Today’s OfficeNinjas All-Star Award is presented by Breather!
Editor’s Note: Nominations for the 2019 OfficeNinjas All-Star Awards closed Thursday, February 28, 2019. We’ll be announcing the winners throughout Admin Week (April 22–26, 2019). Make sure you don’t miss a single minute by subscribing to our emails!
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Name: Sarah Schraer
Title & Company: Office Manager, Viget
Location: Washington, DC
# Years as an Office Ninja: 2.5
Fun Fact: Used her background in nutrition to overhaul Viget’s office snacks program.
Feeling The Ninja Effect
A self-proclaimed introvert, Sarah sought the role of Office Ninja because she thought that managing multiple workspaces and supporting nearly 70 employees would force her out of her shell—and boy was she right!
In the past, just the thought of picking up the phone to order pizza made her cringe. Now she arranges travel, negotiates discounts, plans events, solves problems on the fly, and has managed the relocation of three separate offices. Her role has not only changed her into an “outgoing introvert,” but it’s also had a huge impact on her co-workers.
“Sarah can be relied on in any crisis. If there’s a last-minute client visit, she gets the conference ready, orders lunch, and helps with supplies. If there’s a FedEx deadline looming, she documents production and races out of the building to meet the pickup deadline. If we need someone to travel last minute, she’s coordinating after hours to make flight, hotel, and car arrangements. She takes care of three offices and three remote locations in three different time zones. She’s the best.” – Cindy, VP, Operations
Her influence isn’t just positive, it’s also far-reaching. Sarah even manages to make employees in offices halfway across the country feel supported.
“I work in an office that Sarah doesn’t work in. In fact, Sarah works thousands of miles away… yet I can’t imagine Viget without her. She goes above and beyond to help us with our office tasks here in Boulder. She researched and found a great snack delivery service so she could manage our stock rather than have one of us do the shopping. Sarah’s also the first person to contact our landlord if there are problems in the office. Her presence is felt every day, and it feels like we do have an office manager in this location.” – Becky, Senior Project Manager
And while most of her work happens quietly behind the scenes, co-workers understand and appreciate just how invaluable Sarah is.
“Sarah’s one of those people where if she’s out for the day, you notice. So much of what she does for Viget helps streamline and keep day-to-day operations on the rails, and she does it with humility and little fan-fare because her best work happens every day of the year. She’s our rock—our foundation.” – Owen, Art Director
We believe it! Now, let’s get to know Sarah!
OfficeNinjas: Tell us about the craziest day you’ve ever experienced as an Office Ninja.
Sarah Schraer: There have been so many crazy days in this job—in a good way! My first was about six weeks into working at Viget when I first moved into our headquarters. I spent those weeks training with our then office manager (now our part-time events manager) who was going on maternity leave. Her daughter ended up arriving the day before our big move. On moving day, the training wheels really popped off. I was flying solo on a huge project and a big holiday weekend full of moving. It was scary and I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, but it all happened and went well.
ON: And that wasn’t the only move you managed! Tell us about the whole project.
SS: I had never moved an office before or really had any Office Ninja experience before I moved the office the first time. We had a master timeline that we used for all the moves (two at HQ, one each in Durham and Boulder) that helped us keep track of all the little things, like making sure we had the insurance information and remembering to hand-carry the petty cash box.
The most stressful part was definitely the day after the movers came. We moved on Friday so we had a whole weekend to get the new office space set up. It seems like a lot of time, but it’s not at all. In particular, when we moved into our HQ, we built a ton of furniture and tried to fit in construction projects the same weekend. It was total craziness—16-hour days of physical labor. But even our CEO was there putting in some serious work.
The most exciting part about moving is when the rest of the staff gets to see the new space and how excited they are about it. It’s stressful on a small group of people to move an office, but you hope that by getting all that work done, the rest of the staff can enjoy a seamless transition.
ON: What are your secrets for managing three offices as well as two remote ones? Any tips or resources you’d share with other Ninjas?
SS: Schedules and calendar alerts are my best friends! We don’t have any ops people in our Durham and Boulder offices, so I try not to rely too heavily on folks in those offices. For office supplies and snacks, I keep both offices on a once-a-month ordering schedule and order from Amazon. Amazon is also my best friend when it comes to managing offices from afar. We use Basecamp to-do lists that are open to everyone in the office. So if someone in Durham notices they are running low on printer paper or they really need a few more conference chairs, they can post it to the to-do list, and I get an alert. Also, we have Slack channels for each of our offices specifically dedicated to ops for urgent conversations like “We have a gas leak in the office” or simply for coordinating things like Internet installs.
ON: What keeps you motivated?
SS: Change! This job is always changing. Sure, some things (like emptying the dishwasher or ordering coffee) never change, but for the most part, I’m always doing something different and new. My job is never boring!
ON: How does your team help you succeed?
