WEST PALM BEACH — Ask Shereena Coleman about her work, and her eyes light up. The 37-year-old vice president of business facilitation and the Glades region for the Business Development Board has a palpable passion for managing relationships that radiates from her as she speaks.
“I focus a lot on what makes Palm Beach County competitive, and that No. 1 answer is always workforce and talent,” she said.
Coleman is one of a pair of BDB employees — along with fellow millennial Kristen Boyd, marketing and media relations VP — who is leading initiatives to bring more millennials to Palm Beach County to work, and to develop strategies with companies to help them attract millennials to their businesses.
“We have to ensure that we have programs that can help attract that type of talent,” she said.
Coleman joined the BDB five years ago as vice president of existing industry, a position that focused on helping Palm Beach County companies grow.
She graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology from Rollins College in Winter Park, but quickly decided a doctorate and a track to becoming a clinical psychologist was not for her.
Instead, she landed a job in finance, eventually moving to a position with Charles Schwab.
But she still felt something was lacking.
“I was looking for something else, and I thought, ‘What do I really want to do?’” Coleman said, adding that she realized she enjoyed relationship management.
Soon, she accepted a position with Enterprise Florida, one that was the ultimate in relationship management: She was responsible for coordinating with all 67 Florida counties’ economic development offices.
It was while working there that Coleman met BDB president and CEO Kelly Smallridge.
“Believe it or not, that’s how I learned Palm Beach County really is the premier place for economic development,” Coleman said.
In addition to her work with existing businesses in Palm Beach County, Coleman also now oversees the organization’s work in the Glades region, which includes Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay.
She oversees the BDB’s education initiatives, where she coordinates between educators and companies to identify weaknesses in the workforce, and beef up talent development in those areas.
Coleman’s next big goal: Adopting her soon-to-be-daughter, a 5-year-old from Liberia. Coleman and her husband, Kyre, are in the early stages of the process.
After praying, Coleman felt led to visit an orphanage on a recent visit to Liberia, where her father spends part of the year after tracing their family’s lineage to the west African country.
The calling echoed a conversation she had with her husband before she left. He said he felt God wanted the couple to adopt.
“It was unexpected,” she said.
As the adoption moves forward, Coleman’s excitement is clear.
“It’s such a blessing,” she said.
Here are excerpts from a conversation the Post recently had with Coleman:
What is your favorite app?
The Bible app. The YouVersion Bible app specifically.
What music are you listening to the most right now?
There is this incredible artist that I’ve been turned on to, his name is Braek Haven, who has really done a great mix of — I hate to sound stuffy but — secular and nonsecular. He has a really good way of bringing good music to a good positive message and that’s super important to me. I thrive on positivity, so that has to be a part of every aspect of my life, period.
What book has influenced you the most?
“The Power of Your Subconscious Mind,” by Joseph Murphy. Big time. Changed my life. My dad actually put me onto the book. He read it 40 years ago, and then my brother read it 10 years ago probably, and they just passed it down through the family. The book specifically talks about the different ways that you have this unspoken power in you that you never know. You automatically assume that you move on autopilot every day of your life but you don’t. There’s your conscious mind, and there’s your subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind has this amazing ability to uncover so much about you, about your environment, and to help guide you.
I can’t give one particular place because there are so many. I choose anywhere that reflects the true character of our county and its residents. Depending on the project or prospect, this will be somewhere that counters whatever the person’s misconstrued perception of Palm Beach County is.
Tell us more about the BDB’s millennial initiatives.
We understand that companies are no longer moving to different locations across our country for just incentives or real estate. It really is for the talent. And we understand that ensuring that companies are aware of the needs of the millennials, that’s really important. So we’ve actually come up with a couple of different initiatives to support that. One being an (annual) internship expo. … We also put on our summer internship series, so interns from all over the country interning with companies here in our county, they attend a series where they can interface with other millennials and other interns that are doing the same thing. … We understand that between Palm Beach County, Broward and Miami-Dade, we have this amazing opportunity to attract the best and the brightest talent, and we have to ensure that Palm Beach County is competitive in that regard. And we have to ensure that we have the programs that can help attract that type of talent.
What are some of the biggest challenges in your position?
I would say the first is understanding education in Palm Beach County. … When (businesses) ask about education and how our county schools work, just having them understand that whatever you think you might know about Florida school systems … it’s not real, it’s not truly based in anything that’s factual. … Another challenge I would say would be the gap … between industry needs and what our education partners (in the school system) are putting out. So that was once a challenge, but fortunately the BDB has undertaken this initiative all around education, and specifically for that purpose of just helping talent get best prepared.
What employment trends are you noticing in Palm Beach County for millennials?