Movers and shakers

Profile of Cynthia Arvidson

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Job title(s) and responsibilities: "I'm the executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Taos, Inc. (HFHT) I provide overall management of Habitat for Humanity of Taos in accordance with the direction, policies and objectives set by the board of directors. I manage the affiliate, which includes the coordination of committees and task groups with the primary goal of building Habitat houses and community outreach. The executive director works directly with the board to develop and maintain a self-sustaining affiliate through resource development activities. The Habitat ReStore is a big part of our affiliate. It's our number one funding source and I work with Tom Drake, our ReStore Manager and aid with oversight.

"We utilize visiting work groups who come work with us, paying a per person donation. We now have a volunteer coordinator that does most of the setting up and oversight of the groups. The construction supervisor manages them during their time on the jobsite, but I get to interact and make them feel welcome — an ambassador of sorts for Taos and our affiliate. We really market Taos and building with adobe to attract more groups to our beautiful community.

"I also co-lead our training classes with Rose Vargas. These are provided to our new partner families; they are budgeting, home maintenance/repair and firs- time home buying. We want the homeowners to succeed as new home buyers, and this is part of that process.

"There are even stricter guidelines on loan origination now and I have to be certified in loan origination to deal with our partner families and help fill out/provide loan documents to them during the process."

How many years in present occupation/business endeavor?

"I’ve been in Taos 16 years now, but in August it will be my 10th year with HFHT."

What lessons have you learned in your career that have influenced the advice you would lend to girls/women who want a career in your industry?

"The biggest lesson I’ve learned that influences the advice I give to girls/women is to follow your heart. For me, this is a calling, not just a job. t’s probably the most complicated and difficult position I’ve ever held. I don’t think I could have made it 10 years if it was just a ‘job.' That’s what it started out as. I was looking for a job and this opportunity opened up, but it soon became a passion. When you work in the non-profit sector it can be just as much work, usually more, than in the corporate or private sectors with not as many benefits and perks. What has kept me engaged and fulfilled is the calling, not the job."

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

"I think the biggest issue for women in the workplace can be not being taken seriously and not just being 'a little lady.' I think a lot of that has gone by the wayside, but it is still out there. I’ve run into people that don’t want to deal with me because I’m a woman and not a man in the construction industry, so I must not know as much. I think at times it’s a subconscious reaction; they don’t even realize they are doing it."

Who do you admire and why?

"I’m not sure if this is a female leader, but Anne Frank made a huge impression on me as a child. I remember reading 'The Diary of Anne Frank' and thinking how brave she was, her gentle heart and great outlook on life, despite the circumstances.

"Corrie Ten Boom had a huge influence on my life. I’ve read most of her books, but 'The Hiding Place' tells the story of how she and her Dutch family saved many Jewish people from the Nazis and was eventually imprisoned for it. She had faith and courage, and the ability to see the good of God’s hand in all things. The story impressed me in regard to dealing with hardship. While Corrie and her sister where in the concentration camp, her sister was upset that the building they were in was infested with fleas. But Corrie told her to be thankful for those fleas because it kept the male guards away from them. That has stuck with me and I try to look at circumstances with that same faith.

"Then in my own world, the biggest influence for me was a woman I worked with at GTE E-911 department in the early '90s. Her name was Flynn Nogueira and she was the director of that division. I had just gone through a painful divorce and was struggling and had this new job on top of it. She was so instrumental in encouraging me to believe in myself, that I could do anything I put my mind to and to create goals and stick to them. She gave me huge projects, would give me guidance and let me roll. She really instilled in me that I could figure anything out. She would ask you great questions that went deep. Flynn was instrumental in getting me to see that I didn’t want to be in the sales department. I moved out of that department and division where I grew and was promoted. The biggest thing that stuck out to me about her was that she was not afraid to promote and uplift other women, and she really invested in people. She had this vitality that was infectious and energizing."

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