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Name: Willa Glesener
Title & Company: Executive Assistant, SpareFoot
Location: Austin, TX
# Years as an Office Ninja: 6
Fun Fact: Has witnessed over 200 bird species!
Please join us in congratulating today’s featured OfficeNinjas All-Star, Willa Glesener!
Willa is the Executive Assistant at SpareFoot, an Austin-based online marketplace that connects people from all over the country with storage in their area. As the only EA on staff, Willa has managed everything from office move logistics to employee recognition campaigns.
More than one of her 18 (!!!) All-Stars nominations included examples of her incredible ability to save the day: she’s been known to work around the clock to resolve travel nightmares from a continent away, and one colleague credited the success of an important trade show to her quick and creative thinking. Here’s what the CEO of SpareFoot had to say:
Willa can literally do anything. One example was a recent client tour that I needed planned. The goal was to hit 10 different clients in 3 cities in 4 days and she was able to piece the whole thing together with essentially zero input from me, and it went as smooth as you could ask for. Between coordinating all the moving pieces of travel for me and two colleagues to scheduling times with the clients to making sure we had all the materials we needed for each one prepared and packed in advance, not a single detail was overlooked. This is how every interaction is with Willa—she just makes it happen.
There are frankly too many examples to list, but another thing that sets Willa apart is the respect she gets from everyone she works with not only inside the company but with our clients, partners and investors. Pretty much every time she works on a project with someone outside the company, that person goes out of their way to tell me how awesome it was to work with her and how they wished more assistants were like Willa.
Willa’s managers and co-workers have described her as ‘whip-smart,’ ‘beloved,’ ‘magical,’ and ‘equal parts cool and capable.’ Sounds like an OfficeNinjas All-Star to us!
We couldn’t wait to find out more about what makes this Ninja tick. Read our interview with Willa and take a stroll through her office below.
OfficeNinjas: How long have you worked as an Office Ninja?
Willa Glesener: Before SpareFoot, I spent a couple years as an administrative staffer with various non-profits and a state legislator. I started at SpareFoot in the summer of 2013, so it’s been almost three years here, and about six years in total.
ON: What’s your favorite part of being an Office Ninja?
WG: I love that my job allows me to bring out the best in others. I work with some truly talented, intelligent, and driven people. And while they are, of course, capable of supporting themselves, they can be more effective and productive if they aren’t hung up on the little details of their days. And I love the details, so it’s a win-win! I get to learn so much from them along the way too.
ON: Tell us about the craziest day you’ve ever experienced.
WG: It’s all a blur! I think it has to be the famous basement suite move, and it lasted five days.
During a period of rapid growth, we had limited time and resources to plan a move for half of our company into an 8,000-square-foot basement floor in our building. The space needed significant attention to become a viable office, but no one on our team had experience with this kind of project, and we didn’t have the budget to hire in the experts. We had to be scrappy and resourceful and commit to some serious elbow grease to make an awesome space happen.
Our core team of four (plus volunteers from all over the company) spent five days tackling all the minutiae that comprise moving into such a large space. We didn’t have a fully functional HVAC for most of the week, and I’m sure I didn’t smell great. We ran into issues with elevator capacity, so I moved a fair amount of our furniture in my personal vehicle by driving it from the fifth floor to the first floor in our parking garage! We ate a LOT of breakfast tacos and fried chicken.
By the final day, I think I was having an out-of-body experience! But I was grateful that everyone on our team had a great sense of humor, it really kept us going. Looking back now, I shake my head and think, ‘amateur hour!’ But I’m grateful for the learning experience and the camaraderie.
ON: What is the best part of working at SpareFoot?
WG: Hands down, the people. I learn so much from so many different kinds of thinkers, and I get to experience perspectives that are vastly different from my own. This kind of environment offers endless opportunities for learning, which is really important to me.
And I can’t forget the dogs! We allow one dog per floor per day, and we keep track of it all through a shared calendar. That’s FOUR dogs on any given day. In my spare moments, I check the ‘puppy calendar’ to see which of my favorite furry friends will be in. I have been known to schedule a meeting in a specific location in hopes of seeing one of my favorite pups.
ON: What’s the one thing that’s always on your desk and why?
WG: Souvenirs and notes from friends and colleagues. When you’re on hold for the 45th minute and the day is getting you down, it’s a nice little mental lift to read an old thank you note, or a silly poem someone penned to make you smile.
I also have a small (but growing) collection of bird figurines that sit on my monitor stand. They are all trinkets that my friends have collected on their travels and brought back to me, since I’m an avid birdwatcher.
ON: How do you cope with stress?
WG: I don’t think I do anything radical. I practice yoga and meditation. I try to start every day with the right attitude and good habits (making my bed, eating a healthy breakfast, having a quick stretch, and focusing on an intention of accomplishing something new every day).
Anything I can do outdoors is like nectar to my soul: kayaking, birdwatching, hiking, camping, fishing. Even if the weather doesn’t agree with me, I want to be outdoors whenever I can. I spent my last two New Year’s Eves alone, in the woods, intentionally. And I loved it.
