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Get to Know Your JSAer (And Walking AP Style Guide): Candace Sipos

Dog lover. Grammar stickler. Podcast enthusiast. These are only some of the qualities you’ll find once you get to know Candace Sipos, Account Director at JSA. For us JSAers, Candace is known as being somewhat of a workaholic, your go-to editor, and one who has a natural talent for balancing discipline and implementation with brilliant creativity.

With International Telecoms Week (ITW) 2019 just a few days away, I thought it best you got to know Candace before you meet her in Atlanta on Sunday.

Jackie Riback Levy: So let’s get right to it, tell me about your background and what attracted you to JSA.

Candace Sipos: I was a newspaper reporter for about four years in Virginia and decided to leave that industry but frankly had no idea what I wanted to do next. I moved to Atlanta around this time, and since I had been working in restaurants on the side for years and loved it, I jumped into the high-end culinary world full-time for a couple of years. (I wish everyone would work in food service at some point; waiting tables and working drive-thrus has informed every other job and customer service interaction I’ve had. But I digress!)

I heard about an opening at JSA and decided to give it a shot. Four years later, I’m so glad I did. As a journalist, I worked with a lot of PR professionals and marketers, and I have to say that the preconceptions I had about this field were very far from the truth!

JRL: What is it about our industry that gets you excited?

CS: The fact that it’s so relevant but so often overlooked. People are fascinated by Apple and Facebook – their products, their leaders, their billions – but not as interested in the network infrastructure that supports those companies. Of course, we’re working to change that.

JRL: Well your writing chops can certainly help change the mainstream perspective on our industry, which is a perfect segue into my next question. What is a piece of writing – industry or otherwise – that you are most proud of contributing to?

CS: As an agriculture (and religion) reporter for a local paper, I wrote a series of stories about an unusual weather event called a derecho that ripped through the Shenandoah Valley – and how it affected the farmers in its path. This paper’s coverage area included the top county in the state for agriculture, so it was an important story for the community to understand. Moreover, features focused on everyday people were always my favorite to write, and I felt a responsibility to make sure their stories were told with care. 

JRL: What are some of your biggest pet peeves when it comes to writing?

CS: Bad leads. Writing that’s lengthy and well-crafted but just isn’t saying anything – or loses the reader by trying to show off. (I think this is a holdover from journalism; long, meandering sentences and pretentious language were basically off-limits.) And, always and forever, “utilize.” I was taught a long time ago to avoid that word and it’s stuck with me (though admittedly, I don’t think the preferred alternative, “leverage,” is much better, and you can only use “use” so many times… it’s a personal dilemma.)

JRL: Moving forward, I’ll try to leverage other words in order to downplay my use of the word “utilize.” In all seriousness, though, what does your writing process look like?

CS: I like to write very late or very early; trying to get substantial writing done during the day, with emails and Skypes steadily flowing in, just doesn’t work for me. I get my best writing done when I can stop thinking about all the other things that I need to be doing.

JRL: Back to our industry! You’re attending ITW this year. What are you most looking forward to?

CS: Witnessing the enormity of it. I’ve been supporting clients during ITW for years now and this will be my first time attending, so I’m excited to just take it all in and see so much of an entire industry in one building.

JRL: If you could describe JSA in three words what would they be?

CS: Thoughtful. (About our work, our clients and how we treat each other.) Creative. Forward-thinking.

JRL: At JSA, you are really a rock for me, which is incredible because we live a country apart from each other. From your perspective, what makes for a successful colleague relationship? Candace Sipos

CS: In no particular order: trust, communication, humor, lots of pep talks.

JRL: If you could move your remote office to anywhere in the world for one month, where would it be?

CS: Ooh, great question – probably Italy. I’ve never been and would love nothing more than to devour fresh pasta/bread/cheese, local wine and homemade Italian desserts every night. Plus, I could travel around Europe on the weekends, where I would eat more food in more countries.

JRL: You’ve recently moved from the East Coast (Atlanta) to the West (Las Vegas) – climate aside, what do you love about each city, and what could you live without?

CS: Atlanta – love the restaurant scene, the airport and my friends there. Strongly dislike the traffic and bugs. Las Vegas – love the low maintenance yards, lack of bugs, and location as a new home base for travel (a born-and-bred East Coaster, I hadn’t visited California, Colorado or much else out West before moving here). I wasn’t a huge fan of the architecture out here at first, but it’s grown on me. And it must be said: 115 degrees is scorching, humidity or not.

JRL: What is a goal you’ve set for yourself recently? Or a bucket item you wish to achieve?

CS: In the short term, my biggest current goal is to be more active (outside of my mind), which is tough when you love your work and your work is online. Entire 6-hour chunks of my days seem to go by in the blink of an eye – and there I am, still sitting in the same spot. I’m trying to remember that I actually produce better work and have a sharper mind when I’m staying healthy and refreshed – so it’s important to get up and do anything, even if it’s just a 10-minute walk.  

As for a bucket list item, I’ll just say that my biggest dream as a kid was to have 23 dogs. (Specific, I know.) I’ve got two; 21 to go.

JRL: Speaking of dogs, what’s the most surprising thing about being a pet owner?

CS: It’s the fact that, despite all the sleepless nights (for puppies anyway), never-ending costs (I’m looking at you, boarding fees), carpet stains and general frustrations, not having a dog just doesn’t feel like an option for me. Which is to say, it’s surprising how much dogs really live up to the hype.  

One of my favorite things about working from home is that I get to hang out with my dogs all day. (Though I try to keep them off conference calls…)

JRL: Okay, let’s get some fun questions in before the Desert Island Round. What TV shows are you currently binge-watching?

CS: I’m always watching several shows at once – I’m obsessed with unusually well-written, well-acted TV. I just binged Fleabag and can’t stop thinking about it, I recently wrapped up Chernobyl and Barry, and I’m currently watching the new seasons of Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies. And I can binge Law & Order any day of the week.

JRL: What is your favorite show of all time?

CS: Parenthood. But also, Homeland, The Good Wife, The Killing, Breaking Bad, Casual, Bloodline, Making a Murderer, Mad Men…

Desert Island Round:

    1. Top three movies you can watch over-and-over again; You’ve Got Mail (Nora Ephron fan here). Good Will Hunting (Matt Damon, Robin Williams and Boston accents?! Okay.) And anything involving Julia Roberts – Stepmom, Pretty Woman, August: Osage County. I love the idea of movies and actors that feel like home, even if you’re not sure why.
    2. top three books you can read over-and-over again; Wild by Cheryl Strayed. (And to that point, Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed.) Anything by Augusten Burroughs or David Sedaris. And Freak the Mighty, because it meant a lot to me as a child.
    3. and assuming the island has WiFi, what are the three podcasts you’d subscribe to? The New York Times’ The Daily, to keep up with the world. Armchair Expert for hours and hours of in-depth, quirky interviews. And Serial, The Dropout or something else in that longform, investigative journalism vein.

JRL: Finally, if you could take something of yours from 2019 (whether you bought it this year, or maybe a memento you rediscovered) and put it in a time capsule for your future self to open, what would it be?

CS: Does a puppy count? If yes, I would say both of my dogs when they were about 10 weeks old and sleeping approximately 20 hours a day. “Happiness is a warm puppy,” Charles M. Schulz wrote, and I believe it.

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