The Leader assistant podcast sarah abbott

Sarah Abbott is executive assistant to the CEO, CFO, and GC at Utz Brands.

In this episode of The Leader Assistant Podcast with Jeremy Burrows, Sarah talks about the challenges and rewards of being an EA, learning to adapt, and the importance of having fun with colleagues to cultivate a thriving culture.

Sarah Abbott and Jeremy Burrows Screenshot Pic Leader Assistant Podcast


Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.
— Jack Welch


Sarah Abbott Leader Assistant Podcast UTZ Brands CEO


Sarah Abbott is currently the executive assistant for the CEO, CFO, and GC at Utz Brands. She’s the first individual to fill this position within the growing company, under leadership of a new CEO.

Previously, Sarah supported the CEO of Keystone Homes, and Founder of Hope International. She has over a decade of administrative experience and lots of customer service stories!

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To explore corporate food solutions or place a catering order, visit


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Sarah Abbott 0:00
Hi I’m Sarah Abbott. today’s leadership quote comes from Jack Welch. Before you are a leader success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader success is all about growing others

Podcast Intro 0:18
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident game changing leader assistants

Jeremy Burrows 0:33
are you tasked with ordering food for your office? Let me tell you about ezCater with over 100,000 restaurants to choose from nationwide and a 24/7 customer support. EzCater helps assistants like you and me succeed at work and makes our lives easier. Visit to find out more. Hey friends, welcome to The Leader Assistant Podcast. It’s episode 234. And this is Jeremy Burrows your host and you can check out the show notes for this episode at and today I’m speaking with Sarah Abbott. Sarah is the executive assistant to the CEO CFO and General Counsel at Utz brands. Is that right? Sir?

Sarah Abbott 1:27
That is correct. Yes.

Jeremy Burrows 1:28
Awesome. Welcome to the show. What part of the world are you in?

Sarah Abbott 1:33
So thank you. I’m very excited to be here. I am actually in Pennsylvania, New York to be specific.

Jeremy Burrows 1:41
Great. And are you from that area?

Sarah Abbott 1:43
I’m from Baltimore. So fairly regionally.

Jeremy Burrows 1:46
Yes. Nice. Tell us a little bit about yourself, personally. Do you have hobbies? Or is there a good book or Netflix show? You’ve been watching recently?

Sarah Abbott 2:01
Yeah. So personally, I’m a mom of three boys. I have a 1513 and a five year old. So these are always busy and fun. Lots of sports activities. I don’t have a lot of time to do any, you know, super engaging hobbies just because I’m mostly engaged in whatever the boys are doing. I enjoy a lot of food network stuff. I’m a huge Food Network nerd. So I enjoy sitting down at the end of the day just to kind of watch whatever fun competition shows going on there.

Jeremy Burrows 2:39
Nice. What’s your favorite genre food?

Sarah Abbott 2:43
Um, I love Mexican food. I’m I’m a huge sucker for Mexican food.

Jeremy Burrows 2:50
Okay, and What sports do your boys play? I have two boys myself. So we’re in baseball and soccer.

Sarah Abbott 2:56
Oh, fine. Okay. Um, yeah, so my oldest is into football and disc golf more recently. My middle son was was heavy into competitive baseball, but we’re kind of getting out of that he’s actually taken an interest in horseback riding, which I have a big background, actually Middle School for equestrian business. So I’m really thrilled that one of them is taking interest in one of my old hobbies. And the youngest is five. So he’s just kind of exploring, but right now he’s into soccer. And we were doing baseball. But the attention span there is not quite there. So soccer. Yeah, yeah. As I’m sure you get.

Jeremy Burrows 3:35
Yeah, that’s great. The equestrian thing. That’s pretty interesting. So what why did you get into that?

Sarah Abbott 3:44
Um, it was just kind of a love that I had. Growing up in Baltimore, we were kind of on the suburbs of Baltimore. So not not really firm territory. But there was a local firm that did a program for special questions. So I actually took a interest in volunteering with that. And really just kind of from there fell in love with horses and everything about it, helping people which kind of escalates to where I am today with helping people but yeah, just gonna follow that path through college. And that’s taken me to where I am today.

Jeremy Burrows 4:21
Love it. Well, let’s talk a little bit about your post college professional career and what how did you end up in the assistant role? And maybe even Why did you did you plan on it? Was it just kind of happen? What was the whole process and story there?

