Q & A with Shareholder Employees
Anchorage, AK September 20, 2016
A Conversation with Tami Krukoff, Business Partner in Human Resources Department of NANA Development Corporation
This is part of a series of interviews with NANA’s shareholder-employees.
Tami Krukoff, a shareholder originally from Kotzebue, is a human resources business partner for NANA’s commercial sector.
What is your Iñupiaq name?
Anuġi. My aana (grandmother) named me after my great-great-great-grandfather, Noah Anuġi Webster. My understanding is that Anuġi means “wind,” so my nickname was “Windy Windy.”
What is your current job?
I’m the HR business partner in the commercial sector of NANA Development Corporation (NDC).
What are your main job responsibilities?
In this sector, I provide support services to NANA companies, which includes NMS (our largest employer). One of my responsibilities is employee relations, helping them navigate through issues. Often I’m a liaison between the employee and the company. I also help facilitate onboarding and training as needed.
A big part of my focus is on NMS because of the large number of employees. In particular, I support the Food & Facilities Maintenance division. For example, in Anchorage, we have more than 90 employees at the Alaska Native Medical Center alone. We employ many Alaska Natives, including NANA shareholders, as well as people from all over the world. I enjoy the diversity.
In Kotzebue, NMS provides essential services to the Nullaġvik Hotel and at the Maniilaq Health Center. In the NANA region, we provide food and janitorial services at all of the schools. I really enjoy working with people from home.
I also support NANA Pacific, and many of those jobs are in the Lower 48.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Kotzebue. My parents are Bob and Linda Adams. My dad worked for Alaska Airlines and, when I was 10, he got transferred to Anchorage. So, Anchorage became home. It’s like having two homes.
What do you remember about growing up in Kotzebue?
It’s important for me to remember where I came from. I have fond memories of those early years and a strong connection to our extended family. I like to remember warm summer evenings in Kotzebue when the water was calm, like glass—and the sun was out, even at night. We’d walk on Front Street to the Hamburger Hut where they sold soft ice cream.
Out by the old FAA houses, past the runway, we played Norwegian. (Norwegian is a game played by two teams of equal size. The equipment is a softball and a bat—and maybe baseball gloves. The playing field is marked by two parallel lines. One team is up to bat. When they get a hit, the whole team runs to the other side. When they get “out” the other team gets to bat, run and score.) I’m sure they wouldn’t let us play there now.
What are your first memories of NANA?
We walked by the NANA offices, near the airport in Kotzebue. Then, when I was in the fifth or sixth grade, Mom explained NANA’s history to me and what it meant to be a shareholder. It felt cool to be a part of something. Even now, working (in Anchorage) in the same building with my mom— and my cousins and aunts, is neat.
What was your first job?
I was a camp counselor at SERRC’s ANSWER Camp. (SERRC is a resource center for Alaska’s teachers. The ANSWER Camp, one of SERRC’s programs, helps middle school students from rural Alaska prepare for high school.) We had seventh- and eighth-graders from up north, the interior, the Aleutians, from all over. The program blends traditional knowledge with math and science, to make it culturally relevant.
As a counselor, I did the fun parts. I coordinated games for team building, along with problem-solving games to make learning active. We called one of the games “caribou/hunter”—it was a mix of tag and dodge ball. You start out with one hunter and lots of caribou. If you get tagged, you become a hunter.
Where did you study?
I started college in 2001 at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Then, I moved to Minneapolis for a year, but I really missed our mountains. Clouds would have to suffice. Imagining the clouds as mountains helped me with my homesickness. In 2007, I finished my degree in sociology and Alaska Native studies.
Tell us about someone who inspired you to work at NANA.
Kristina Patrick invited me to a NANA job fair. It was good timing—right after I got married and graduated from college. I applied for two jobs, interviewed for one, and got that job, in human resources at NMS. That was nine years ago!
I worked in records before the application system was completely computerized. I’ve also worked at NDC in shareholder development, then NMS HR—recruiting, background verification of new hires, onboarding, and data entry processing—before coming back to NDC.
Now, I’m a business partner for our commercial companies. As I’m developing more in my role, I’m diving into how we create and manage policies and procedures, and help develop processes.
What has surprised you most about working at NANA?
I’m always amazed by how many great people strive to help NANA succeed, and how hard they work, pouring their lives into their jobs. It’s inspiring. I’m blown away by that.
What’s the best thing that has happened since you started working at NANA?
I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone to learn and grow. I’m thankful for those opportunities for professional and personal growth.
What are important lessons that you’ve learned?
I’m still learning. One lesson is that it’s okay to make mistakes. I still don’t like the thought of failure and of messing up, but you learn from your mistakes and become better and stronger.
Another thing I’ve learned is to celebrate accomplishments—even when, at times, I think I could still do better.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Every day, I have the opportunity to help people. I like being a resource. I like the challenge of solving employee issues, of figuring out how to get different results the next time.
What advice do you have for young shareholders?
It’s important to have a positive attitude. It helps you get places.
What do you want people to know about NANA?
We have a strong commitment to serve our shareholders. I see how we invest in opportunities for shareholders—through internships, scholarships, and training. That’s not always evident elsewhere. I think it’s real important to recognize that.
It’s been hard, we’ve gone through a lot. But, even through all that, I’ve seen a lot of positive change.
What are the strongest beliefs about what you do and what you hope to achieve?
Sometimes I’m involved in sensitive (HR) situations; some are especially difficult. I always return to NANA’s core values: to treat everyone with dignity and respect. That’s something I strive to achieve in all settings. It can help to defuse a situation for a more effective outcome.
It’s not all just about policies and procedures; it’s about people. I care a lot about people, about putting the “human” in human resources. When you listen, you can come up with a way to really help them. Everyone has a story.
Who has inspired you?
My parents. They taught me how to work hard and how to treat people with respect. They didn’t talk about it; they just did it. They are living examples.
What else have you learned from them?
My musical interest. My mom sings and plays the flute. Her taata (grandfather), Jack Jones, taught himself how to play instruments. He could play that “Flight of the Bumblebee” song on the violin.
My dad grew up playing drums—at school in Wrangell and at Edgecumbe (the boarding school in Sitka). At the movie theater, before the film started, his band opened with “Wipe Out,” with Dad on the drums. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Clr53fWVbTM
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
I play the drums and I was in a rock band with my husband. In our heyday, we played at Koot’s (Chilkoot Charlie’s, a big nightclub in Anchorage) and opened for “Seven Mary Three.” At the Millennium (another venue in Anchorage), we opened for “Sick Puppies.”
My husband still does music; he plays lead guitar and writes music—which, I must say, is pretty good. I enjoy it. His dad and my dad played in a band together at Edgecumbe, and at our wedding reception they played songs like “My Girl,” “Gloria,” and “Mustang Sally,” my father-in-law’s signature song. Oldies and goodies.
Tami Krukoff was interviewed by Carol Richards, Director of Brand Communications for NANA Development Corporation.