With spotlights on employees from the design (Luke W.), operations (Sue) and web (Keyon) departments in the books, it was time to explore a department that, at times, goes unrecognized. A department tucked away from the top floor, seen only when necessary—and that’s exactly how she prefers it. This past week, I sat down with none other than Mrs. Veronica Salsbery, our Controller here at Willow.

Walking down the steps to her office on the first floor, I remember hearing music. Not blaring mind you—we do have some standards—but audible enough to notice. When I reached the bottom of the stairs, I immediately recognized the classic tune, “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith. A great thing about Veronica’s office, other than the front row seat to people watch, is Q95 is always on. She may deny it, but I know she rocks out down there.

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Veronica has been with Willow for two years. She has over 35 years of experience in the financial sector, with nearly all of her knowledge and skillset being self-taught—which made me wonder how she got into finance.

“Growing up I didn’t enjoy school, except when it came to the introductory business classes. When I graduated, I went to work for a close family friend who was the controller at a paper company—I’d end up working there for 20 years. All my finance knowledge is self-taught and much of it I have him to thank for—he was a real mentor of mine. But, when I started working for him, I knew nothing about finance or controlling, only how to work a ten-key.”

I know what you’re thinking: what in the world is a ten-key? Don’t feel bad millennials, I didn’t know either. A ten-key is another term for a calculator. And of course Veronica wasn’t shy to repeatedly ridicule me about it throughout our interview. As a fellow autodidact, my narrow calculator knowledge notwithstanding, I was curious how Veronica teaches herself something new.

“I work backwards,” she said. “I figure out the process—kind of like taking something apart and putting it back together. The basic accounting mechanics are essentially the same, but data entry methods and systems can vary. But if I don’t know something, I’m not afraid to ask.”

Something that may take people, myself included, time to uncover about Veronica is her sense of humor.

“I like to make people laugh—although, my dry sense of humor isn’t always appreciated.”

A perfect example that had me in tears earlier in the week, was her response to a coworker when asked about a Willow social function. The Willow social committee had planned a “brown-bag-it” social lunch for everyone in the office on an upcoming Friday. Veronica was asked if she was attending, to which she replied, “I don’t even own a brown bag,” and walked away. I must have laughed for five minutes straight.

“Seriously, I don’t own one,” she smiled, “I don’t know, I guess I’m kind of a loner. I keep to myself.”

When Veronica is not at work, she is spending quality time with her family, tending to her garden, or cooking.

“Family is very important to me—I garden sometimes, sure, but my two favorite things are slumber parties with my granddaughters and cooking for the family.”

How Veronica came to work at Willow is essentially an accident. A long story short, Willow found her and brought her in for an interview—which she wasn’t too keen on.

“I hate interviews, I’ve never been good at them. So when I got one I was freaking out. It was only the second one of my career. But, I went and I’m glad I did. Brad and Kim made me feel comfortable to be myself—they are nice, genuine people who have surrounded themselves with the same.”

She went on to tell me about her first day and immediate impressions, “I thought, oh my god everyone is so young, I could be their mother. But being the oldest person here is also good because I feel like I’m in control,” she chuckled.

I asked her if she felt she was intimidating to newer employees, because I won’t lie—day one on the job, I knew Veronica wasn’t someone whose bad side I wanted to be on.

“Well, yeah—they need to know I don’t take any crap,” she said with a smile. “Once you get to know me though, and my sense of humor, you’ll understand.”

And she’s right. Behind the sharp, dry humor, secluded personality, and intimidating looks she gives, is a hard-working, kind individual.

Per the ritual to end the interview, I asked Veronica what excited her most about the future of Willow.

“I think Willow has made huge steps forward to make training better, everything is running smoother. From conversations with Kim and Sue, I think we are nailing down what is expected. We are heading in a good direction.”

We talked for about an hour, all the time I had scheduled for, and by the end my notes were a jumbled mess. I wanted to get clarification on a few dates and details, but when I looked up, I saw Veronica flashing her classic “get-out-of-my-office-I-have-things-to-do” face. So without a word, I gathered my things and left as The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” rang in the background.

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Written by Joe Golc

“Like the good doctor once said: Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.”