Sarah Abbott 4:39
Yeah, so interestingly enough, I don’t know if this is a common analogy with with people but when I was in college, I was a waitress. And I actually got a job right. I actually had a job secured before I left college because I had served a general manager with a bank and he basically ran on the spot was like, Hey, call me when you get out of school because I’d love to have you be a part of our banking system. So I actually took that job moved around quite a bit. But ironically, when we came back to Pennsylvania, same thing happened just kind of as I was a little bit older, I was about 25. And just on a whim was waitressing, and a guy locally, it was like, hey, you know, I’d love to have you, you have a great personality, I think you would be a great fit for our company. So I actually that’s where I kind of worked in retention for as long as I did, I worked in customer retention for a very long time, which is where I got a lot of my administrative, but also people experience. From there, I actually moved into the health care system, working as a scheduler, and have just kind of progressed from there. I’ve, I’ve always kind of worked with the general public, but have kind of moved out of that into supporting, you know, more specific group of people. So I actually worked at a cancer center here in Pennsylvania, and I supported, I want to say like 30, of the oncologists and surgeons there, which was super rewarding, I actually really love that job. They are fabulous people to work for. And it but from there, you know, I always have wanted to progress and grow my career as much as I possibly could. So I really wanted to pursue the executive assistant role rather than just being you know, the the general administrative assistant for everybody, I kind of wanted to take those skills and focus it in and hone in on supporting, you know, one or a small group of higher level executives, just to have that experience, grow my knowledge, grow my skill set. So yeah, I actually left the healthcare field to go work for a CEO with a more local company, and then had this opportunity to move shift to work with at quality foods, US brands, they actually kind of had a unique opportunity there, because they’ve never had a true executive assistant. The family decided to have this CEO come in back in December of 2022. And he decided to hire an executive assistant to support him and the CFO and the General Counsel. So here I am, filling that role for them. So I’m, I’m thrilled.

Jeremy Burrows 7:43
What’s, what’s one of the greatest challenges you’ve had in your role in your assistant roles over the years?

Sarah Abbott 7:55
Um, I would say just, when, and I’m sure lots of other people feel this that have been in assistant roles. But you know, when you feel like you have planned and been proactive about every possible situation that could have possibly come up for your executive, and then they reach out to you and you realize, oh, I you know, I, I didn’t plan for that. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad feeling. But it’s, it’s just, it’s a learning experience, as I’m sure you and a lot of others understand. So I would say that’s one of the greatest challenges, but also best learning opportunities I’ve taken from being in this role. Is it too much as you think you have planned, there’s always potentially going to be something that comes up.

Jeremy Burrows 8:44
Yeah, it’s like you always have to be ready to pivot and be ready to adapt. And what’s one thing that’s helped you and your career, learn to adapt and learn to be flexible?

Sarah Abbott 8:59
Um, I would just say if you can own your mistakes, learn from your mistakes and grow from your mistakes. That’s one of the best things that you can do throughout your career. I’ve always taken notes, obviously, anytime something comes up and made sure that I don’t repeat those mistakes. I don’t Yeah. I I guess that that would be my, my biggest takeaway. Yeah.

Jeremy Burrows 9:29
Yeah. I was like to say, you know, in the stakes in the world of mistakes, it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s not okay to make the same mistake over and over and over again. So well said. Well, tell us a little bit about so the your current role supporting the CEO CFO and General Counsel, you use you mentioned it was kind of a newer thing it did the CEO have experience working with an assistant before

Sarah Abbott 10:00
He did. Yes, he’s actually pretty much always had an assistant. And ironically, he allowed me the opportunity to interview his, one of his longest standing assistants before I took the job.

Jeremy Burrows 10:13
Hey, so you got all the like, inside scoop all the dirt and everything on? Nice, nice. Yeah, good deal. What what’s been maybe? Or what would be a tip you would have for those listening? Who are thrown into this role that, like you said the organization wasn’t hadn’t done before? Or maybe then working with a team that hasn’t hasn’t worked with an assistant before? What’s something that you would encourage those listening to, you know, maybe a practical tip on? Hey, if you’re jumping into a situation where people just aren’t used to the is the EA role? How do you help people get used to it? And how do you show that like, Hey, I’m here to support you and help you?

Sarah Abbott 11:03
Yeah, that’s a great question. Because, ironically, the CFO and the general counsel have never had an assistant before. So one of the first things that I did, my first week, there was I made sure to meet with everyone, obviously, but just kind of saying, you know, Hey, these are my skill sets, this is what I would like to help you do. But let me know what you need to make your life easier. That’s what I’m here for. And I know, there’s probably a lot of things you’re doing now that you’re just accustomed to doing. But I can take a lot of things off of your plate, so that you can truly focus on the more important things and aspects of your job that would help the CEO. And I want to take those off your plate, even if just just something as simple as you know, reorganizing your contacts or reorganizing your calendar, or just making sure that you know, I’m taking care of your expenses have seemed like really simple things. But to someone who hasn’t had an assistant, they’re they’re carving out time from their schedule to manage those tasks, when they should be obviously focusing on way more important things. So it was really interesting, because in the half hour sessions I had with the CFO and General Counsel, they came up with a couple of different projects, you know, just things will be really helpful to them, that they just don’t have the time to manage. And then ironically, they weren’t just calendar management. They were things like meeting with investors, and you know, kind of creating Facebook pages for them. But when you offer the floor to those people and just say, hey, what would be the most helpful to you that I could take off of your plate that would give you that time back? generally don’t have a problem coming up with those tasks? They just start something they think about it? Yes.

