Before fire trucks or ambulances, Intel’s Life Safety responders are the first line of defense when there’s an onsite emergency. Meet Sara and learn what life is like as a first responder at Intel’s Ronler Acres, Hillsboro campus.
Sara Wassam spent nearly 10 years in civilian law enforcement and over 16 years in the Air Force and still serves in the Air National Guard. We recently spoke with her about her interesting career path, experiences in Life Safety, and the lessons that have helped her along the way.
How did you get started with Intel’s Life Safety department?
I thoroughly enjoy helping people stay safe and protected, so it was really a tough decision to leave my career in law enforcement. But Intel took a chance on me and hired me for a job that I had minimal background in. I thrived because I wanted to learn and excel. But when I found out about the Life Safety department, I felt it married well with my background. My five-year goal was to end up in Life Safety—I made it in just over two.
How do you stay calm during response situations?
When I was responding to situations at 21-year-old, I was shaking like a leaf. I didn’t really know what I was doing. But over the years, more training and learning from peers and mentors really helped. And here at Intel, we’re constantly training and learning. There’s never a stale moment in this job. We have to be ready for anything because you don’t know what’s coming next.
Has there ever been a time where you felt overwhelmed by a situation?
When you’re dealing with emergencies, you end up seeing and experiencing so many different things. Say we respond to a medical emergency, there’s a chance you’ll see something like a lot of blood or an exposed bone. Pretty gnarly stuff. If you need to take some time after the response, you just vocalize that. We’re supported in that way by our leaders. It’s really important that we’re able to take some time for ourselves to mentally understand and process what we went through, so we can be the best responders we can be.
How do you balance your work with your own wellbeing?
There are healthy ways to decompress and there are unhealthy ways to decompress. I do a lot of self-care. I like to read, I like to take hot baths, and I’m a runner. We have five gyms here at Intel which is an amazing benefit for us. We’re supported in doing what we need. Go work out, go do what you need to do to take care of yourself. We also have a massage clinic here on campus which really helps you to relax.
What lessons have you taken from your previous careers that help you at Intel?
Some of the best lessons I learned was from working in an all-male, medium-high security federal prison. I learned to never turn your back and to always treat people with fairness, respect, and kindness, no matter who they are. To this day, I carry those lessons with me.
When I was deployed overseas in the desert, I was coined by now Four-Star General David Goldfein, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force. He’s a troop’s troop. He truly cares about how we are as humans before how we are in our jobs. Meaning he wants to make sure we are doing well personally so that we can excel in our jobs. So I carry this coin with me every single day. It’s a reminder that when you mentor and support your team and make sure your team is taken care of before you are—that’s being a true leader.