Now this is a story all about how my life got flip-turned upside down...

I'd like to take a minute, just sit right there. And I'll tell you how I became the founder of Scottie Public Affairs. 

If you are from Pittsburgh, you're always from Pittsburgh. Even if you move away for college, or build your professional career in other cities, whenever someone asks you "Where are you from?" (meaning, "where do you live?") you will forever answer "Pittsburgh!"

At least that was my truth, and that is why I came home. 

Backing up: In my 20's, I loved working on campaigns. I was an adrenaline junkie. I moved around, slept on air mattresses, went without health insurance for longer than I'd admit to my parents... I had a great time. Campaigns are wonderful for meeting passionate and talented people, and accruing a lot of experience and responsibility quickly. I worked in New York, and then Washington, D.C. and I had no regrets about campaign hopping. But after riding the roller coaster for several cycles and watching my candidates and bosses win, lose, drop out and resign, it was time to settle down.

I joined an award-winning political and communications consulting firm, SKDKnickerbocker. SKDK is well-known in NY and DC as a top-notch firm that works for Democratic candidates and for causes I care about, like marriage equality. When I started back in 2011, SKDK was expanding its public affairs practice, which meant working with clients outside of elections and campaigns. I was hired on the public affairs team to consult for advocacy groups, corporate clients, high-profile individuals, though I still dabbled in campaigns. The people I worked with came from similar political backgrounds, so I felt like I was with my tribe. 

After four years at SKDK, I wasn't tired of it at all. But I knew that my forever home was going to be Pittsburgh. After many stories about Washington like: Can you afford to live here?, and The millennial boom is over in D.C. and Literally just give up and move home (I only slightly exaggerated the last headline), I decided to submit to the magnetic draw of the three rivers. Meanwhile, stories about Pittsburgh are Most livable city, and The Comeback and a Brooklyn blog posed the question Should we all just move to Pittsburgh? (yes).

I had so much conviction about my decision, but some moments of, "Am I really doing this?" still crept in. I did quit a job that I actually liked and left co-workers I really cared about. I also lost the security and benefits of working for someone else. That is anxiety-inducing stuff. But I still do the work I love, and now I do it in the city I love, so I have no doubt that this was the right move.

So that is the story about how I became the founder of Scottie Public Affairs. I work with a great group of talented freelancers, my clients are sticking with me. It's working out!

One more note - I also wanted to share my story because I hear from a lot of young professionals and college students asking how they can become a political or communications consultant. It might seem mysterious if you're trying to break in, but it is actually very simple: find a candidate who needs staff, volunteer yourself, move anywhere, accept modest pay, have low expectations for living conditions but high tolerance for working long hours.

Rinse and repeat for a few election cycles (it is not one and done). And if you're good at it, you can get better pay and be pickier about the jobs you take. After you have a reasonable amount of experience to draw from, you can be a consultant instead of a nomadic campaign staffer. And if you're really lucky, you'll get to move to Pittsburgh. 

Abigail Gardner

Scottie Public Affairs