Enova Sabbatical Series: Barbara Davidson

by: Barbara Davidson, Senior Copywriter

I recently celebrated my sixth anniversary at Enova, which prompted me to reflect on my exciting journey so far. When I joined Enova as an entry-level digital marketer, we were a start-up just like any other in Chicago: Multiple teams staffed with people of complex and diverse professional backgrounds, spread out over multiple floors, all collaborating and problem-solving our way to a better solution for our customers. We also, of course, had all of the alluring perks that reflected a “work hard, play hard” start-up culture: Massage chairs, kitchen snacks, Cubs outings, summer hour Fridays and more. 

Six years later, our staff has almost doubled, I joined another team and took on new responsibilities as a content strategist, Enova went public and we moved buildings. There have been a variety of changes over the years but the work/life balance-focused culture has remained intact, which is a central reason why I’ve stayed at Enova for so many years (the fun, challenging work I do everyday is another). I’ve witnessed how Enova is focused on our growth as individuals, inside and outside of the office. And while part of that focus is reflected in the perks shared above, there is one perk that I believe outshines any other: our sabbatical program.

A few months back, I had the one-of-a-kind opportunity to take off four sequential weeks of work to do as I pleased. Not time taken from my accrued vacation days and no required email monitoring — just time for me. And when it comes to “me time” I knew there was just one thing I wanted to do: travel!

After college, I worked as an au pair in Munich. The role gave me the chance to explore all over Germany, as well as other countries around Europe. I was in awe that Europeans could travel from country-to-country like we travel state-to-state. I loved how you could experience so many different cultures and learn about various parts of history with a quick train ride here or a cheap flight there. So, when the time came to plan my sabbatical, I knew exactly where I could make the most of my four weeks.

Over the course of 30 days, my boyfriend and I explored nine cities (including our home base of Chicago). We drank Guinness with a view in Dublin before flying to Edinburgh, where we ate haggis in a pub that was older than the United States. We rented a car — where the driver’s side was on the right and we drove on the left-hand side of the road — and white-knuckled our way up to St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf. We caught an early flight to Munich where we celebrated their annual Frühlings fest, wearing traditional dirndls and lederhosen while singing along to a Bavarian band. We stayed up well past our bedtime in Barcelona to match their traditional 9:00 PM dinner hour. In Athens, we watched a movie at an outdoor theater under the stars, nestled in the foothills under the Parthenon. Santorini offered white sand beaches, red sand beaches and volcanic hot springs — each of which we experienced from our beach-hopping yacht. We concluded the European portion of our adventure with a seafood dinner in Mykonos, complete with fresh fish caught that day off the very coast we were sitting next to. 

After a long flight home, we concluded our vacation the best way we knew how: a Friday afternoon ball game in the bleachers at Wrigley Field. We spent the remainder of the weekend recouping and getting ready for a fresh day at the office, recharged and ready for the new challenges ahead. 

The sabbatical program gave us a month to make the sort of memories that last a lifetime. This one-of-kind experience allowed us to step away from the office and reconnect with the world around us — I’m so thankful to Enova for the opportunity. 

The best part of our sabbatical program? It’s not just a one-time deal. I’m only three years away from qualifying for my next one. Stay tuned for my next blog post then!

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