Dolphin training is not the typical background for an administrative assistant, but Shannon Diaz discovered her work with animals uniquely prepared her for the financial sector. “I’m really organized, and I kept meticulous records while caring for the animals. Everything was in compliance with the regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums,” she said. “I also spent a lot of time providing education. You have to be good with people. Now, I’m excited to bring those skills to Cary Stamp & Company.”
While Shannon serves as administrative assistant to Chief Operating Officer Patrick Thompson, she is also the first person who will greet clients when they call the office. “I really like listening and lending an ear,” she said, adding that she’s looking forward to participating in the Cary Stamp Cares initiative which brings team members into the community for volunteer work.
Prior to joining Cary Stamp & Company, Shannon’s professional path followed her passion for animals, an interest that began practically at birth. “I was sitting in a saddle on a horse before I could sit up on my own,” she said. Growing up in West Hempstead, NY, she had easy access to horses thanks to a family friend who owned a stable. Shannon recalled feeling so relaxed and playful with the horses that they treated her “like a foal.”
At age 7, Shannon visited SeaWorld with her family and fell in love with the sea life. “I told my mom I wanted to be in the sea lion show,” she recalled. By 14, she was a certified scuba diver and later earned her bachelor’s degree in marine biology at Stony Brook University. Her career took her from the Long Island Aquarium where she trained seals and sea lions to the Miami Seaquarium where she was in the water daily with dolphins. “I had a special relationship with the animals, and while it looks like trainers are just teaching dolphins to perform, we are actually encouraging certain behaviors so we can care for them by making sure they can tolerate eye drops or let us put our hands in their mouths for a check-up,” she explained.
After a brief stint at Zoo Miami caring for elephants and rhinoceroses, Shannon decided she was ready for a career change, and put her organizational skills to work. “I set up a system to look for a job and tracked everything on Excel spreadsheets,” she said. She spent a few months working in the accounting department for Viking Yachts, but COVID-19 led to a layoff, and she found her way to Cary Stamp & Co. In addition to her current responsibilities, Shannon is planning to become a certified public accountant. Meanwhile, she is fulfilling her passion for animals with a new puppy and is hoping to get back on the saddle soon at one of the barns near her home in Stuart, FL. Although her time with animals has provided a great deal of fun, it’s also helped Shannon build some critical life skills. “I used to be a camp counselor and taught horseback riding. It really encourages empathy because you have to convince the horse to work with you, plus you learn to work with people.”