Q & A with Shareholder Employees

A Conversation with Kristina Patrick, Senior Director of Shareholder Employment, Learning and Development for NANA Development Corporation

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

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Kristina Patrick, a NANA shareholder, says she grew up with NANA. Currently the senior director of shareholder employment, learning and development, she’s been a NANA employee since 1997. (Photo by Brian Adams, a NANA shareholder.)

 

What is your Iñupiaq name?

Siiqsiniq. Martha Cervantes gave me my Iñupiaq name. She said I reminded her of her best friend, Helen Davis from Selawik. Martha said Helen was very kind (she even liked stray dogs), so it’s an honor to have her name. Not a lot of people, besides Martha, call me by my Eskimo name. I like it when they do, but mine is a hard name to say.

What is your job?

It’s such a long title. I’m the senior director of shareholder employment, learning and development for NANA’s human resources (HR) department. It’s a mouthful.

We’ve added “learning” to expand the scope of our services, to include all employees. A recent example is an applied leadership seminar for targeted employees of NMS, NANA Oilfield Services and NANA Development Corporation. There are real tools around leadership. It doesn’t magically happen.

How long have you been a NANA employee?

Oh my gosh! I feel like I grew up here. I started on April 7, 1997.

I was hired as a temp admin assistant for HR, to do filing and to help with the busy recruiting season. Back then, applications used to be filed according to which job was to be filled. So, if people applied for more than one job, we’d have to photocopy their application forms and file them accordingly.  When the hiring season amped up, I’d have nightmares of all those mountains of paper!

That summer turned into a year.

What was your first job?

Don’t all girls (my age) start out by babysitting? Then, I got a newspaper route. And, when I turned 16, I got a job at the old Anchorage Medical Center (downtown). I worked in the ER department, checking people in, and made $3.85 an hour. The next year, my pay shot up to $6.00 an hour, and I felt really rich.

Where is your family from?

My mother, Maria (Miller) Debruin, is from Kotzebue. Actually, she was born in Deering and raised in Kotzebue. My grandparents were Lena Koenig, from Point Lay originally, and George Miller, from Kotzebue. My late father came from Virginia.

Where were you raised?

I grew up in foster care (in Anchorage).

My foster parents, Gaither and Bebe Paul, were a blessing. They were so wonderful—I called them Grandma and Grandpa. They met at Tanacross, where Grandma taught at the school and Grandpa was the custodian. Grandpa was Athapaskan; he played the fiddle, and told the best stories. I have the best memories.

We lived in Anchorage, but spent summers in Tanacross, where we could stay up late and run around town, which is what kids did there. There was culture around me, but it wasn’t my culture.

Who has inspired you?

My grandma, Bebe Paul. She was so hard-working, and had such high expectations of me. I knew I never wanted to let her down. When I entered the room, she would say, “Kristina, speak of an angel! And hear the rustle of her wings.” I was her angel, and I sure didn’t want to mess that up.

What’s your favorite memory of her?

We used to cook together. There were always a lot of us in the house—15 of us, so cooking was an event. She’d direct me and sort of whistle while she worked. Even today, I have a hard time cooking small meals.

Tell us about someone who has inspired you at NANA.

I do feel I grew up at NANA, with all these strong women around me: Martha Cervantes, Jacquie Luke, Hilda Haas, Selina Moose, and Helvi Sandvik. Martha, in particular, has inspired me. She’s such a hard worker with high expectations and a love for NANA.

Where did you study or train?

After high school, I had gone to Charter College to learn bookkeeping. I worked as a bookkeeper for a couple of years, then came to work for NANA.

After a year in human resources at NANA, Jacquie Luke, the chief legal officer, hired me as an intern. The position required me to work full-time in the legal department and go to school part-time at the University of Alaska Anchorage to study to be a paralegal. I worked for Jacquie for eight years, and she was wonderful. She was so strong in her knowledge of ANCSA (the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act). I learned a lot from her.

What has surprised you most about working at NANA?

People say this about NANA, but I really feel it’s true. You are part of a family. I don’t know if you get that at other places, but I certainly feel that here.

What is the best thing about working for NANA?

NANA has given me so much. Not the least of which is part of my identity. My first trip to the NANA region was because of my job. It felt like home. Like I belonged, even though I didn’t grow up there.

I wasn’t blessed to grow up in my culture, except when I was very young. I didn’t know what it was to be Iñupiaq. I wasn’t exposed to our language or culture. Although, I do have memories of being very young and eating niqipiaq (traditional food) with my mother—I still love niqipiaq.

What are the strongest beliefs about what you do?

I feel shareholder employment is so important. Jobs provide not only for themselves, but also for their families and their communities.

What do you like best about your job?

I always say I love my job because I see success every day. There are hard days, but that success just makes you happy to come to work. It’s encouraging and motivating!

I love to see our shareholders succeed, because you see how hard they work at it. It doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of effort—theirs, ours, and our companies. All of us working together.

Last year, NANA shareholders earned $70 million in wages through NANA and its affiliates.

What do you want people to know about NANA?

We’re so successful. We have a beautiful mission, to improve the lives of our shareholders. People care about our mission. We’re genuine.

What is your vision of NANA?

Around employment, I’d love to see us eliminate all barriers. That would be awesome! It’s something we work at every day.

What advice do you have for young shareholders?

Work hard, stay out of trouble, and have a great attitude. Success isn’t easy—it takes a lot of hard work and requires you make the right choices in life. Doing these things will open doors for you and allow you to find the career you love.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

My dog is famous. If you google Pakak and “dog skill,” you’ll see a YouTube video I posted. It has over 550,000 views! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRmFD0azxoA

Shaquille O’Neal posted Pakak’s video on his Facebook page. His comment was something like, “Girl can handle the rock.” Someone had to tell me what that meant.

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Kristina Patrick was interviewed by Carol Richards, Director of Brand Communications for NANA Development Corporation.