because work can find you anywhere – but setting up rules for yourself and being focused about your approach is something we believe in very strongly in our organization. We have systems in place to keep us on track, on task and to the point in meetings. We are respectful of our time and the time of others.
For my self-care, I have gotten better at seeing myself more clearly as I am, and then looking at what I need to nurture or improve upon. Is it mental health? Is it a personal or professional skill? Then, see if what you have in your life fits that need, and get rid of things that no longer fit with that path. Curate your life!
- Best thing you’ve learned so far:
That I cannot be all things to all people. Being more true to myself first and foremost helps me to be the best person I want to be – whether that is a wife, mother, family or friend. For too long, if someone asked for a volunteer or for a favor, I said YES to everyone. Once I learned that I could choose more of who I wanted to be and focus on those few things and do them really well, I was so much happier. I ABSOLUTELY CAN do all of the things. It does not mean that is the best thing for me.
- If you had one do-over what would it be?
Strike a better balance while my littles were little with giving so much of myself to others. Some moments are precious and you cannot get them back.
- What would you tell a Military Spouse starting out?
You are capable of so much more than you know right now; and that is okay, that is part of learning. Ask for help and stay on top of your self-care and what keeps you going. There is going to be a lot thrown at you in this life, but knowing who you are and how to stay true to that will get you far. You CAN have the things that make you YOU – a career, hobbies, family – it is just a matter of setting yourself up for success. And there are people to help with that.
Rapid Response Questions:
A military spouse is: capable of moving mountains.
Transition: happens often in our lifestyle; find your support and coping mechanisms for survival!
Military life is: an adventure of unknowns and uncertainties that can be a blessing – find the silver-lining.
Best tool that I use daily is: Traction (EOS), to keep TPS on track.
I couldn’t live without: technology – it keeps me connected to friends and family!
The biggest need for a military spouse is: for people to understand our story.
I wish I would have: learned to say “no” and focus sooner.
Favorite quote or book: “In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.” – Coco Chanel
My favorite book is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, I read it often.
Website and social media links: