Employee Spotlight: Sarah Long

The employee spotlight this month shines on Sarah Long, a member of ESa’s finance and human resources team. She is our guide through the often confusing world of benefits, our CRM software, Deltek, and a host of other critical responsibilities, too many to name.

Read on to learn more about Sarah, and get a unique look at her career and special journey to ESa, her passion for serving others and love of travel.

The Human behind Human Resources

The finance and human resources team at ESa handles many core functions of the firm. It is not an exaggeration that the firm could not function without the work of this dedicated group. “Each of us have completely different responsibilities that rely heavily on each other,” Sarah explained. Their individual responsibilities come together, keeping ESa on track from a financial and human resources standpoint.

For Sarah, her role specifically focuses on human resources (HR) for ESa employees. Underneath this umbrella, she juggles knowledge of varied and seemingly random things. Some duties follow a traditional HR slant, but others not so much. “I get to work on a little bit of everything,” she says, “I have learned to be an expert on everything from insurance, timesheets to key-fobs and parking.” This large pool of knowledge about the firm has made her a go-to resource for questions of all kinds. “Even if I don’t know the answer, I probably know who does,” she explains, “I am always happy to help point someone in the proper direction, or track down whatever they are looking for.”

Unique to her position, Sarah spends one-on-one time with every single person who comes to work at ESa. “Given the nature of my role, specifically with benefits and insurance, I get to have more personal conversations with team members as I help them find the best fit for them and their circumstance.” She enjoys helping people navigate challenges associated with change-of-life circumstances associated with benefits and other aspects of HR. “I know the level of attention and support I would like in those situations, and I always strive to provide that to others,” Sarah says.

It Really Is a Small World

Sarah grew up in Illinois and attended a small high school, graduating with around 80 other students. She went on to study speech at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. One of her high school connections, who was friends with her future husband, ended up working at ESa after graduation. “During his tenure at ESa, he became friends with Cora Farris, another member of ESa’s finance and human resources team.” Sarah went on to say, “I eventually met Cora on a house boat trip in the late 90s long before I had even thought of moving to Tennessee.” This random connection with Cora grew into a lifelong friendship.

Sarah and her husband relocated to Tennessee in the early 2000s amidst the boom of opportunity with Dell moving to the Middle Tennessee area. She worked for the staffing company for Dell, focusing specifically with on-site management of employees that included on-boarding, warnings and general HR responsibilities.

This position highlighted the passion she had for this type of work. As she grew professionally, Sarah kept up with Cora although, at this point, neither knew they would be coworkers in the future. “When we moved down to Tennessee, I had no intention of working at ESa,” Sarah said, “but eventually a position opened up and Cora gave me a call; the rest is history.”

Favorite Part(s) of the Job

“There are a couple things that are my favorite, and no surprise here it is not dealing with timesheets!” Elaborating she said, “I really like the opportunity to talk to people about insurance and benefits, specifically when they are going through a fun and impactful life change.” She has seen firsthand how even the most incredible and fun change can be stressful and add unanticipated challenges. “I like helping people work through these stresses and situations and to take some things off their plate.” She prides herself on supporting employees and not leaving them to “figure it out on their own.”

“Most of the challenges I help employees with are things that fall outside their job, whether that’s dealing with insurance issues for a dependent or parking tickets,” she said. “I like taking this worry off their plate, giving them the time they need and the answers to help remedy the situation so they can stop stressing and get back to focusing on what they are passionate about.”

Sarah also enjoys working to continue to improve our utilization of Deltek Vantagepoint, ESa’s database system. “Making that software more useful to the departments that utilize it is a great feeling and only further improves the efficiency of the work we do.” Vantagepoint is a newer version of the software that we are transitioning to, from Deltek Vision, and Sarah has been critical to this process. Lastly, being a part of the implementation of SLATE, ESa’s in-house social network/intranet, was a major and fun event for her. “It was so far out of what my normal job duties are that it was immediately interesting.” She described how “it was also great to be a part of such a large and varied team that represented all aspects of ESa.”

Off the Clock

When not busy helping ESa team members navigate the world of insurance and benefits, Sarah spends her time relaxing at home. “It is no secret that I used to be a big runner, but COVID and the new world created by the pandemic shifted my perspective slightly.” She went on to explain that while she still stays active by riding her Peloton, which she loves, she has moved away from her higher level of intensity that was associated with running.

“The way that life slowed down during the pandemic was a welcome change,” Sarah said, “I was able to spend more time with my family, and this time spent interacting with my kids, Elizabeth and Eli, was incredible.” If the world were operating as usual, this quality time would have slipped away. Reorienting back towards family and spending more time with them in the long term means that old hobbies, including running, had to take a back seat to priorities that are more important.

Rapid Fire Round

Q) Coffee or Tea?

A) “Coffee for sure, especially with vanilla almond milk! I used to enjoy creamer, but cut it out when doing the Whole30 and have not looked back.”

Q) Cats or Dogs?

A) “Both, we have two dogs – a golden doodle and a lab/Pyrenees mix, they are precious. There are also three cats in the mix, one that we have and two that are our niece’s who is living with us is currently.”

Q) Favorite Sports Team

A) “We are big Chicago fans, so the Cubs and the Bears. I am also a Ravens fan, my son is a huge fan and converted me to cheering for them!”

Q) Describe ESa in Three Words

A) “Steady, Patient and Genuine”

Q) What inspires you?

A) “For me it boils down to helping others and making their lives a little bit easier. I like to give people the attention that they deserve, the same attention that I would appreciate if I was in their shoes.”

Q) Favorite City/Trip

A) “My favorite vacation was the trip we took to Breckenridge, Colorado. Even though I almost died from the altitude sickness I experienced, it was still a fun trip (once I got my oxygen levels back up)! It was absolutely gorgeous, and we even went white water rafting.”