Kayla Onley, Community Employment Director
Learn about Kayla's career growth in Sheppard Pratt's community services programs.
Q: Briefly describe your role at Sheppard Pratt. What is it that you do?
I serve as the community employment director in Montgomery County. I supervise a team of employment specialists who help support and assist clients in finding competitive employment based off their interests, skills, and preferences. I manage program outcomes and help the team follow the Evidence Based Practice IPS model for Supported Employment.
Q: Tell us about your career path.
I have worked at Sheppard Pratt since 2013. I started as a residential rehabilitation care specialist, then transitioned to become a day program care specialist at one of our residential programs in Gaithersburg, MD. In 2015, I moved to the OnTrack Maryland program and entered the community employment world as a supported employment and education specialist. I found it rewarding to be able to assist clients with their employment goals that honored their preferences.
That program was beneficial for me to work alongside clinicians who treated me as an equal, despite my bachelor's degree level of education. They put me in a position to be more confident in my skills as a mental health provider and further encouraged my growth within the organization. There was an opportunity to return to the residential program in Gaithersburg as a supported employment team leader. I knew that this position was a good step towards continuing to grow within the organization, and it allowed me to gain supervisory skills. I worked as the supported employment team leader for two years before transitioning into my current role.
Q: What inspires you to go to work every day?
I love seeing our clients overcome the stigma of mental illness and realize that they are more than their diagnosis - they can achieve great things!
Q: What is the last gift you gave someone?
The last gift I gave someone was flying my sister (who lives in Georgia) into town to visit my parents for a weekend. They had not seen her in close to two years!
Q: What has been your proudest moment at work?
My proudest moment at work was helping OnTrack Maryland Supported Employment pass their first EBP Fidelity review. I was the only employment specialist on the team, so the review really solidified that we were doing the model correctly.
Q: What are your future career goals?
I am currently earning my Master's degree in Psychology with a concentration in Organizational Leadership. I might be interested in teaching abnormal psychology as a future career goal or continue to help other programs grow and develop within the mental health field.
Q: What advice would you give for a person applying for a similar role?
Don’t be afraid to apply for another position within the organization, even if you do not think you will get it. There have been many jobs that I have applied for and did not get. However, if you do not apply, you might miss out on an opportunity. This organization is great for seeing if this field is the right fit for you, and the work is rewarding!
Q: If you could have dinner with any person dead or alive, who would it be?