Laughing Through Life: Stephanie Oxendine
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Laughing Through Life: Stephanie Oxendine

“I’m an entertainer.”

Stephanie Oxendine is many other things too. She’s a mom, a military spouse, an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, and a top-performing agent for SYKES at home.

But most of all, she loves making people laugh.

“It’s fun for me to make people laugh. I love it.  It’s the energy you can give people, that’s what I thrive on. I love when people are happy. It’s one of the best feelings to know that people can look at you and feel they can depend on you and that you can make them smile.”

Stephanie thinks that her experience being raised by parents who are deaf helped develop her use of humor and entertainment as a way to connect with people.

“When I grew up, people were mean. They’d say, ‘oh, your family’s dumb, they’re mute, they’re stupid.’ I had to find a way to get in to people’s hearts to make them understand that my family isn’t dumb, my family isn’t stupid. They just can’t hear.”

All of Stephanie’s sense of humor and resilience was needed this past year. Her husband, Ortagus, who serves in the U.S. Air Force, was deployed overseas for a year, his longest deployment yet. At the same time, the Air Force transferred his home base from Georgia to Tampa, Florida, forcing the whole family to move. With her husband overseas, Stephanie was left at home to sell their house in Georgia, find a new home in Tampa and manage the move. Not to mention take care of their three daughters.

It was a challenge. “I was alone, I have three children, and I had to make a decision on what I needed to do for my family, my job and my sanity.”  At the time, Oxendine was a successful team lead for the SYKES at home. She was responsible for a team of 60 agents.  And she loved it. But she realized she couldn’t manage her team and a move at the same time. To sell her home, realtors would be showing her house, making working from home difficult.  She envisioned having to be gone a lot. “I didn’t feel it would be right for my team to be gone so much.” She asked SYKES if she could step down and work night hours, as an agent, voluntarily leaving her team lead position. SYKES said yes.  “I was very grateful that SYKES would work with me to adjust my position and schedule to accommodate our move.”

Oxendine says the flexibility of SYKES at home that she experienced as she prepared for her move is one of the attractions for a military spouse like herself. “SYKES just made it happen. It was one less thing I had to worry about.” She needed even more flexibility when an unexpected medical condition sidelined her further in the middle of her move.

Stephanie attributes that flexibility – hers and SYKES’ – with helping her get through it all. “I’m easy going. I adapt very well. I do what I need to do to get it done, and SYKES made it easier.”

She has always used her sense of humor to get her through tough times. She recalls her high school biology teacher, who clearly didn’t like her. “She would fail me, every single year. I didn’t know why! I thought, man I really suck at biology. So that year, I made it my challenge to make her like me. One day I just stood up and busted out in song. It was one of her favorites, Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody.’

“It made her laugh so hard. She said, ‘Oh I don’t know what I’m going to do with you.’ I ended up passing.”

Her humor continues to play a role on the job. “I have this talent for making someone feel like they are the only person in the world. I can make a person who is angry with me smile within minutes. If I can just work with someone, that is my drive.”

It works – within months after moving back to an agent role Stephanie was named as one of the top 10 performers in her program.

Stephanie and her family have made their new home on the base in Tampa. She’s looking forward to seeing her husband, who returns in January. She says that, like many couples reuniting after a long deployment, they will go through a period of readjustment. “When Ortagus deploys and comes back you have to start over. I’m grateful that I’m at home because he can slip in and say, ‘how are you doing?’ The fact that I’m not away from home is great.”

She is already making plans for Ortagus’ return. The first thing on her agenda?  She laughs. “He’s going to clean my house!”

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