One of the cornerstones of how Zao works is the way we prioritize collaboration. We build long-term partnerships with our clients, rather than acting as one-off vendors. We’re invested in their success, and build technology that lays a foundation for them to meet their business goals.

Since we work so closely with our clients, we thought it important that you know who we are. Here’s the fifth part of a series introducing our team, featuring our project manager, Lizz Ehrenpreis.

Who are you?

I’m a reformed Californian, a writer, unabashed cat lady, hobby amasser, and bull in the china shop of life. Or, as I say on Twitter: I’m actually a lil salty wafer wearing lipstick.

Where do you live?

Portland, Oregon

What do you do at Zao?

I’m the Project Manager and ~content maven~. I help curate, manage, and create content for the site, as well as serve as the intermediary between our team and our clients. I’m also an apprentice with Louder Than Ten, and as a result, improving our processes through more competent project management and team leadership skills.

As a contractor, Lizz practically required us to hire her. Her ability to wrangle our intrepid team into keeping a mostly-consistent writing schedule and delivering top-notch content made a huge impact and we were happy to hear she would be willing to come on board as our project manager and wrangle the rest of our schedule. Even while part-time training through LTT, she has managed to right the Zao project ship, and continues to help us up our game, one project at a time.

-Justin Sternberg, Zao Managing Partner/Back-End Developer

What do you like best about your job?

Project management is one part bossiness, one part communication, one part risk mitigation, and one part problem solving, which are all things that I absolutely love. I love working with our team and aiming to make the their working lives better and easier, and in the process, hopefully improving the work we produce.

How do you take your coffee?

With a touch of non-fat milk.

What are your hobbies?

A better question would be, “What aren’t your hobbies?”

Some of my interests include: painting, cats, playing the ukulele, learning to play the mandolin, writing, reading, experimental cooking (I’m currently on a dehydrator kick, so I have been making batches of beef jerky and dried vegetables) and baking projects, feeding people I love, organizing social events, going to the theatre, film, sudoku, somewhat obsessively absorbing true crime everything, embroidery, kayaking, knitting, photography, and mosaics.

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My mosaic-ed coffee table. Shout out to David Colton for being an amazing creative facilitator & mosaics teacher!

I also collect dresses and have a real passion for costumes–not just for Halloween and costume parties, but I view personal styling as the way I get to costume my life. My best friend and I even run a silly affordable fashion Instagram that we use as an excuse to post cute photos of our outfits (and ourselves).

Volunteering/community engagement is also a major hobby of mine. I’ve been a lifelong volunteer, from facilitating and organizing fundraisers in the early aughts and volunteering at the YMCA, to volunteering (and subsequently working at) a domestic violence shelter, to personal projects. My latest new volunteer project is Trauma Baby, which aims to provide a small bright light in the tunnel of people who are struggling with mental illness, grief, addiction–any kind of heartbreak.

What is the first thing you do in the morning?

Make coffee in the French press, shower, and my morning pages.

I feel like ever since Lizz joined Zao we have improved our workflow, and she manages to keep us all on track and on time with project delivery dates. She’s always looking for better ways to improve Zao, be it team exercises, blog posts, or tools that keep us all focused on our work and goals.

-Mihai Joldis, Zao QA Engineer

What are your StrengthsFinder themes?

  1. Input – 
    People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.
  2. Restorative 
    People who are especially talented in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.
  3. Individualization 
    People who are especially talented in the Individualization theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively.
  4. Learner 
    People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.
  5. Activator 
    People who are especially talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.

Lizz gets things done. She has a way of delivering tough news in a way that makes you feel empowered and hopeful. She champions everyone and keeps us on track. You feel like no obstacle is too great when Lizz is around. She won’t let the important things fall through the cracks.

-Liz Karaffa, Zao Front-End Developer

What is something “insignificant” or silly that you feel passionately about?

This is old-fashioned of me, but I believe firmly that unless you are in the wedding party and it is part of the party’s colors, you should never wear a white, red, or black dress to a wedding.

Why? White is the color for the bride (and even if she’s not wearing white, it’s traditionally the color they wear); red is too eye-catching and draws attention away from the bride (rude! This is not YOUR day! Perhaps a burgundy or maroon would be acceptable, but no fire engine red, ever), and black is what you wear at a funeral (UNBELIEVABLY UNACCEPTABLE FOR A CELEBRATION OF LOVE).

Rude.

Also, I firmly believe that Funny Girl is one of the greatest films of all time and that Barbra Streisand is a genius.

Extremely relatable.

What is one great article or book you’ve read recently?

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, was a gift from a friend, and it is the perfect book. If you have any interest in writing, I cannot recommend it enough.

Some people say “Alcohol is a social lubricant”. I don’t know whether or not that’s true, but if it is, Lizz is our team’s booze of choice. She makes everything run smoother, from our projects to our meetings, from onboarding clients to analyzing our systems and processes. Like any good scout, she leaves everything better than she first found it. She has an incredible way of making every voice feel heard, making every person feel appreciated, and making everyone feel as if they contributed toward our success. She also (allegedly) makes a killer beef jerky.

-Justin Sainton, Zao Founder

What is your favorite podcast or TV show and why?

As far as podcasts go, I love My Favorite Murder, Last Podcast on the Left, Lore, Reply All, Hidden Brain, and NPR Politics.

As for TV shows, I love Mindhunter, Big Mouth, Bojack Horseman, Black Mirror, Futurama, Game of Thrones, Handmaid’s Tale, and FBI Criminal Pursuit.

I love humor (who doesn’t?), I love things that make me think, and I love any kind of story or exploration of the complexity involved in what it means to be a human–both the light and the dark.

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General, Zao Team
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