Staff Spotlight: Esther Barnard
Every month we like to introduce one of our staff members so you can get to know them better. This month, our Financial Controller Esther told us about her marathon ambitions, her high-stakes first job in the Australian cruise ship industry (at just 17!), and an incredible memory of becoming an accidental karaoke rockstar in Beijing.
You won the lottery! What’s your first purchase?
I would love to buy a nice vacation home in New Zealand, and then I could give the snowbird idea of going south for winter a whole new meaning. Unfortunately real estate is very expensive in New Zealand, so I would have to win the lottery to ever make this dream come true.
Share one thing you love to do that you always strive to include in your daily routine.
Singing. In my younger years, while living in Australia, I trained to be an opera singer. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to make opera singing a viable career in Australia (unless you want to teach on the side) so I gave it all up in my late twenties and took up business and accounting studies so I could get a real job. Now that we have spent nearly a year living with limitations due to COVID-19, I decided recently to take up singing again because I missed going to the theater and live concerts. Currently I am working on songs from Broadway Musicals. It is a great diversion from my regular schedule.
What are some of your favorite hobbies or activities?
A couple of years prior to COVID-19, I had started running and entered a lot of community fun runs and races, which kept me busy and healthy. I have kept up the fitness but it is not the same. I miss the friendly camaraderie and competition of those races. I am hoping that by July of this year COVID worries will be reduced, and I will be able to run my first half-marathon in San Francisco. I can’t believe I am even considering doing a half-marathon.
Tell us about one of your most memorable experiences.
Prior to moving to the U.SA., I was employed in the travel industry so I have had many opportunities to visit interesting places and meet interesting people from different cultures. Once such trip was to China with nine other travel agents. After having an emergency landing on the way there and having to evacuate the plane in the middle of runway in the middle of the night (with no lights) with no instructions about what was going on in English, I realized I needed to make sure that any future flights I took needed to be on airlines where the staff could speak English. We wasted so much time on that plane before we knew what was happening and how to evacuate.
Anyway, we ended up making it safely to Beijing, and one evening we decided to go to a nightclub. Turns out it was a karaoke nightclub and all the locals were singing in Mandarin. My friends knew I could sing and they wanted me to get up on stage. The trouble was I was not trained as a pop singer or a rock musician. But after a few drinks, I was persuaded to go up and sing a bunch of songs. The longer I stayed singing, the less we had to listen to the Chinese songs, at least I think that was the strategy. So knowing that I wouldn’t be recognized by anyone there, I took it on with gusto and had a bit of fun and acted like I was some rock star. It was all just for a laugh. But when I came off stage, the Chinese people in the nightclub lined up and asked me for my autograph. I was never able to live it down with my friends.
What is your favorite Biggs story?
My first day of employment with Biggs was also the first day of Washington State’s first COVID-19 lockdown. Learning a new job and new accounting systems in this manner was challenging, but everyone at Biggs was very welcoming and helpful. And I am still working remotely nearly a year later. I am looking forward to coming into the office soon and getting to know everyone!
Is your favorite season spring, summer, winter, or fall – and why?
I love spring because of the promise of an occasional nice sunny day, the flowers blooming (I love daffodils and tulips), trees coming out of their winter skeletal stage, the beautiful cherry blossom trees and the transition into summer. I am not a fan of winter so at the end of each year it is always a countdown until spring for me.
What was your first job?
My first job when I was only 17 years old, was working for a company that represented CTC Cruises (a cruise company headquartered in the U.K. that used Russian ships for cruise itineraries out of Sydney, Australia) among other travel products in New Zealand. No one else seemed to want to have anything to do with CTC Cruises as one of their ships had recently sunk in NZ waters. So I got to be the face of CTC Cruises in New Zealand. I took all the reservations by phone (before the age of internet and computing as we know it), and would handle embarkation and disembarkation at the New Zealand ports. I had a lot of responsibility for someone so young, but I really enjoyed it. I ended up being transferred at the ripe old age of 18 to their Sydney office. I had the opportunity to meet a number of Russians onboard the ships. This was all before the Soviet Union broke up and the Berlin wall came down. I was curious about my new friends’ lives back home and peppered them with lots of questions. I was then taken aside and warned not to get too friendly! Apparently, the Australians didn’t want to have to deal with any defections.