Change Is Good

I just completed 14 1/2 years at the National Wildlife Federation. The timing is excellent for a change and I am so grateful for the opportunities and friendships – so I wanted to share some highlights from this journey.

Thank You For Hiring Me!

Before working at NWF, I worked for CBC Radio in Ottawa and Quebec, and American Oceans Campaign (now called Oceana) in Washington DC. The internet was a new concept. I was hired as part of the very first web team in February 2000. I am grateful that I was hired because it required filling in extra paperwork for my work visa since I did not have my green card yet. Maria Litman went through the hassle and three month wait.

My first big achievement was working with Craig Tufts from the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program. Since 1970, the program had been paper-based. I volunteered as a Habitat Steward and learned how to coach people with gardening for wildlife. I earned the trust of Craig and the other program staff until they were ready to move the program to an online system. I worked with Erik Giberti to create that system, which exponentially increased the number of certified backyards.

Team Fun Day, 2000

Team Fun Day, 2000 – Erik, Josh, Tim, Deb, Heidi, me, Ian

They decorated my cube for Canada Day, July 1, 2000
They decorated my cube for Canada Day, July 1, 2000

Team Day - Kayaking and Horseback Riding

Team Day – Kayaking and Horseback Riding

Decorating cookies for the opening of the new HQ, February 2001

Decorating cookies for the opening of the new HQ, February 2001

Team hike at Scott's Run, 2004

Team hike at Scott’s Run, 2004

 

Thank You for our Sunday Potluck Group

We used to have staff mixers where you would discuss various topics. One month was hobbies, so I brought in quilts. One colleague, Jessica Stine, came to ask me about my quilts. Long story short, we hit it off, and she invited me to her birthday. We had such a great time, and learned that this group of friends met every Sunday for a potluck on a theme. Many members of the web team attended these Sunday potlucks over the years. The group changed – people got married, had kids, moved. After a few years we stopped meeting every Sunday – but the friendships continue and are very dear.

In fact, the day that I found out that my role at NWF would be discontinued, we had dinner with them at an excellently timed reunion. They put everything in perspective and made me feel so loved.

Dairy Godmother with dear friends - August 2014

Dairy Godmother with dear friends – August 2014

 

Thanks for the Short Commute & Lovely Bike Rides

We did a lot of bike riding down the W&OD Railroad trail training for AIDS Rides and MS Rides. We used to leave from the National Wildlife Federation parking lot on Wednesdays after work and bike until dark.

Supporting Vu & Erik in the AIDS Ride

Supporting Vu & Erik in the AIDS Ride

From 2001-2003, I biked to work every day whether it snowed, rained or was stinking hot. I remember it being so hot that I had to rest in a book store half way home to get cooled off – and I have only a five mile commute! We organized very fun Bike-to-Work Days. Check out the ribbon that you would break when you arrived!

Bike to Work Day Welcome Committee 2002

Bike to Work Day Welcome Committee 2002 – check out our awesome welcome ribbon!

Bike to Work Day at Reston Town Center

Bike to Work Day at Reston Town Center – Me, Erik, Nanette & Wayne

Bike to Work Day Cyclists 2002

Bike to Work Day Cyclists 2002

Thanks for Flexible Schedules & Parenting Support

We had two babies and I worked a reduced work week at times. Without that flexibility, I don’t know if I could have stayed working. We also got these cute baby blankets when our kids were born.

With their commemorative baby blankets

With their commemorative baby blankets

Many colleagues had babies at the same time, and we supported each other.

NWF Babies, 2007

NWF Babies, 2007 – Dylan & Deb, Autumn & Rebecca, Lilibet & Jess, Russell & Bob

 

Thanks for the Family Nature Summits

When I started at NWF, there was a program called the Family Nature Summit every summer. NWF staff could attend without using vacation time. The program became a separate non-profit in 2006. I was faculty between 2001 and 2013, teaching handcrafts and organizing tours to meet local green innovators. These tours have had such an impact on my life, helping me to realize how much I love innovating around sustainability.

At Crazy as a Loom near Glen Falls, New York

At Crazy as a Loom near Glen Falls, New York

Thanks for Keeping My Family Entertained

My favorite thing I built while working at NWF was a database of activities to get families outside. It is now in the Family Fun website. If you look through the activities, especially in the Outdoors section, you’ll see hundreds of photos of my kids testing the activities. This was a multi-year project – both testing & photographing, but also working with the amazing David Ruckman to build it, and Openbox9 to design it.

Nora draws tickseed outside, September 2011

Nora draws tickseed outside, September 2011

Nora blows bubbles from six-pack ring

Nora blows bubbles from six-pack ring

Another fun project was helping to make various kids games for the website and mobile apps, including Name that Shark, Click the Birdie, Fish Food, Squirrel vs. Bird Feeder, matching games, crossword puzzles and find-a-words. You can hear my voice in this sound matching game making animal sounds!