Jeremy Burrows 12:49
Yeah. And I like how you said you, you had ideas of what, you know, throughout your experience professionally, you had ideas of what you could do to help them. And so it wasn’t like you were coming to them with a question that you didn’t have an answer to. But you gave them the opportunity to present Hey, this is where I could use help. And that’s, that’s a great way to dig into that new, new partnership. So why don’t you share your favorite absolute number one favorite thing, or most rewarding thing about being an assistant,

Sarah Abbott 13:27
I love helping people, obviously, you know, it’s kind of where I started between helping kids learn to ride and developing their skills through just even just being a waitress. I love working with a team cohesively to accomplish a goal, whether that’s hey, I want to make sure that you get to Europe smoothly or, Hey, you know, how can I? What can I do to make your life easier? Here’s one of the things I enjoy the most because I feel like it’s one of my strongest skills besides the organization and the detail. I that is one thing I love and when I just get a very strong sense of accomplishment and fulfillment when I’m able to help people do what they need to do and it just sounds so simple, but it’s it’s not as most people probably recognize that are listening to this.

Jeremy Burrows 14:25
Yeah. As that love and and passion for helping people has that affected your own ability to help yourself if you will, and take care of yourself. Like I know I’ve experienced that in my life where I love helping people and helping other people but sometimes I just forget about oh, I got to actually take care of myself too.

Sarah Abbott 14:52
Absolutely. Um, I think it’s a really good point to bring up because it seems like those who put It make it a priority to prioritize other people tend to let themselves fall to the wayside. So, yes, I mean, to be very honest, when I’m working nine to 10 hours a day trying to help others, and then I’m coming home and helping my family. Yes, it can be a challenge for sure.

Jeremy Burrows 15:24
Yeah. What’s one tip, you would have to those listening saying, Oh, yes, I’m working 10 hours, I’m raising a family. I need I need a break. What’s What’s one thing that you’ve done to try to maintain your sanity?

Sarah Abbott 15:40
I think it’s really important to just make sure you find time, it sounds so obvious, but just find time for yourself, whether it’s making time, like my husband, and I recently have tried to make it a point to go out to dinner, even if it’s just once a month, just to get out of the house, spend that time together, reconnect, kind of bring it back to the basics. You know, even just for myself, if I can have an hour to take a bubble bath, you know, it’s just something one of those things, you just have to carve out maybe an hour or two for yourself just to kind of regroup. So that it’s it’s not just all about everybody else all the time.

Jeremy Burrows 16:24
Yeah. Good tips. So okay. You definitely most most people don’t volunteer this, but when I asked for topics of what they’d like to discuss on the show, you know, they’ll share, you know, different things, and you shared a few, but one of them that I thought was awesome was funniest slash best stories. And so I was like, alright, well, she’s gonna mention that she wants to talk about funny stories. And you’ve got to have one or two stories ready to go that you think are, you know, in your time as an EA that are funny. So I’d love to love to hear no pressure, though, right?

Sarah Abbott 17:01
No pressure? Yeah, I think the funniest, I’m gonna call it an experience, because it’s not necessarily totally related to being an EA, but it kind of is. The one place I work, which I won’t mention where it was, but we routinely had what we refer to as office Olympics. So our executive director would group a couple of us who worked in the executive office and do anything from like, he used to bring rubber chicken slingshots to the office, I have no idea to this day where he ever got them from. And he wouldn’t ever tell me. But he used to bring these rubber chicken slingshots, they would just stick on your finger, and you fling it as far as it’ll go. But we would just randomly break in the middle of the day to have like rubber chicken shooting contests and office chair races. To this day, I am still the champion of the how far can you fling the reindeer knows, I don’t think anyone has beaten my, my, my distance on that, but it’s just things like that, you know, it seems silly. But environments like that really bring a sense of belonging. And it kind of just breaks the ice from the daily monotony of the business. But it was just, it’s just one of those things I don’t forget, because it always felt special. And it was always fun. And when you’re in these roles, everything can really get to a grind that it’s hard to break free farm and just those simple 10 minute things just made my day.

Jeremy Burrows 19:00
Very So did anybody get their eye poked from one of those chicken things? Or did you knock over a monitor or break somebody’s laptop screen? Anything like that?

Sarah Abbott 19:12
No, they were little chickens. Okay. It would have been funny though, if they were the big rubber chickens.

