Meet Our Team: Nicole Shirk

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Birgo

Tell me a little bit about your background. 

I grew up in Pittsburgh and told my parents when I left for Wake Forest University that I loved them and I would never again live in this city again… But Pittsburgh has a gravitational pull and as an adult I love so much about this town and I am proud to call it my home. My husband and I enjoy raising our two boys here - even though our sports teams are at odds. (I love Pittsburgh sports teams and he cheers for those teams from the other side of the state.)

Which has been more valuable in your career, your education or your experience? 

That’s such a tough question as I have been ridiculously blessed with great teachers and classes from Kindergarten through graduate work. As an experiential learner, though, I have to say that the doing and reflecting have likely proven more valuable.  I’m thankful for the mentors along the way who have nurtured wisdom in me by helping me process my experiences.

What's the best thing about your job?

Easy - the people are Birgo are incredible! Working alongside passionate, hardworking, smart, dedicated and fun people brings joy to each day. 

What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made? 

At 22, I did the unexpected and turned down the more lucrative, seemingly sensible, obviously career-advancing options and chose to join a non-profit organization to work with college students. I spent nearly 18 years with the organization and I was shaped and formed as a person and as a leader beyond what I could have imagined.  

What skills have you found vital to your job?

I’m continually working at being better at it, but listening is utterly important. And not just taking in content, but actively listening and ensuring that we’re achieving shared understanding. 

What advice do you have for someone new to the industry?

Ask questions and listen well. Much of our core learning in life transfers from one context to the next if we take the time to observe, listen and reflect.

Is there a quote that motivates you?

You can do anything, but not everything.” ~David Allen, but I heard it shared in an Elizabeth Dole speech and it has stuck with me since...

Who inspires you?

How do I choose one? I’m surrounded in life by joyful, resilient, self-sacrificing people. I am inspired by each of them as they face challenges with a view to how to gladly serve others and remain hopeful.

Dream job?

Professional platform tennis player. Maybe one day when I get my bionic knees I’ll be able to train toward this dream. :) 

If you were a crayon, what color would you be?

Hmmm. I’ve never aspired to being a crayon, but blue is my favorite color, so let’s go with that. 

What’s your go-to coffee (or tea) order? 

My husband handcrafts a delicious cup of joe for me each morning using the aeropress - he’s the best. 

Teach me something I don’t know in the next minute. 

Platform tennis is NOT ping-pong. It is a doubles sport played outdoors on what looks like a small tennis court surrounded by a cage. The sport has a great deal in common with tennis but you can play shots after they hit the screens. Though this was primarily a winter sport in the Northeast/Midwest, it is growing in popularity and is played by many throughout the year. The court is gritty, so don’t fall down. Here’s a video to watch an above average point. 

Winter or summer? The beach or the mountains?

YES! Beach in summer and mountains in winter. Our family loves to ski and each year we make a trek to the Lowcountry of South Carolina for beach fun.    

What books or articles should I be reading?

Through the craziness of the past year, I’ve appreciated “The Flip Side” morning report emails that select a current news headline and present views from the right and the left, and Libertarians, too.  

What does a typical weekend look like in your household? 

I’m not sure what “typical” means anymore. We’re trying NOT to return to the craziness of pre-pandemic life, but an ideal weekend involves some combination of time with friends outside (probably playing a racquet sport or hiking), family meal with my parents and siblings’ families, church, yummy food and drink, and laughter as a family.  

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