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PYSK: Michelle Schawo

Michelle Schawo, Administrative Services Supervisor, State Farm Mutual Insurance Company

JOB DESCRIPTION: I’m currently responsible for overseeing facility operations for the Columbia Operations Center; this is a new and exciting role I just took over in February. Prior to this I managed our central zone (Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Oklahoma) vehicle fleet and document storage operations.
ORIGINAL HOMETOWN: My family is originally from the central Missouri area. However, I was born at Fort Dix in New Jersey while my Dad was in the Air Force. I came to Columbia in 1975 before living briefly in Tipton and Jefferson City.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in business administration from Columbia College
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: As an employer, State Farm provides great opportunities for community involvement. Early in my career I became involved with Special Olympics and the Show-Me State Games. I also volunteered with the United Way through the Day of Caring. Over the years I have served in a variety of ways at the Chamber, as a Women’s Network Public Relations Committee chair and Chamber Alternate Income Committee chair. I am currently a Chamber of Commerce board member and a Women’s Network steering member. Recently I became a foster parent for Columbia Second Chance, an organization that helps place stray or unwanted animals.
PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND: Before coming to State Farm, I worked at a small real estate appraisal office (Westerfield Appraisals) doing residential appraisals and general office work. I started at State Farm in 1994 as an auto underwriter. In 1999 I moved into a supervisory role in administrative services.
A COLUMBIA BUSINESSPERSON I ADMIRE AND WHY: I admire a lot of people. Through my Chamber opportunities I have met many women I look up to, such as Linda Baumgartner and Karen Taylor. I admire their high levels of community involvement and the depth of passion they have for making Columbia a great place to live. I also admire Sharon Lynch, who is a longtime family friend. She is a smart and funny lady. I admire her work ethic and authenticity. My pastor, Pieter Van Waarde, is also someone I admire. He’s real and has the most beautiful speaking gift that relates faith to everyday life.
WHY I’M PASSIONATE ABOUT MY JOB: The work I do is important to our State Farm employees and ultimately to our policyholders. We are a mutual company, so I work for every single policyholder of State Farm. If I don’t do my job well, our employees are not able to perform at their best, and the policyholder or customer isn’t getting the best we have to offer. I would summarize what I do as solving problems and helping people — things I am passionate about.
IF I WEREN’T DOING THIS FOR A LIVING, I WOULD: In my dreams I would be an amazing singer. (Thank you to my church, Woodcrest, for playing the music loud enough so no one can hear me!) If money were no object and I had to actually utilize a talent I do have, I would own a combined florist and bakery. It doesn’t get better than flowers and cake. They both smell so good and would allow me to unleash my creative and artistic side.
BIGGEST CAREER OBSTACLE I’VE OVERCOME AND HOW: For about a three-year period, I worked in a role that required a significant amount of travel outside of Missouri. I was gone on average two weeks of every month. During this time I was a single parent, and it was extremely difficult to balance the demands of family and career. I overcame this through support from family. My parents live in Columbia and were able to step in and provide the stability my daughter needed when I was gone and provide me the peace of mind I needed to focus on my job.
A FAVORITE RECENT PROJECT: I have been involved in a company-wide project that involves the review of my department. The project goal is to improve our services and gain efficiencies. We do this continuously on a local level, but this project is different in that it spans the entire company and allows for the sharing of best practices across geographic boundaries. It’s exciting to me because I am passionate about trying new things that can improve our business.
WHAT PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THIS PROFESSION: If you like the spotlight, administrative services might not be for you. Typically, we are a behind-the-scenes group that loves its role of supporting others. It can be mistaken for being easy when it is actually quite challenging and complicated.
WHAT I DO FOR FUN: I like to work hard and then play hard, so I enjoy a variety of things for fun. I love watching my daughter play sports, especially competitive softball. I love animals, so I enjoy spending time with my pets. I have a decent amateur eye for interior decorating and landscaping. I like to do this at home for fun, but because I’m running out of projects of my own, I have started helping my friends and family to release my inner decorator. I’m also a beginning photographer, so far mostly focused on my daughter’s sports. I took a cake-decorating course last year, so I enjoy doing that for special occasions.
FAMILY: My husband, Kevin Schawo, also works at State Farm. He is an identical twin, which makes for some interesting stories. My daughter, Courtney, is a seventh-grader at Columbia Catholic. Our family also includes my dog, Sophie. We have a cat, Bella, who doesn’t seem to consider herself part of the family.
FAVORITE PLACE IN COLUMBIA: Lot J and Faurot Field on a football Saturday. I love Tiger football and all the tailgating traditions that go along with it. On any given day, I like The District. It offers so much to see and do. I love all the interesting locally owned shops and restaurants.
ACCOMPLISHMENT I’M MOST PROUD OF: Responding to hurricane Gustav in September of 2008. We hit the road as Gustav had yet to reach landfall and were loaded with boots, blankets and food — just in case. Our trip was diverted to Little Rock for two days as we encountered challenges reaching Baton Rouge. We arrived only one day after landfall to a city without power. Our team worked to set up claims offices and secure hotels for our catastrophe personnel. Our initial response involved two weeks of 14-hour days of physical work. It was a challenging experience I will not forget and will be eager to assist with again if needed.
MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THAT I: Have a shameless obsession for reality TV shows. I’m totally amused by the people and all their antics. I just find it hard to believe people will do such ridiculous things and allow it to be shown on television. I find that fascinating.

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