My daughter Nora played an important role with the Click the Birdie game. She did the voice overs in the prototype, and the little girl in one of the worlds is called Nora in her honor.

Another year, we visited & documented 125 playgrounds as part of a partnership between National Wildlife Federation and Kaboom. We visited playgrounds all over northern Virginia, but also in Canada and Scotland. We found the Scottish playgrounds by using Google Maps street view and just “walking” down the streets where we knew we would be staying.

Documenting playgrounds for Kaboom, 2009

Documenting playgrounds for Kaboom, 2009

Then there were the annual Campouts and Hike & Seek events. Our family loved attending, taking photos and testing all the activities.

I remember one campout when Nora was a toddler. It was so hot and the cicadas were so loud, we could not fall asleep. Nora was running around inside the tent, wearing only her diaper. I had a hand-held fan that I said I would blow on her if she would lie still. A few years later, at another campout, Russell was only a baby in his Pack N’ Play. There was thunder and lightning, but we managed to all stay calm in the tent, and actually fall asleep.

Hike & Seek 2011 with Kristy - photo by Schelli Dittmann

Hike & Seek 2011 with Kristy – photo by Schelli Dittmann

My kids have enjoyed being featured in many publications over the years.

Our family in 2006 - photo by Charlie Archambault

Our family in 2006 – photo by Charlie Archambault – I had the stomach flu in this photo but managed to pose 🙂

Russell at Hike & Seek

Russell at Hike & Seek

Nora portrait, 2006 - photo by Charlie Archambault

Nora portrait, 2006 – photo by Charlie Archambault

I learned about geocaching at work & our family has found many wonderful caches around the world.

Finding our first geocache, 2010

Finding our first geocache, 2010

It was also handy that we could visit Ranger Rick whenever needed. We visited him on Bring Your Kids to Work Day, once for Nora’s school project, and we brought Russell’s Cub Scout troop to visit too.

Nora's classroom mascot meets Ranger Rick, 2010

Nora’s classroom mascot meets Ranger Rick, 2010

Thank You For Having Halloween Costume Contests

I generally prefer to be collaborative more than competitive, but something about winning a day off with pay was very motivating. And thank goodness for the epiphany that if I made my costumes from trash, it would save me money AND I would win. It was the beginning of Trashmagination. You can read about my many Halloween costumes from recycled materials in this other blog.

Dressed up as Atlas for Halloween with my plastic cap globe

Dressed up as Atlas for Halloween with my plastic cap globe

Thank You For Letting Me Do Green Things

There have been many projects over the years to green NWF’s operations. I was a leader in the area of recycling and composting. We had a recycling center where we gathered hard-to-recycle items. (That’s where I got my amazing plastic caps collection!) We gathered compost in a bucket in the lunchroom and diverted more than 1000 pounds of compost over the years into our backyard composter. We hosted Freecycle events where everyone brought unwanted items and shared them freely.

Recycling Committee packages up tech waste for recycling offsite, 2008 - Jenn, Karen, Whitney & Stephanie

Recycling Committee packages up tech waste for recycling offsite, 2008 – Jenn, Karen, Whitney & Stephanie

And then there were the green lifestyles projects that I documented. The most successful was How to Build a Bat House, which remains the most consistently popular piece of content on our entire website – thousands of pages – for more than a decade.

How to Build a Bat House - 2004

How to Build a Bat House- 2004

Thank You For Helping Me Find Balance

One super special professional development opportunity was called the Leader to Leader program. It came at a time when my children were just big enough that I could start being an individual person, and helped me find space for myself again.

Leader to Leader peer group, 2011 - Bill, Julian & Curtis

Leader to Leader peer group, 2011 – Bill, Julian & Curtis

Thank You for Innovation Engineering

Doug Hall & his staff invested a lot of energy into National Wildlife Federation. I am so grateful that we were all willing to give it a try. From that first visit to Eureka Ranch in 2010 to earning my Innovation Engineering Black Belt this year, this work gave me so much joy and stretched my brain.

Visiting Eureka Ranch for the first time in 2010

Visiting Eureka Ranch for the first time in 2010

Learning about innovation - Anjali, Debbie, Bill, Em, Rachel, Christy

Learning about innovation – Anjali, Debbie, Bill, Anne, Emerson, Rachel, Christy

Through Innovation Engineering, I worked on a variety of projects, but the two that stand out the most were the Make a Tree Friend Kit (my first project) and Storytelling (my biggest project).

The goal of the Storytelling project was to gather stories about how we help wildlife, and to share those stories with our audiences. It had three areas – teaching people about the importance of stories, teaching people how to gather stories, and making a Story Bank. In one year, we gathered 150 stories on video.

