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Sarah Gilbert 4 January 2008

Sarah Gilbert

Finance blog editor, writer, photographer, knitter, mama

Once upon a time Sarah Gilbert was an investment banker. She worked for First Union (now Wachovia) and Merrill Lynch doing complicated things with Excel spreadsheets, corporate strategy statements, and binding machines. She still considers herself a world leader in financial models, and collating.

After getting her MBA from Wharton, her life took an oblique turn at the world of the dotcom and she spent several years bouncing happily (and sometimes, rather miserably) from one small, tech startup to the next in various management roles in which she continued to do complicated things with spreadsheets and strategies. At Portland’s JanRain, she decided that starting a blog would be a great way to market a product, so she did. And soon the blog took on a life of its own. Before long she was blogging fulltime, and was hired by AOL’s Weblogs, Inc. unit in early 2006 to run financial blogs. She now manages BloggingStocks, WalletPop, and Luxist, among other things.

It’s not just about work, though, any more. With three young boys (Everett, Truman and Monroe), a husband (who also grew up in Southeast Portland), chickens, and an unkempt 1912 house, Sarah is always launching into some project or another bent on changing the world one blog post, or breakfast, at a time. As co-founder of urbanMamas, her constant campaign is to improve the community among Portland mamas. And, lots of other stuff, too.

What are you up to?

Lately I’ve become struck with the desperate, panicky feeling that our world is crumbling around us. To combat this in whatever way I can, I’ve given up our family car (we bus, bike and walk everywhere), worked on buying less and living more, and focused on a huge project to eat more sustainably. The backyard chickens are a start; I’ve also been attempting to learn to garden and eat more locally. The ‘eat local’ project is my present, daily obsession, and we’re thinking about getting a backyard goat. Did you know that Portland is one of the only cities in the nation (and, I think, the first) that allows homeowners to keep goats in their backyard?

What are you into?

I’m a woman of many passions. I love to photograph, cook, drink coffee, knit, eat, and write. As soon as my babies grow up a little, I plan to spend way more of my time writing, and launch into several book projects that are jumping up and down in the corners of my mind, begging to get out there and mingle with the other books. My oldest son, Everett, is struggling behaviorally in school (he’s in kindergarten), and that’s absorbing a lot of my energy — a difficult but ultimately positive daily struggle. Having children is harder than I thought possible, although it’s rewarding in the most complex and unexpected of ways.

What do you like most about Portland?

It’s not possible to answer this question with ONE thing, but maybe I can use a buzzword. Is it “sustainability”? “Community”? I’m not sure, but I love that I can get up on a Saturday morning, Twitter that I’m going to the farmer’s market, get on the bus in the rain wearing a baby and a handmade market bag, and run into people who know me through blogging, through the pictures I took of their produce, through Twitter, or even from high school; that they can all understand a different part of me and so few of them ever get judgmental about it. I love that I can get butter from the man who churned it and heirloom beets that are more wrinkled than their amazing cultivator. I love that Portland is the place where I can find the best coffee on the planet, and also the best bargains at the Bins. I love that one of the #75 drivers will stop in the middle of 39th if she sees me running out my door with the three boys. I love that I can go to IKEA, the airport, the zoo, and all of our therapists in less than an hour on the bus. I love that my neighbor has a blog.

How did you get your job?

The real answer is, “fate,” or “serendipity,” or “karma.” I started out using blogging as a marketing tool, and happened upon a craiglist ad for parenting writers. I applied, and got the job writing for $3 a post for BloggingBaby in 2004. One thing lead to another, and by late 2005 I was making all my income, writing 300 to 400 posts a month. By that time, AOL had purchased Weblogs, Inc., and I was soon hired to develop a blog about stocks. Along the way, I became an expert in search engine optimization. I love blogging because it takes advantage of all my best, and worst traits, from my knack for writing headlines and taglines to my spreadsheets/strategy predilection to my short attention span and my habit of exposing altogether too much personal information. Despite my obvious and plenty faults, I’m really enjoying my job and I get the feeling my job loves me back.

Where did you grow up?

I’m a rarity here in the Pacific Northwest in that I live only two miles from where I grew up and spent most of my childhood (2414 SE Madison!). My husband, too, grew up in southeast Portland, and we became friends at Cleveland High School (though we didn’t get together for keeps until our 10th high school reunion… awww… ). We were really lucky we bought our house when we did (early 2002) because we could never afford our neighborhood today. I’ve lived all over — Virginia, Phiadelphia, Washington D.C., New York, Charlotte — and while I love all the places I live, Portland is the only one where my heart feels at peace.

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