Q & A with Shareholder Employees

A Conversation with Dana Tuimalealiifano, Director, HR Operations and Compliance, NANA Developement Corporation

This is part of a series of interviews with NANA’s shareholder-employees.

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Dana Tuimalealiifano, a NANA shareholder, is known at work as Dana T. She’s the Director of Human Resources Operations and Compliance. Photo by Brian Adams, a NANA shareholder.

 

What is your Iñupiaq name?

Sailaq. I was named after Emma Norton from Selawik. Emma raised my mom.

What is your current job?

I’m the director of human resources operations and compliance for the commercial sector of NANA Development Corporation. (The commercial sector includes NMS, one of the largest employers in the NANA family of companies.)

How long have you been with NANA? Have you had other jobs within NANA?

NANA Development Corporation (NDC) hired me in June of 2010 as a coordinator in the human resources (HR) department. I became the NDC HRIS administrator. (HRIS is where human resources and information technology intersect.) I was the director of HRIS and compliance for NMS. (NANA was restructured to consolidate services. The commercial sector includes NMS, a large employer.) After the reorg, I moved back to NDC. In my current role, I’m the director of human resources operations and compliance for the commercial sector.

What are your main job responsibilities?

I oversee data management, onboarding administration, contract hiring compliance, and HR federal and state compliance reporting.

I’m process-minded. My role is to develop easier ways to get things done. That is, to implement more effective processes through systems. Someone will come to me with a problem or a situation. I’ll observe how things were done, how work was processed, and develop a more functional solution. Having processes in place means we can work smarter, not harder. Administrative duties can be processed quicker, with fewer mistakes.

So, what we do is streamline processes for recruiting, onboarding, data entry, and reporting.

What do you like best about your job?

Knowing that I’m making an impact. Working with my team. I have support when I have to make tough decisions.

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Kotzebue. I went to junior high school in Selawik and then graduated from Mt. Edgecumbe (a state-run boarding school in Sitka). 

Where did you study or train?

After finishing high school, I did a summer internship in Washington, D.C. for Senator Ted Stevens. It was unpaid but good experience. To earn money for college, I worked as a housekeeper at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. Then, that fall, I moved to Hawaii to attend Hawaii Pacific University (HPU). During summer breaks, to save money, I worked at the Red Dog Mine, and completed some internships at Akima.

What did you study in college?

I had a double major, business management and human resources. I wanted to keep it broad, at that point. After earning my undergraduate degrees, I continued at HPU and completed my master’s degree in business administration.

I’m the first in my family to attend college. It seemed impossible at the time, to fund my education without savings, but I was able to work hard and secure scholarships to pay for it.

What value do you place on your education?

At the end of the day, knowledge is power. No one can take that away from you. So, educate yourself. You’ll always find ways to help people with what you’ve learned.

Getting an education shows that you’re a hard worker, committed and disciplined. I plan on being successful through my hard work.

What was your first job?

I always wanted to work and support myself. The day I turned 15, I got a job at Arby’s. All through college, I worked at Jamba Juice in Waikiki—with so many customers, from all different countries, speaking all different languages. I worked my way up to a manager, while juggling two other jobs.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

I’m an island girl at heart! I fit right in. I love island food, especially Spam Musubi (grilled Spam on rice, wrapped in seaweed). I like warm weather and wearing flip flops. I miss the beach.

What did people ask when they learned you’re from Alaska?

When I lived in Hawaii, they asked if we lived in igloos.

Who has inspired you?

My mentors. Right now, I have three. They encourage me in different parts of my life—work, personal, and spiritual. To find the right mentors, I’ve used available platforms, including Leadership Anchorage. (Leadership Anchorage is a program, through the Alaska Humanities Forum, for emerging Alaskan leaders to expand their impact in the community.)

What’s your favorite aspect of having mentors?

I’m able to look at things through other lenses, to be more open-minded and less judgmental. It’s helped me a lot, to be calm and disciplined when I face challenges and disappointments. I’m introverted and private, so it’s been a process to get to this stage.

And now you’re a mentor.

I volunteer at the Alaska Military Youth Academy, to help young people learn skills to get their lives on track. (The academy is a residential program for at-risk youth to learn discipline and life skills, in a drug- and alcohol-free environment. The program includes a 12-month mentoring phase.)

Until about a year ago, it hadn’t occurred to me what an impact I could have (as a mentor).

What is your first memory of NANA? What does it mean to you to be a shareholder?

When I was young, we went to annual shareholder meetings. I knew that NANA provided services and helped people. It turned out to be true for me. When I went off to college, NANA helped with funding to secure housing, until my financial aid went through. I was determined. No obstacle could have stopped me.

Tell us about someone who encouraged you to work at NANA.

Ten years ago, Ron Adams (the lead shareholder recruiter) had me apply for my first NANA job, working at the hospital in housekeeping. Over the years, NANA kept tabs on me. So, when I graduated from college, I got a call from the vice president of HR, at the time.

What’s surprised you most about working at NANA?

The people. NANA is very diverse, on many different levels.

What’s the best thing that’s happened since you started working at NANA?

I’ll always remember what Sam Watkins told me, “Success is when opportunity meets preparation.” (Watkins was a former vice president of HR at Akima.)

My education has opened up opportunities that otherwise would not have been available to me. I prepared and then NANA provided opportunities. I feel very blessed.

What advice do you have for young shareholders?

Don’t let opportunities pass you by. Speak up. Have a goal. Have a vision in mind. Take actions to make it happen.

There’s always hope. When you’re told no, it just means that person or that opportunity wasn’t the right one for you. Move on.

When you value and respect yourself, you show people how to treat you—what’s acceptable and what’s not.

What are you most grateful for?

My family. My faith. My job. Everything.

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

We’ll have a sustainable economic future. We won’t be dependent on any one line of business. We’ll have more NANA shareholders in leadership positions. And we’ll have wellness for our people.

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Dana Tuimalealiifano was interviewed by Carol Richards, Director of Brand Communications for NANA Development Corporation.