People of OH: Stephanie Walaszek

Every day, I take a jaunt around the office and into the kitchen to fill up my water bottle. I usually take the long way there, welcoming this as an opportunity to stretch my legs, say hello to the candy jars and friendly faces. I say “hi” to Gerry and his banger bobble-head collection, scoop a handful of M&Ms, and wish him well. I give a nod to Wes, who asks me if I’ve heard the NPR podcast about a real-life demigod. I say no, he tells me what I missed, and we debrief on his tomato garden. I poke my head into Ken’s office to hear about his recent trip to Thailand. On my way out, he reminds me to fill out my gratitude journal because gratefulness is the key to happiness.

This hydration journey has become sacred to me, as I’ve come to realize how lucky this agency is. Within these walls are crazy talented humans, who are mightily genuine and unapologetically themselves. OH Partners is a growing powerhouse and industry leader for a number of reasons; be it our creative gusto, strategic minds, or eloquence in maintaining client relationships. But ultimately, what makes these agency walls shake with inspiration and pride…is our people.

Arizona is a vibrant state, and is becoming an extraordinary market for business. Our people come to work, day in and day out, harboring a contagious passion for this agency and our clients. Our people embrace change and encourage a challenge. They dedicate themselves to a bustling shop in the Southwest without a shadow of a doubt. Above all else, these people are multifaceted with an innate lust for life and a dedication to creating a life they are proud of.

“People of OH” is meant to uncover some of the reasons why we say “yes” to who we hire, why our daytime roommates have become our closest friends, and why we think this travelin’ band is truly one of a kind.

Our first spotlight is our Account Supervisor, Stephanie Walaszek. Originally from Highland, Indiana, Stephanie came to OH with a wealth of experience and an incredible work ethic. Stephanie is a thoughtful leader, who seeks to creatively solve complex problems. She tackles challenges with humility and grace. Stephanie sees the good in everyone, has impeccable taste, and makes the hard stuff look really, really easy.

So, you’re originally from Chicago?
Well I’m from Highland, Indiana. I ran to Chicago when I was 18. I went to Columbia College right after high school.

What are your parents like?

They’re still married and just amazing. They’re still in Highland, Indiana and in the same house I grew up in. My dad worked at a steel mill, just a really hard working blue collar family. My mom worked in Chicago for AAMCO, but when my sister was born, she became a stay at home mom. You never questioned work ethic in my family, it was just in the water.

What was your first job?

My first actual job was at Dairy Queen. I worked there when we still made the Dilly Bars by hand. I’m really good at those swirls. Good ol’ 90s.

When you were at Dairy Queen, what did you think your next job would be?

I wanted to go to Columbia College in Chicago for broadcast journalism and was ready for any job that would push me into entertainment. My next job was at Zero Gravity Dance Club. It was a teen dance club in Naperville, Illinois. It was for 16-21 year olds, and I served juice and slushies at the juice bar. There I was, commuting from Indiana to serve non-alcoholic drinks, and these kids were leaving me $20 tips on cranberry juice. I would leave with hundreds of dollars a night, and so I kept that job through college. I worked about 8pm-4am, and it kept me out of trouble.

Somewhere along the line, I heard you were a flight attendant.

Through a marketing agency in Chicago, I did a national tour for Hershey’s with Jessica Simpson. We went on the road for 9 months. It was when the liquid ice mints came out, and I was something like the “Ms. Liquid Ice”. After the tour, I had an opportunity to work trade shows in Las Vegas. I hated it, of course, and knew I had to move back to Chicago. I opened the paper one day and they were hiring flight attendants to be based out of Chicago. So, I went to flight school, and was a flight attendant for SkyWest United Express for 5 years.

Tell us more about that experience.

Well, I would fly at night, because on this airline, the flights were so short and weird times. I somehow still managed to work another 9-5 job. I was good at figuring out the system of flight attendants, so you could fly out at 9pm at night, and be back in Chicago at 6am. I’d make it back to work by 9am.

Holy sh*t, how did you manage that?

Chicago has much more of a hustle, you just do what you have to do knowing that’s the only way you’re going to get ahead. The opportunities are harder to get in Chicago, so I was busting my ass working three jobs because that’s just what you have to do to survive. Even now, I still overload my schedule with stuff, and sometimes it’s stupid stuff, but I still feel that need to overload to get ahead.

What brought you to Arizona?

Ha! Andrew and I were dating for about 3 or 4 years in Chicago, and we weren’t living together or anything. Then, I got pregnant at the same time he found out he got a job transfer. I was just going to go for it, not knowing anything. Working remote is not an option in Chicago, so I worked up until the very last second before I had Sofie. I took maternity leave in Arizona, and eventually finished up my job in Chicago.

I didn’t even know if my job existed in Arizona. We had huge, big national clients at my agency in Chicago: AT&T, US Army, American Express. We were doing a lot of customer experience stuff, so bringing that customer experience to life. I thought, does that even exist in Arizona? I had just had a baby, and was trying to figure out what to do. I worked at a small agency for a while and tried to network as much as possible. Then randomly an opportunity came along with OH through a LinkedIn message.

What attracted you to OH Partners?

It was the first time I felt the Chicago energy in Arizona. It was the first place that had the creativity and the energy and some sort of magical spark. And it might have been due to the recent major growth. I had an interview just the week when we moved from the 17th floor to the 19th floor. The energy was just nothing like I had seen in Arizona. When I first moved out here, I joined ad club to network and see what was out there. OH just felt different.

Why do you consider OH to be a thought-leader in this industry?

I think there’s magic happening in the walls of OH. I still can’t pinpoint where it is, it’s just such a unique mix of people. Our leadership is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’ve worked for some amazing people, but the mix of our leadership team and the transparency and the openness is rare. I don’t even know what it is, because I’ve never seen it before.

We do stick to our pillars, and we really stick to clients who see that. Those things shine through naturally without trying. Our weekly company meeting, Monday Morning Magic is so unique. I don’t think I’ve ever been to an agency where the entire agency meets every single week. And never with that level of detail. I think that’s a fun thing that stuck from OH of the past, and will continue with the OH of the future. How connected we are every single Monday is pretty magical.

What pillar of OH do you connect with the most? And why?

I was going to say integrity, but that should be a part of everyone’s DNA. I beat myself up the most about integrity. With clients, if I say I’ll have something to them by 2pm and it’s 2:05pm, that’s what I beat myself up about. In my interview I said “passion”. I wouldn’t push myself or do all the things do if that didn’t already exist within me. But I do keep myself in check with integrity. It’s easy on a personal level, but with a team holding yourself to integrity is hard.

What makes Arizona special?

It’s still such a new state, it’s still in its infancy. It gives the people of Arizona the power to shape and form what this state will look like. We get to actively be a part of making Arizona history. I’ve only been here 3 years and the growth I’ve seen is tremendous. And where else can you see saguaros?

What makes Arizona agencies special?

The people. But, that’s any agency really. I think agencies hold special people. For Arizona, it’s our unique perspective on advertising. Arizona advertising is traditionally focused on what’s going on in the local community and this state. Agencies here are more intertwined into their clients daily life. It’s an actual family setting, whereat big agencies in other states, your client might not even be in the same country. You just don’t have that close knit relationship. It feels different here, my clients have always been friends. They’re down the street, you could walk into a coffee shop and they’re sitting at the table.

How do you hope to inspire change within this industry?

Leading by example. Making sure I’m giving my all every day and not getting complacent. Even with training internally, we need to be the best we can be in Arizona because we’re competing on the same playing field as top agencies in the world. We need to hunt for what’s new. If it’s not within our walls, we need to find the next cool thing that no one is doing. What else can we tap into?

What is the most difficult part of your job?

I don’t ever want to disappoint a client. I also don’t want to disappoint my team. Account Services is having to be that sound board to take in the bad from both sides. And, without hurting either one! We need to know more than our clients know, so we are an expert for them. But…we also have a team to protect.

What are you most proud of?

Sofie, of course.

What’s your hope for your daughter?

She’s so happy and full of energy. She’s creative and funny, and so herself. I hope she never loses that. I hope she follows her heart and doesn’t feel outside pressure to do anything she thinks she has to. If I had listened to others, I wouldn’t have lived in Chicago and lived like a random gypsy weirdo and found my own way. It’s going to get harder and harder to grow up, so I hope she doesn’t lose that.

What is a goal you have in 2018, both personally and professionally?

Professionally – it is the training program. To implement this agency wide training program, and it’s actually going to happen. I’m excited. Personally – I really want to take a family vacation, I’ve been so good at scheduling my own girl’s trips and weekend getaways. I think this year we need to do a family trip, all of us going somewhere special.

What do you think is next for OH?

I think more new clients, more growth. Bringing more people on board. Probably some let downs, but that’s just a numbers game. But out of that will develop more fine tuned internal process to make sure that things are smooth. I think it’s going to be another exciting year.