Q & A with Shareholder Employees

A Conversation with Ron Adams, NANA's Lead Shareholder Recruiter

This is part of a series of interviews with our shareholder employees.

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Ron Adams’s job is to find talented, responsible shareholders and place them in jobs or careers. He says, “A career is something you love doing—and for me that’s helping our shareholders find jobs and careers.” (Photo by Brian Adams, a NANA shareholder and Ron’s son.)

 

What is your Iñupiaq name?

Kaukrauk, after Enoch Stalker, my mother’s brother.

What is your position at NANA?

Lead Shareholder Recruiter.

How long have you been with NANA?

15 years.

Have you had other jobs within NANA?

In 1987, I worked for NANA/VECO on the North Slope, recruiting shareholders for trades. The Endicott Island field was under construction. During that time, we hired lots of shareholders. Some are now retired.

What are your main job responsibilities?

As a recruiter, my job is to find talented, responsible shareholders and place them in jobs or careers.

What’s the difference between a job and a career?

A job is a job. It pays the bills. I did that a lot—working in a kitchen and on an airport ramp. It’s important. In my mind, a career is something you love doing. For me, that’s helping our shareholders find jobs—and careers.

Where are you from?

I’m from Kivalina. My parents were Caleb and Ruth Adams.

My dad was a reindeer herder, working with my mother’s brothers. I was born at reindeer camp. I grew up in Kivalina in a sod house. Back then, everyone lived in sod houses. The only buildings made of lumber were the school, the store, and the two churches. At first, our family lived in a sod house that was already built. When I was a little older, maybe six, my dad built a house of driftwood and sod squares, about a foot thick. He cut the sod in a rounded shape for the roof. The first few weeks, the house smelled like fresh earth. In winter, it was warm and easy to heat. The window was high up and made of seal gut. If the front door was blocked by a snow drift, we could climb out. In summer, the house stayed nice and cool.

My dad had eight or more dogs, an entire dog team, which he used for hunting and getting oil pokes and seal meat. He traveled by dog team to Kotzebue, where Hanson’s Store used to accept seal oil in trade for things we needed.

What is your first memory of NANA?

I remember when NANA was being formed. In the 70s, I worked as a cook at the Drift Inn, which was one of our first businesses. (The building now houses NANA’s Kotzebue headquarters).

Where did you study or train?

In Kivalina, grades one through eight were taught in a one-room school house. We didn’t have a high school back then. To continue our studies, my buddy Austin Swan and I were sent to the Wrangell Institute Boarding School, south of Sitka. Native kids were brought there from everywhere in the state: from Barrow to Ketchikan, from Eagle to Saint Paul Island. I made lifelong friends. I finished high school at the Chemawa Indian School in Oregon. Also there was Walter Sampson (a long-time, now retired, NANA employee). Then, I went to the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas. Finally, at Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka I earned my associate degree in business administration—and met my wife, Virginia.

Who has inspired you?

My mother always wanted me to get an education. She was proud to see me and my brother Bert graduate from high school. After that, it was up to us. My brother Bert Adams didn’t talk about himself, but he really made a difference during his lifetime. He served on the NANA board. He testified in Congress. He was a quiet leader.

What is your favorite memory of your parents?

Mom was all for cleanliness. She didn’t want to even see us wearing jeans. She encouraged us to do well. She said, “Do your job and do it right.” She said, “Call your boss, ‘Boss’.” Dad was a hard worker. He set a good example for us. He was an excellent hunter and provider. He worked hard and did well, with his third-grade education.

Tell us about someone who has inspired you to work at NANA.

My wife, Virginia. I had been working at Northern Air Cargo as a ramp agent. It was physical work and, after 11 years, was getting hard on my body. One day, Virginia met me at the door with a flyer from NANA for a shareholder recruiter job. I applied, since I always knew I wanted to come back to NANA. Back then, I didn’t even know how to turn a computer on. Fortunately, the hiring manager saw something in me.

What do you like best about your job?

I get to help our shareholders find jobs and careers. To accomplish that, I create relationships—with employees, NANA companies (like Pegasus), businesses (like Home Depot), and Anchorage-based organizations (like Cook Inlet Tribal Council).

What are important lessons that you have learned?

Always listen to both sides of the story. Sometimes we get complaints. Usually people just want to be listened to. I listen and then give them a hand in finding a job or identifying a career path.

What advice do you have for young shareholders?

Attitude is #1! You can have a good brain, but if your attitude stinks, you’re hurting yourself. “Your attitude determines your altitude” is a John Maxwell quote I like. If you have a good attitude, you are teachable. It’s easy to recognize someone with a great attitude, who wants to grow. It’s also easy to spot someone with a poor attitude. Everybody has a choice. It’s up to you: to do well, to be on time, to get along, to have a good attitude, and to be a team player. Don’t be afraid to take risks.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

I understand Iñupiaq. My parents wanted me to be educated, so they spoke English to me. But I grew up hearing Iñupiaq, so I can understand it (and speak a little).

What do you want people to know about NANA?

NANA is a great company. We care about people. We work hard. We have great leaders. We’re building on a strong foundation. I don’t like to compare NANA to other (Alaska Native) corporations, but it stands out. NANA is a leader in the community. Imagine if NANA (and Red Dog Mine) wasn’t there. Where would monies for schools in our region come from?

What’s the best news you’ve heard lately?

I like to hear from shareholders. Isaiah Geary let me know he’s finishing a year of welding training at Charter College. He did it on his own, paid his own way. Now, he’s going to be a top-notch welder. It’s important to prepare yourself. To keep learning.

What is your vision of NANA in 10 or 20 years?

NANA will be 99.9 percent shareholder-run.

What is your favorite time of year, and why?

Spring. It’s a time of new beginnings.

What are you most grateful for?

My faith in God. My wife, Virginia. My friends (like you).

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Ron Adams was interviewed by Carol Richards, Director of Brand Communications for NANA Development Corporation.