To kick off the project, I had a series of brown bags that any staff could attend, describing the vision. After one brown bag, I got a call from a colleague named Becky Lentz in our Great Lakes office. We had only barely worked together in the 11 years before that. Becky was super excited about helping me figure this out. This started a creative partnership that I hope will continue far beyond today!

I went to Becky’s office and trained her team. It was the best time. We interviewed real people and learned a lot.

Storytelling at the Great Lakes office, October 2011

Storytelling at the Great Lakes office, October 2011 – Celia, Jennifer, Beth, Frank, me, Becky, Jordan & Juliana

Later, Becky and Beth made a video about the oil spill on the Kalamazoo River and Beth’s leadership role in the region. Hillary Esquina edited it. I was the coach. The video won a Bronze Telly Award.

Bronze Telly Award - 2013

Bronze Telly Award – 2013

There were so many people who I had the honor of interviewing for the Storytelling project. I will try to write another blog about some of my favorite moments from that project since it would take up too much time right now. But interviewing them was the highlight of my career at NWF. Every interview filled me with hope and energy.

It was through Innovation Engineering that I built a special friendship with my colleague Schelli Dittmann. She has been my partner in so many things. Her quality that I admire the most is the ability to see the potential in anything. She gets so excited about the possibilities. She reminds me of my dad that way.

Giving Schelli Black Belts I had woven - 2014

Giving Schelli Black Belts I had woven – 2014

Thank You for the Celebrations

At one point, my daughter Nora asked if she could come to work with me because every time she came, we were eating cake. Yes – we had a lot of celebrations. My favorite was the one I hosted for my 10 year anniversary – called Learn-a-palooza. I asked my colleagues to teach something to each other. It was so much fun.

Lori & Megan teach how to mix an Irish Earthquake (I think) - 2010

Lori & Megan teach how to mix an Irish Earthquake (I think) – 2010

David's bee hive, 2010

David’s bee hive, 2010

Another favorite was when I hosted a few Screech-Ins to make my colleagues into honorary Newfoundlanders. This ceremony took place at my house on my birthdays. I made a traditional Jigg’s Dinner, then act as the “Cod-mother” and have each person drink some Screech & kiss a fish while saying “Long May Your Big Jib Draw.” They also had to answer questions in a very tricky quiz.

Traditional Jigg's Dinner preparations - 2013

Traditional Jigg’s Dinner preparations – 2013

Danielle kisses the fish - 2013

Danielle kisses the fish – 2013

Then there were birthday decorations in my cube – which usually involved Diet Mountain Dew and Cheetos.

My cube decorated for my birthday, 2012

My cube decorated for my birthday, 2012

Sometimes I could convince Bob to make one of his amazing cakes for a special colleague:

Emerson's 24th birthday

Emerson’s 24th birthday

There was the time when some colleagues wanted to show their thanks for a very hard job with our Sitecore content migration:

Thanks Carla written in the snow - view from 3rd floor window - 2010

Thanks Carla written in the snow – view from 3rd floor window – 2010

And I loved making quilts & hooked rugs for colleagues:

Megan with hooked rug - 2012

Megan with hooked rug – 2012

Finally – there were the team days at the beach or a local park, where we took a moment to relax. Take one look at this group and you’ll know why I stayed for 14 1/2 years.

Team Fun Day

Team Fun Day – (back) Ben, Dani, Kristin, Danielle, Schelli, Jane, Crystal, Ritu (front) Amanda, Dominique, me, Avelino

 

What’s Next?

Right at this moment, I am catching my breath. Working at National Wildlife Federation is a very energy-consuming thing. I’m looking for a job that will teach me new things, with a culture of people who love collaboration. Meanwhile, I’m refilling my energy by taking courses I love in innovation, weaving, storytelling, drumming & entrepreneurship. I have a GIANT list of Trashmagination projects that I never get to work on. It’s a great moment to take stock and make sure I’m choosing a path that makes life extraordinary.

Thank you to all the people who spiced up my journey. As you can see, it is literally hundreds of people. I am buoyed up by this network of human energy – talented people who care a lot.

Thank you to my family who supported me throughout. You’ll see in the photos that the lines between family and work were often interconnected as being a mom gave me project ideas. We have a lot of fun being a family outdoors & I’m glad I could share that with a wider audience.

I’m a tremendously lucky person, you know?

4 thoughts on “Change Is Good

  1. Jeff Hanlon on

    Can’t wait to see what other exciting /interesting / inspiring things you do next! Good luck!

  2. Carl Brown on

    Carla – I enjoyed reading every word. You are an inspiration to all of us including your old Dad. I love you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *