February 6, 2013

All In A Day’s Work: Shirah Metzigian

All in a Days Work ShirahShirah Metzigian is a dynamo. At just 26, she’s in charge of all aspects of the day to day running of the Center of Theological Inquiry (CTI), the independent research center at 50 Stockton Street led by Dr. William Storrar. Since joining CTI’s small team less than two years ago, Ms. Metzigian has learned to juggle multiple duties. Imbued with a strong work ethic by her parents and a personal drive born of athletic competition, she’s not the least daunted by the responsibility. On the contrary, she thrives on it. Here, Ms. Metzigian talks about her day’s work.

—Linda Arntzenius

At the time I came across the job listing for the Center of Theological Inquiry, I was working in Rouge in Princeton. I was intrigued. When I met Dr. Storrar, it seemed like a really good fit for me: a small team where I would have the chance to do things that would normally be done by several divisions in a corporate environment. My job is very diverse. I never know what’s going to happen.

A lot of people mistakenly believe that CTI is part of the Princeton Theological Seminary. It isn’t. I usually describe CTI as an ecumenical “think tank.” We have scholars here from different faiths, different academic interests, and from all over the world. Currently we have a program, funded by the Templeton Foundation, that is bringing scientists and theologians together. In addition to their own projects, scholars gather to discuss and gain feedback on their research.

The first thing I do each day is check emails and catch up with the director to see what’s on the agenda, which might be anything from processing member billing to checking with vendors on work projects here at Stockton Street or at the Ross Stevenson Circle townhomes that are rented to our members and their families. I might be working on accounts payable, a budget report, website content, or different media about our programs.

The Center has three staff members: myself, the director, and the research director, and all three of us work past six in the evening. Certain times of the year tend to be bottle necks when I could potentially be working well over a 60-hour week. But the work ebbs and flows and it balances out. During the summer, when the townhouses are being prepared for the following academic year, is when I’m least in the office.

Paperless Office

Most of the scholars are here for a year. A large part of my job is making sure that they have what they need for a smooth home life so that they can focus on their work at the Center. I was very busy when Hurricane Sandy hit and we lost all power and heat. Since I’m not a parent, it can be challenging to help parents with children in the school system. It’s a learning process and I try to make the Center the best that it can be.

In July I’ll have been here two years and my position has evolved. The director chose my title as Center Administrator to reflect the mission-control aspect of my job. I’ve met some very interesting people: the broadcaster Krista Tippett, author Marilynne Robinson, and the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Lord Jonathan Sacks, a member of the House of Lords, among them.

Anyone in a professional environment knows that being organized is crucial. We use Mac computers and make full use of iCal and iCloud. The Center’s calendar is on my computer at work and at home as well as on my iPhone and iPad, so no matter where I am I can keep track. Besides Constant Contact and Paperless Post, my save-the-day software is Dropbox. If I didn’t have Dropbox I don’t know what I would do. It’s invaluable for travel arrangements, conferences, and all the flyers and programs those entail.

My boss is phenomenal and there are huge rewards that come from high expectations and a great deal of accountability. Dr. Storrar has a background of international positions at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. I am constantly learning from him. He’s got a great sense of humor too. What can I say? I work in a beautiful office and I love what I do.

Family Values

When people first meet me, they are often surprised that I am so young, especially vendors. I feel that I have a good way of commanding respect without being dictatorial in any way. This definitely comes from my parents and the way they raised myself and my twin brother Ryan. When we wanted cell phones we had to work to pay for them ourselves. We paid for our college educations.

I grew up in Pennington where my mother has her own hair salon and my father is a venture capitalist who develops technology. I went to the Peddie School in Hightstown, a small boarding school with wonderful teachers where I played field hockey, indoor track, and lacrosse.

When I was working my way through college, I did every kind of job that you can imagine, even while playing Division I lacrosse at Rutgers for two years. I was a coach, a flower delivery driver, a waitress. I was the girl who was working every weekend and every summer while my friends were visiting each other, traveling, or doing study abroad. I studied communications and my first job was as a program coordinator for a pharmaceutical company.

My mother and both my grandparents were hairdressers and I’ve always had this dream that at some point I’d either be working with my mother or doing something in the fashion/beauty industry. To be an entrepreneur and start my own business would be my dream job.

I just got engaged to my best friend and partner, Nathaniel Brown, an avid sailor. We look forward immensely to the summer when we go to his family’s house on Lake Clear in the Adirondacks, one of the most serene places you could wish for. We enjoy cooking together and entertaining friends.

Metzigian is Armenian and Shirah is the name of an Armenian princess. As a child I hated it because everyone got it wrong. My parents would tell me that I could always change it but I figured I’d live with it. Now that I’m older I like that it’s different and that people remember me because of it.