While she may have traded spotless striped dresses
for business casual blouses her smile (equal parts prim
and mischievous) remains the same.
She has the competitive pleasantness of a girl who races to sit in the front row, eager to raise a hand and be called upon.
As an older sister to two younger siblings and a self-professed strict rule follower, Lauren claims to have only bossed around one person
—her imaginary friend Tina.
When she was three years old, Lauren insisted Tina have a place set at the dinner table and also to be tucked in at bedtime. But while some children adopt an imaginary friend for companionship, Lauren had a more contentious relationship with Tina.
“My cousins remember me telling Tina to shut up all the time.” she says, laughing.
Whether due to or in spite of her loquacious imaginary friend, when Lauren’s younger sister was born, Tina faded away. Perhaps a minor footnote in a larger story, Tina is a brief glimpse into an interior life that would prove valuable in Lauren’s career—an active creative imagination coupled with an instructive spirit.
Growing up, Lauren always composed herself with a maturity beyond her years. In middle school, she was preternaturally comfortable talking with her friends’ parents. While other kids mumbled and looked down at their feet, talking to adults came easy for Lauren.
“It was just how I was raised,”
“The adults in my life, my mom, aunts, and uncles, always spoke to me as an equal. It never occurred to me other kids weren’t comfortable talking to adults.”
That strong maternal influence is ever present in Lauren’s demeanor. She has a gracefulness that is somewhere between doting and stern, a nurturing kind of authority. As one of Paradowski’s Account Managers, she is routinely tasked to have challenging conversations with both her colleagues
I’ve always been comfortable in situations others would find awkward or difficult, she says.
It’s a talent she’s been developing since she was a toddler, admonishing Tina for talking out of turn. For her role in the agency, it’s a skill of tremendous value.
Encouraged by a high school teacher while working on the yearbook, Lauren initially studied journalism, but after recognizing the core of her strengths as a problem solver, she instead earned a degree in Strategic Communications at the University of Missouri-Columbia. There she was exposed to various roles within the marketing profession and saw how she could put her innate communication skills to work.
Her gift for navigating thorny professional relationships only scratches the surface on the depth of her mother’s impact. In fact, there is something special in how Lauren talks about her mother Anita. For several years during their childhood, Anita was a single parent to Lauren and her younger sister Alyssa. The experience knitted them closer together.
Chief among the lessons Alyssa and Lauren learned from Anita was to never let any occasion, regardless of size, go unrecognized. Every good grade, every soccer game, every promotion, was celebrated, even if it was just a small treat
Lauren’s victory meal of choice, pork chops and mashed potatoes cooked in an heirloom dutch oven, holds particular significance.
It’s not something you can order at a restaurant,” she says. “You can get other favorites like pasta or a steak anywhere, but this is special because there’s only one place to get it and there’s only one person who can make it.”
She takes mealtime seriously, which may be why the only arguments she and her husband Zach have are over what to eat.
Recently married, Lauren received from Anita a cookbook as a wedding gift. In it were recipes passed down from her mother and grandmother, instructions on how to make her favorite childhood dishes. Lauren also received a cast iron dutch oven, identical to her mother’s.
Seen one way, these are practical gifts—Lauren and her new husband are avid home cooks, and yet these items also carry an emotional charge. As Lauren cooks her way through generations of recipes with her antique cast iron cookware, she does so with the knowledge that maybe one day, she’ll add her own recipes to the collection.
Already they’ve started their own tradition by collecting wine corks from special occasions. They’ve saved corks from big moments like their wedding day and quieter ones like when they brought home the newest member of the Ungerott family, a seven week old black lab named Remy.
Embracing tradition while making a path all her own is the guiding principle of Lauren’s worldview. When asked what she’s learned about herself since getting married, Lauren becomes introspective.
“I’ve known my husband Zach since high school. In a lot of ways, there hasn’t been much that’s changed.”
“What’s different is who I think of as my immediate family now. It used to be my mom, stepdad, and siblings. Now it’s him.”
She pauses and corrects herself.
Now my family is us.