About ten years ago, Sarah Shields wanted to work at Paradowski really badly. Like, she really wanted to work here. So badly, in fact, that she interviewed here three different times during an 8-year stretch.
The first was in 2009, which she describes as more of “an informational interview.” The second time came in 2014, after she had a little more experience in the agency world.
By the third time, in 2017, she had acquired the right blend of professional experience and blackmail material to be offered a job as an account supervisor.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. The 2017 part, yes, but she would never blackmail anyone. She’s far too sweet. But don’t take my word for it, take hers.
“I’m a pretty straightlaced lady.”
When asked what she loves most about working here, she said, “This place is great. We work with such creative and fun people that it’s not boring to come into work every day, which is amazing.”
Right off the bat, I learned something interesting from Sarah Shields. I asked for her funniest agency memory, and as she was responding she said, “You know how Howie Mandel is a germaphobe?”
“No, I didn’t know that.”
She looked at me with an expression that said, “And how exactly do you spend your time?” and politely explained, “Oh yeah, it’s a well-known fact. He does fist bumps, not handshakes.”
She knows this because she worked on a video campaign with Mandel about a decade ago, for one of her pizza clients. During his run as the host of Deal or No Deal, she traveled to L.A. for the 4-day shoot, which took place at various family homes.
The funny part of the story occurred when one of the children bit into his pizza across the table from Mandel, then promptly vomited all over it. According to Sarah, he handled it well, but it was hilarious.
“He just runs out and came back to the video village and was like, ‘That was my nightmare, did you guys see that?’”
“It was awful and awesome at the same time. He was such a good sport about it.”
Sarah is a pretty good sport herself. Sometimes, the sport in question is baseball. The native of Peoria, Illinois is a lifelong Cubs fan. After college, she and her husband moved to Chicago, where they lived in Wrigleyville for a time. She was living the dream, embracing the same foolish optimism every spring, only to have her hopes dashed every fall by the inevitable playoff heartbreaks. By 2009, they had relocated to St. Louis, where they have lived ever since.
“I’m a Cubs fan in enemy territory right now,” she notes. “My brother and I both married Cardinals fans, so we have some heavy rivalries going on.”
But Sarah is passionate about far more than just agency life and her beloved Cubs. For the past 26 years, she has been involved with Camp GranADA, a summer camp for children with diabetes, run by the American Diabetes Association in Monticello, Illinois.
“That is one thing that I feel like I could talk about forever. I have diabetes, I was diagnosed when I was 8, and I started going to this camp when I was 9.”
She worked her way through eight years as camper, then spent time as a counselor, then assistant program director, eventually taking over the program director position five years ago.
“To me it’s a really cool time, when all these kids are doing the same thing. It’s not weird or different at camp. A lot of them are from very small towns, and sometimes it’s the first time they’ve met someone else with diabetes. That is a really cool thing to be a part of.”
The diabetes diagnosis has never slowed Sarah down. She grew up playing basketball and softball, and has remained active throughout her adult life. She and her husband, James, are big fans of the outdoors.
They both love skiing, and they try to make it out to the mountains every year. “We decided we are spring skiers, though. We went over the holidays a couple years ago, and it’s way too cold on the top of a Colorado mountain in December.”
Last year, for their 10th wedding anniversary, they celebrated their love of the outdoors with an epic 9-day trip through the Southwest. Along the way they visited Phoenix, the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, the Grand Staircase National Monument, Zion National Park, and finally ended with a hard-earned spa day in Las Vegas.
One of the interesting highlights of their trip was a night spent at the Shooting Star RV Resort in Escalante, Utah. Their accommodations? An Airstream camper. The resort also housed a drive-in theater populated with classic automobiles. So one night they posted up in a 1964 Cadillac Rambler and enjoyed Back to the Future, on the big screen, under the stars.
She and James are also fans of the small screen. I asked her about her favorite television shows from the past few years, and she responded instantly, “Oh my gosh, The Handmaid’s Tale, it’s wonderful. It’s so intense and so good.”
She loves that intensity, but she also sets sensible limits.
“I love The Walking Dead, but I can’t watch more than two at a time, because then I have bad dreams. I wake up in the middle of the night and make my husband get out of bed and get me something to drink.”
The more we talked, the more James sounded like a keeper. A Cardinals fan who married a Cubs fan, AND he’s willing to be awakened from a dead sleep to comfort her after zombie nightmares? Well played, Sarah.
Clearly she has a future in account service.