Q & A with Shareholder Employees

A Conversation with Kally Greene-Gudmundson, Communications & Marketing Assistant, NANA Development Corporation

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

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Kally Greene-Gudmundson is earning a double degree in marketing and management at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Photo by Brian Adams, a NANA shareholder.

 

What is your Iñupiaq name?

Siñiqsraq. I was named after my great-aunt Lorena. I know her from photos, mainly. She passed away when I was really young. I was told she was really loving and family-oriented; she loved kids.

Siñiqsraq, according to my papa (my grandpa), means “walks a lot,” which suits me because I like to hike.

Tell us about your family (and your connection to NANA).

My mom was born in Dillingham and my dad was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. Both my parents grew up in Kotzebue, where they met—and where we have big, extended families.

I’m grateful for the way I grew up. My parents had me when they were really young. It wasn’t always easy or fun, but I wouldn’t change anything. It really shaped me and the way I view things. It gave me my drive.

Where did you grow up?

When I was eight years old, my mom decided to go back to school, so we moved from Kotzebue to Cheney, Washington. It was a huge culture shock. I was quite the dramatic eight-year-old, and when I said, “arii,” no one knew what I was saying and I didn’t know how to explain it. (Arii, in Iñupiaq, is an expression of disappointment, like a moan.)

What was that like?

It was just my mom and me, and she was always busy, so I became very independent. When I was home alone, I had all these rules to follow: not to cook anything, not to answer the door.

Sometimes I followed Mom to class. I sat and took notes. I felt smart.

When did you move to Anchorage?

When I was in middle school, starting in 7th grade, I moved to Anchorage to live with my dad and stepmom. I had the feeling of being the new kid, again. I tried out for cheerleading and gymnastics. I played volleyball for a few years, but I was a little small. I always ended up getting hurt.

You got injured?

Mom used to say, “Tough girls don’t cry.” Whenever I got injured playing sports, she used to ask, “Are you profusely bleeding from the head?” No. “Are you going to die?” No. “Then, you’ll be fine.”

I went snowboarding with my boyfriend, Ron, at Mount Hood (near Portland). On our last run, we started racing straight downhill. I caught an edge and scorpioned. (A scorpion is when you fall on your face and your legs and board look like a scorpion stinger.) When I took my hat off, there was blood—I know that I should have been wearing a helmet. I popped a capillary and I was profusely bleeding from the head—but I didn’t cry, Mom.

Who has inspired you, and why?

My taata (grandfather) Tom Bolen. He and my aana (grandmother), Helen, got married when my dad was a teenager. Taata Tom has always been accepting of me, especially when I felt like I didn’t fit in. He told me that one day I’d be thankful that I’m different. Over the years, we’ve grown very close. He’s more of a father figure to me.

He’s been supportive of everything I’ve wanted to try. When I was in the 5th grade, in Washington State, he bought me my first musical instrument, the flute. He said that once I learned to read and follow notes, it would be easy for me to pick up another instrument. In college, when I told him I wanted to learn to play the guitar, he gave me his old guitar, one that he found at a garage sale. For my 20th birthday, he bought me a brand new one, with a case and everything, even a built-in tuner. He still plays the guitar. At his home, when he thought he was alone, I caught him blasting Carrie Underwood. “I want to learn this song,” he said, as he was playing along.

What is your impression of working at NANA?

When I first started (as an intern), I was nervous about meeting new people, but I got a family vibe right away. We work together really hard, yet people want to uŋa and nuniaq (show affection). It feels like home.  The professional world mixes with our culture.

When we interviewed Helvi (Sandvik, for this series), one thing that really stuck with me was when she said that it’s a privilege to have a job; it’s a privilege to work. At first, I may have taken this (internship) for granted, but now I know more. Every opportunity is amazing! I feel blessed and lucky.

People take an interest and ask me what I want to do when I graduate.

What do you want to do?

I don’t want to grow up! But, I’ve dreamed of being in a leadership position, where I have a voice that matters and where I can make a difference.

What can NANA do to help you with that?

Continue exposing me to opportunities, through networking and job shadowing. So I can see NANA from the inside out, from the ground up.

I got to meet Lenora Moses. (Lenora is a NANA shareholder and the general manager of the Anchorage Midtown SpringHill Suites by Marriott.) She talked about how she started in housekeeping. Now, as the manager, when people make mistakes, she’s empathetic and understanding, because she’s been there herself. She said that her stories (of mishaps and mistakes) usually top theirs and make them feel better.

Lenora said, “I’ve had days when I ask, what I’m doing here? When I left, at the end of the day, I’d say to myself, I’m not coming back.” Her honesty is really refreshing and inspiring.

Stan Fleming (President of NANA Pacific) also encourages me. Every kind word really keeps me going.

What advice do you have for young shareholders?

Never be afraid to seize an opportunity. Nothing is impossible. If you work hard and take everything with a grain of salt, you can keep going.

You are your biggest obstacle. If you can get out of your own way, you can do anything! Never doubt yourself. When things pile up and when you’ve got too much on your plate, remember you’ve gotten through this before.

Disappointments fuel my drive and my desire to be my own person.

What have you learned since you started working at NANA?

I’ve learned how to listen. That’s something I didn’t do in high school. Listening helps a lot. It’s opened my eyes. It comes back to that sense of belonging and connection.

Everybody has something to offer. It’s so extraordinary.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

I’m an NPC athlete (National Physical Committee). It takes a lot of commitment, but today’s my cheat day, and I’m going to enjoy it!

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Kally Greene-Gudmundson was interviewed by Carol Richards, Director of Brand Communications for NANA Development Corporation.