These kinds of activities provide me with some much needed alone time to reflect on all the day-to-day noise in my life. They quiet my mind and repair the damage done by stress, while also preparing me for whatever is coming next.
I also relish doing the NYT Crossword Puzzles as a sort of meditative practice. I can finish Monday through Wednesday, then I struggle with Thursday through Sunday. I don’t think I’ve ever finished a Sunday puzzle, but I try!
Friends, family, and people outside of my professional life bring me great comfort as well. They care about me unconditionally, give me their time, their hugs, their food, their love. Sometimes just being cared for like that makes all the nasty stress melt away.
ON: What’s your favorite afternoon pick-me-up?
WG: If I can get my hands on it, Yerba Mate tea. And some sugar. I’m trying to retune that habit, but I can’t lie, I do have quite the sweet tooth. (Please don’t encourage it!)
If I feel myself dropping in the afternoons, I’ll take a walk or listen to some music, NPR talk radio, or podcasts.
There is also the tradition of the ‘HAPPY’ folder in my inbox. Any time I receive an email that makes me smile (sometimes it’s praise, or a funny inside joke, or something that just makes me proud), I put it in the happy folder. When I’m having a long day, that folder is an endless supply of good vibes and memories.
ON: What are you most proud of outside of work?
WG: My life list of birds! I tried to count, but it’s spread out over several birding journals (gotta have the waterproof one for the kayak!), and I’m slow to get it all compiled in the main list. My best estimate is that in my eight years or so years of ‘serious’ birding, I’ve seen about 200 species, almost all within Texas borders. Rain or shine, 6 a.m. or 8 p.m., 95 degrees or 30 degrees, all my birding efforts are about making that list longer.
Nerdy tangent of the day: to add a bird to your ‘life list,’ you have to identify them with absolute certainty. That means that you have memorized (or can quickly reference in a field guide), wing and tail shapes, countless variations in coloring, wing bars, eye rings, leg color, size… the list goes on. You can also memorize the calls, the way they move in the trees or on the ground, what they may be eating.
There are SO many clues, which is what makes it such a challenging and rewarding endeavor when you see a new bird and have that wave ripple through your heart. It just skips a little beat!
ON: Tell us about the trip you made to SF to pursue your professional development.
WG: Since development looks different for everyone and my role doesn’t fit easily into a box, I was given the opportunity to build a trip around the things I wanted to learn. I focused on employee engagement, rewards/recognition, facilities (deep dive into how physical space affects everything from morale to productivity), processes (love me a good system for doing something efficiently), and so on.
I visited half a dozen companies in two days, and had lunches, coffees, and drinks with fellow Office Ninjas. I saw industrial-looking coworking spaces done on the cheap, polished tech spaces for globally established teams with deep pockets, all sorts of approaches to designing work spaces, and the ways those spaces influenced the teams that lived there.
It was a really valuable experience to get such a broad perspective. Not every team has the same needs, and their space and approach to culture should reflect that. I was able to bring back a lot of what I learned and apply it to our own needs. Though my role has now shifted, I can still reference my notes and use them to come up with resourceful answers to new problems. Probably due for another trip soon though!
ON: What are the top three traits of an OfficeNinjas All-Star?
WG: Positive vibes/attitude – The world will give you back what you give to it. Your colleagues, too. Be pragmatic; don’t keep your head in the clouds, but don’t get beat down by the little things.
Intuition – This machine (your company, your team, your life) moves quickly. Rational thought and planning are excellent foundations for most decisions and goals. SOPs are great for efficiency. But things can’t always be measured or compared quantitatively, and you have to trust your inner voice to make that judgment call sometimes. You won’t always be right, but that’s okay. Forgive yourself and learn from it—it’s a wonderful gift to yourself.
Organization! Whether it’s taking notes, managing colorful collections of sub calendars, or a detailed spreadsheet, you have to find what works for you and use it consistently. Other people rely on you to provide pertinent info on a dime, and even those of us with the best memories can’t rely on our own brains to get it all done. I personally love the Google For Work suite and use it for about 90% of my organizational needs.
Wise words, Willa! We wanted to give you an outdoorsy prize that would (hopefully!) add to your life list of birds. Please enjoy an all-inclusive, 3-night/4-day stay at the Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz, CA! This gorgeous mountaintop hotel, which overlooks breathtaking views of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, is surrounded by towering eucalyptus trees and over three miles of wooded hiking trails. Your room and meals are covered, Willa! Just relax and recharge!
Could you also use a reboot of sorts? How does a SpaFinder gift card sound? Head on over to today’s Flash Raffle and enter by 11:59PM PST for a chance to win one of three prizes!
Thanks to Eversnap for capturing photos of our All-Star! Eversnap is a curated marketplace of experienced, professional photographers in over 25 major cities. Click here to view the full photo album from Willa’s shoot.
Join us in congratulating Willa Glesener, 2016 OfficeNinjas All-Star!