SS: Viget is a wonderful environment to work in because you can basically branch out into any area you want to try. I recently wanted to learn more about our business development processes so I joined the BD team lunch. No one blinked an eye at me inviting myself or asking to learn. I’ve done everything in my role from facilities ops to recruiting. Viget really offers a lot of opportunity to learn when you want to.I’m blessed to work with a great team. I don’t think I could do this without my partner in crime, Khanh. She was our office manager before me and went part-time to start a family. Now she works as our part-time events manager, and we’re two peas in a pod. It’s great to have someone to bounce ideas off and to talk to when the job gets stressful, since she’s been through it all.
I’m blessed to work with a great team. I don’t think I could do this without my partner in crime, Khanh. She was our office manager before me and went part-time to start a family. Now she works as our part-time events manager, and we’re two peas in a pod. It’s great to have someone to bounce ideas off and to talk to when the job gets stressful, since she’s been through it all.
ON: What’s the one thing that’s always on your desk and why?
SS: A measuring tape. Because our CEO often walks by with ad-hoc requests like “We should get a rug for that upstairs nook” or “Let’s measure for barn doors” (a project we recently completed). We have a near constant roster of office improvement projects, and we’re a very DIY company. I came in with no home improvement skills, and so far I’ve helped build 20 desks, eight conference tables, three booths, and two giant barn doors.
ON: What are you most proud of outside of work?
SS: I was the first person in my family to graduate college. I moved to the DC area for school (I’m originally from Rhode Island) and getting that independence really helped catapult me into a more successful life than I could’ve had back home.
ON: How do you see the admin profession evolving? What do you do to stay ahead of the curve?
SS: In the last 10 years or so, the tech scene has really asked admins to do a little of everything. But now I see companies, as they get bigger, asking for more specialized positions like hiring someone who is specifically in charge of facility ops, event planning, etc. We talk a lot at Viget about being a T-shaped employee, which is someone who is good at the generalized skills of their job but also specializes in one area. I think this is smart and something Office Ninjas are particularly good at. It’s important to always be learning so you can be ready to help with anything and so you can grow as a person and as a professional.
ON: What is your greatest professional achievement?
SS: Definitely pulling off four office moves in a year. But now that’s possibly replaced by winning an OfficeNinjas All-Star Award. :)
ON: What would you say are the top three traits of an OfficeNinjas All-Star?
SS: Flexibility. This position isn’t the kind where you say “That’s not my job.” I’ve done everything from applying for electrical permits to processing internship applications and helping pull together a client project before launch.
Good attitude. There are a lot of stressful moments as an Office Ninja. We’re often running the behind-the-scenes of big projects, big events, or even just the day-to-day office chaos. It’s important to be able to smile through it all and let the little stuff roll off your back.
Craftiness/being able to make anything work. Things do not always go according to plan. Sometimes you accidentally book the hotel for the wrong weekend. Or it’s suddenly 75 degrees in Boulder, and the ice rink you booked melts. When you have a “make it work” mindset, you can fix it all! (We went bowling instead of ice skating. It was great.)
ON: How do you build and maintain company culture across all your offices, especially the remote offices?
SS: I was lucky to come into a company that already had a great culture. In almost every toast given at our company events, the word “family” comes up. We really hire the best people and bond pretty quickly. It helps that we have quarterly events called Third Third Thursdays (TTT for short). These are great opportunities for us to get together as a company and bond over an activity. It’s usually 4–5 hours of meeting and then an activity. Once a year, it’s an overnight, and it’s sort of like our company birthday party. It’s great to just be all together in a relaxed atmosphere.
When we’re not together, I try to be super active on Slack. I hop into conversations in our Boulder office and our Durham office channels (usually about how jealous I am that someone brought in cake) and connect with our remote workers. We also rely on hangouts to have face-to-face conversations hundreds of miles apart.
ON: What tips would you share with other Ninjas looking to overcome their introverted tendencies?
SS: When I first started at Viget, I had to adopt a “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality. I had always been introverted to the point where I could not even call to order pizza. The thought alone made me cringe deep in my soul. But I knew I wanted to burst out of that mold and be someone different as a professional. So I took the job at Viget knowing I’d have a lot of uncomfortable moments as I learned the job. I learned to be this new version of me. Now, a few years into answering the phones every day, I can call for pizza!
And I can go to Office Ninjas meetups and talk to total strangers about my job. I’m still an introvert at heart; I need my alone time. But now I describe myself as an “outgoing introvert” because I’ve learned to push through the 10 seconds of uncomfortable and found I’ve liked the other side.
What a breakthrough! We couldn’t be happier for you, Sarah!
You could also be a winner! Enter today’s Flash Raffle by 11:59 PM PST for $600, $400, or $200 toward both Breather and Spafinder services!
To view the complete album from our photo shoot at Viget with Sarah, click here.
All on-site photography of our featured Ninja and her workplace is courtesy of Oh Snap! Visuals. Oh Snap! is OfficeNinjas’ go-to photography company for headshots and events. They travel nationally, produce stunning photographs, and are a dream to work with!