BABE #134: SARAH GERRITY,
Art Director @ CAVA
With a heart for travel, creativity and good eats, Sarah is a woman after our own heart. She received a glowing nomination by one of the co-workers she supervises, which we think is pretty dang cool and really speaks to who she is as both a boss and a person. She's the Art Director at CAVA, a D.C.-based (but always expanding) restaurant, where she handles all-things creative development (an incredibly important aspect of the restaurant experience that's sometimes overlooked.) Thanks for chatting with us, Sarah! You are certainly a babe.
Hometown: Woodland Hills, CA
Current city: Washington, DC
Alma mater: UCLA
Degree: B.A., International Development Studies; Minor in Arabic & Islamic Studies
Very first job: Retail at a sporting goods store
Job title(s)/Company: Art Director @ CAVA
Babe you admire and why?
Chrissy Teigen. Her passion for food, sense of humor, and no-apologies attitude give me life, every damn day.
How do you spend your free time?
Traveling. My company has a magical unlimited vacation policy, so if I can find the time to get out of town, the flights are booked!
Go-to coffee order?
My absolute favorite weekend activities are sleeping in and making Chemex coffee at home—I always pick up a bag of coffee from my travels. At the moment, I’m juuuust about to finish a bag of beans from Stockfleth’s, my favorite coffee shop in Oslo.
Go-to adult beverage?
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
Norway. I’ve visited four times, and I’m smitten with the the outdoorsy culture, snowy winters, and pristine fjord views. Moving there and living along the edge of a fjord is a serious life goal of mine. (Free healthcare, education, and paid parental leave are pretty enticing, too!)
Beach or mountains?
Both, preferably in the same place.
Tell us about your hustle.
As the Art Director at CAVA, the biggest and most fulfilling part of my role is managing our incredibly talented team of designers. (Seriously—I’m beyond obsessed with every single one of them.) Overall, my job is to make everything at CAVA look good. Whether that’s helping design the signage you see in every restaurant, photographing the food you see on Instagram, or creating the labels on the containers of the CAVA dips and spreads you see at Whole Foods, I’m responsible for making sure anything and everything associated with the CAVA brand is a beautiful, badass piece of artwork. There’s a phrase I snagged (from Pinterest, of course) that I love bringing into my work at CAVA: Hustle and heart will set you apart. We have it on an annual calendar design we created. It hits a special note for me, reminding me that our best work comes from a mix of both passion and persistence.
What does your typical workday look like?
One thing I love about working at CAVA is that there isn’t really a “typical” day at work—every day is entirely different. Sometimes, I’ll be in the office, helping our designers create new features for the CAVA app. Other days, I’ll be waking up at sunrise to follow our lentil farmer around his fields in central Montana.
When/how did you first get involved with CAVA?
I started working with CAVA as a freelance photographer back in 2014, and officially joined the team in early 2015. Back then, I was the 12th full-time headquarters employee. It’s been amazing to be part of CAVA’s growth over the past couple of years. When I first started, it was just a handful of coworkers and me, building desks in an empty office. Now, we have 40 restaurants and more than 1,500 employees across the whole company. It’s incredible to be a part of that.
Have you always had a passion for the arts? Did you always know you’d build your career around it?
Yes, actually! I first got started in design as editor of my high school newspaper, and, initially, I wanted to go to art school. My parents both work in finance, and the unanimous response to my art school aspirations was: “Are you kidding? Choose something else.” So, after a few quarters in undergrad, I focused on development economics and Arabic language, with the intention of working in the intelligence community. I fell in love with Washington, D.C. in a weekend, when the Department of Defense sent me out for some language exams. I decided to ditch Los Angeles for D.C., all on a gut feeling. I started a food blog when I first moved out here, which was my creative side project—a place for me to write, explore photography, and learn how to build something digital. Eventually, the blog helped me meet other people in D.C. and pick up freelance projects in both design and photography. When I first started the blog, I’d host dinner parties with my friends and wistfully fantasize about how cool it would be if I could make a living off of cooking and photographing food. Back then, I had no idea what a huge role my side hustle would play in my life.
What would you say is your biggest career milestone and why?
My first full-time job as a designer was for the Department of Energy. It was so much more fulfilling than I thought it would be when I first accepted the position. Having just switched careers, I hadn’t quite built up much confidence as a designer. The first project I worked on was an infographic about wind energy in America. Within my first month on the job, the White House ended up promoting the infographic with one of President Obama’s main energy initiatives, so it was posted on almost every news network—and it even got a retweet from the @BarackObama account! Needless to say, that felt like a pretty cool jump start to my career as a designer.
What traits do you consider vital to leadership roles in any industry?
To me, being a leader is all about how much you care about the people working with you and how you can help them grow into their own careers. When I was a kid, my dad would take me to his office every now and then. Once, I made fun of how old his computer was and asked him why he had such an outdated computer. His response was that he had 50 people working for him, and until every one of those 50 people got a new computer, he’d be perfectly content with his clunky one. That’s a memory that I’ve kept close as I’ve gotten older. That’s the type of leader I aspire to be.
How has your gender or ethnicity has affected your professional experience?
Since I was pretty young, I’ve had parents, mentors and friends driving me towards success, regardless of my gender. But, being women, we’ve all been conditioned to accept that women have to work a little bit harder and a little bit longer to prove themselves. I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by women who never hesitate to celebrate success, both personal and professional. My closest friends happen to be the most career-driven, compassionate, wildly intelligent and fun women I know. Having this core support system has transformed even the most difficult of days into collaborative, problem-solving calls to action. We all work in completely different industries—food, politics, education, the environment, etc.—and we all want the women who join our workforces to have the space and support to make this world a better place for everyone.
What is the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
I’m not sure what it’s like in other workplaces, but every creative team I’ve worked on has been predominantly female. It makes me feel so honored to be surrounded by so many inspiring, brilliant women.
What are some common misconceptions about your job?
Random people always ask me if the food I photograph is edible. I mean—really? Is fake food still a thing?
Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
Katie Quinn Davies: Her food photography is just incredible. Every time I see a photo series from her, I want to just delve my hands right into the images and feel the flour on my hands or hear the laughter from a party. Kelsey Finn: Her whimsical underwater photography makes me want to drop everything and move to Hawaii to just partner up with some bikini brands and climb every Hawaiian mountain. Chelsea Yamase: Another Hawaii-based photographer, but she has a taste for adventure that almost feels rare coming from a woman. I love the joy and appreciation for beauty that comes from her Instagram stories!
What advice would you give to a babe trying to break into your industry?
Make friends, and don’t hesitate to reach out to someone who has your dream job. She probably did the same thing when she first started!
What are your goals for the future?
I really do miss having time for passion projects like blogging. I’m not sure I’ll ever be comfortable enough with a full-time freelance life, but who knows. I’d love to start partnering with brands and travel publications to get back into writing more, and focusing a little more on travel photography.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Three things: 1. Work hard and strive to be the best person in whatever business you pursue. 2. Be yourself, and never, ever apologize for that. 3. Surround yourself with genuine people whom you admire. They’ll hold you up when things get tough.