Jeremy Burrows 19:20
I remember one of my co workers one time was just kind of had a lanyard with their keys on it. And they were just kind of like, you know, spinning around the keys and then it like slipped in, hit the monitor and just crack. You know, all these cracks came from the center, you know, and you’re like, Well, I guess that’s why you don’t want to, you know, swing your keys around computer devices.

Sarah Abbott 19:44
So how about you do you have a funny story?

Jeremy Burrows 19:47
Oh, man, that’s a good good one. Make it putting the pressure on me now. I see how it is. You know, we had we had lots of there’s been lots of random little things. It’s like that if it’s happened in the offices, different places I’ve worked. You know, we used to do kind of company off sites at my last organization where we would we do current at my current company too, but where we would do wiffle ball tournament, kind of pretty intense. We had some intense wiffle ball players. And so I just remember as kind of like the highlight of my year because I grew up playing wiffle ball, and I’m a pretty good pitcher and hitter of wiffle ball, if I do say so myself, and I remember I was we were at the lake, and we were all hanging out. And I was, I was, I got the short, drew the short straw and had to drive one of the boats all day, because we had like different boats, and we take our team members on, stuck on the boat all day, well, I finally get off the boat and they’re playing wiffle ball. So I hop in and join one of the teams. And I like hit a home run. And then I like struck a few guys out. And I just remember like that was that was a blast. But one thing was the jet skis, we had the jet skis too. And I remember we just there was every year, it seemed like somebody would flip a jetski upside down or fall off one or jump over one and, you know, get vertigo from getting the water in there years or whatever. And so anyway, yeah, oh, all kinds of shenanigans on company offsets.

Sarah Abbott 21:31
Sounds like a good time. Yeah.

Jeremy Burrows 21:33
Yeah. Well, Sara, thank you so much for being on the show. What what’s maybe your version of the answer to the question? What makes an assistant whether you’re an executive assistant, administrative assistant, executive, business partner, office manager, slash assistant, whatever your title is, what makes an assistant a leader?

Sarah Abbott 21:59
That is a really good question. I think being able to manage situations is, is probably one of the top things, and being a leader seems like a very open question. But I would just say, if you can learn how to manage somebody’s time, and do it effectively, but also be capable of like, for instance, where I am now, the leadership team really hasn’t had an executive assistant. So a lot of what I’m doing is trying to rein in projects that they want to have accomplished. So I’m trying to, for lack of a better term, manage the time for the whole leadership team. And that can take a lot, as I’m sure you’re well aware, but trying to, for lack of a better term, teach people how to manage their time so that we can all work towards a goal. And accomplish that goal, I would say is one of the biggest challenges I’m currently facing. But it also puts me in what I feel like is a leadership leadership position, because you’re basically saying, you know, hey, we need to accomplish this goal. Here’s the foundation that I’ve said, Can we do XYZ to get it accomplished in this way, by this time, I think that’s probably the best example I have. But, you know, just being there for other people supporting other people, whether it’s your leaders, whether it’s co workers, other administrative assistants, other EAS, I feel like that’s a really important aspect as well. You need to show that you’re there to support and help. And I think that’s an important aspect of being a leader as well.

Jeremy Burrows 23:48
Love it. Great way to end the episode. Sarah, thank you so much for your story and your insights, is there somewhere that people can reach out and say hi, if they want to?

Sarah Abbott 23:58
Yeah, I’m on LinkedIn. I think my link is in in the in the podcast, so yeah. So yeah, that’s a perfect place to reach me.

Jeremy Burrows 24:10
Awesome. And I’ll put the And people can reach out and say hi, I appreciate it. Sarah, thank you so much. And I you know, I actually had one last question. Are you a fan or were you a fan of its brand food products before you started working? And did you become one after you started working there? Or

Sarah Abbott 24:35
I am a huge foodie. So I have always loved us products. And one of my this is gonna sound weird, but one of my fondest memories as a kid is my parents always had this old school us tin on our calendar, and it was always full of, you know, the junk food that we weren’t supposed to have. But it’s one of my fondest memories and I It’s still there. But it’s just this super old is probably an antique by now, which is large 10 of us. And it was just full of junk foods. So yeah, and I continue to be an outspan because we continue to grow. The new CEO has a lot of aspirations to take as far as we can go. And we’re taking over a bunch of different brands that are nationally recognized. So yeah, huge. Yeah.

Jeremy Burrows 25:25
That’s great. Yeah. Who would have thought you’ve been working, supporting the CEO, as you’re getting junk food out of that? That’s king.

Sarah Abbott 25:33

Jeremy Burrows 25:34
Crazy how the world works will best of luck to you and your team that you work with and your career and your your family and definitely, again, appreciate you being on the show and look forward to staying in touch.

Sarah Abbott 25:49
Yeah, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

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