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Working from Home Before It Was Cool


Kris McGarvey

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A Q & A Session with Sally Olinger

From a temp employee to Director of Audience Engagement & Analytics, Sally Olinger has experienced continuous growth in her 25 years with Stamats. Not only navigating shifts in research methods, and cultural and economic turbulence, Sally broke new ground for offsite employees in 2007 as one of our first colleagues to work from home.

What has been your career path with Stamats?

I started at Stamats as a temporary receptionist while looking for employment after college. During that time, I became very fond of the research team. After my two-week temp assignment was over, I left for another job. I soon received a call from Sr VP of Research Strategy Bob Sevier asking if I would be interested in joining the research team. I started as a Project Coordinator and eventually moved up to Senior Research Analyst.

During my first few months, two of the team members left for maternity leave (current Sr VP Becky Morehouse was one) so I had a lot to learn in a very short timeframe. In 2021, I joined our growing B2B publications email delivery team with expanded duties in digital operations. With the sale of two publications last spring, I made another change and am now applying my engagement, analytics, and digital skills with our Audativ clients.

What did you find the most challenging as an early work-from-home Stamats employee? 

Working from home today is much different than it was in 2007 when I moved from Cedar Rapids to Des Moines. While we all may be tired of Zoom and Teams calls, it was much harder back then to be part of a group meeting. I was often the only person on the phone while everyone else was in a conference room. Most of the time I could hear a quarter of the conversations going on.

At that time, I had to come to the office for a day every other week. I truly cherished those days as I missed my colleagues, but they were not always the most productive as I had a lot of visitors stopping by my office.

Also, internet speed has drastically improved over the last 15 years. I downloaded what I needed to work offline and then uploaded it when I was finished. I also backed up my own work at home just to make sure I didn’t lose anything. And I remember being paranoid about missing a phone call, assuming people would think I was not working.

What is one change you have experienced through the years?

Everything is different but what remains the same—I work with some of the most hardworking, talented, and friendly colleagues I could ever ask for.

What is a favorite office memory?

Over the course of 25 years, there are just too many to count. I loved our Stamats Christmas party at the Cedar Rapids Country Club. It was so much fun getting dressed up, meeting your colleagues’ spouses and partners, listening to live music (often talent from within), seeing who won the great prizes, and just having an all-around good time.

Best piece of career counsel you have given or received?

The older I get the more I understand the need for a good work-life balance.

A final piece of advice to pass on to a new employee?

Far too often we let titles and positions get in the way of sharing our ideas. Speak up—if you have an idea, share it. What is the worst that can happen?

Sally currently lives outside of Madison, Wisconsin. Her family includes her husband of 23 years, Eric, and two children, Max and Reece. When she’s not busy with audience engagement and analytics, Sally enjoys spending time in her flowerbeds, boating with family, and around the campfire with friends and neighbors.

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