No matter what profession you work in, it’s important to be an expert in your trade. To achieve success, you must possess a wide variety of social skills including workplace professionalism, honesty, integrity, good manners, and a good attitude. When you are a Human Resources Professional, you not only need those skills, but you also need to be strong in the following four traits – communication skills, ethics, conflict management skills and organization skills.
Carrie Whisler embodies all these skills and traits. She easily balances being a friendly presence while taking control and ensuring things run smoothly. For many of us, Carrie Whistler was the first person we met at RINA, and she helped set the tone for the firm – one that was intelligent, friendly and welcoming.
After an incredibly successful 20+ year career at RINA, Carrie will retire on April 1st.
Carrie always encouraged all of us to be the best versions of ourselves and she will be greatly missed. We sat down with her to talk about her plans and to reflect on her time at RINA.
Will you be moving – where are you living now?
I live in Washington State. We bought a piece of property and we're going to build a home, but right now I'm living with my sister. I'm about an hour and a half north of Seattle, in a little town called Sedro-Woolley – it’s 25 miles inland from the Puget Sound, 40 miles south of the border with Canada and 65 miles north of Seattle.
What was attractive about Washington as opposed to living in the Bay Area for retirement?
Primarily family. My sister has three grown sons, and they all have families living in the area. So, we have children up here.
And, I'm looking forward to getting involved in the building of the house. I do enjoy using my hands and working hard – we're building it ourselves! My Dad and my nephew are going to be the primary builders. My nephew will be the contractor on the job.
Are you planning anything? Anything big, like vacations or mountain climbing trips or anything? Or any big changes when in retirement?
|Carrie and fellow trekkers on her climb of Mount Kilimanjaro|
|On a visit to Santiago||With her Kilimanjaro Guide|
Well, the first year will be the building of the house – we are building the house from scratch and that's going to take a while. I’m very excited to be involved with that – hoping to get started in March or early April.
After the house is finished, I plan to travel. One of the first trips I'm looking forward to is a trip to Italy and not to hike, but to cook and eat. I'm looking to do some kind of food-related trip to Italy. I have a friend who pre-pandemic taught a cooking class in Tuscany, and I've kind of looked at maybe doing something like that. Then my other plan is to get back in shape enough to do some more hiking trips.
How big of house and what kind of house are you building?
It's a ranch style. My mom and dad and my sister and I are going live in the house. It's a pretty spread-out ranch-style home with a parents’ wing over on this side. And, my sister will have a special room for her grandkids when they come to see us. It's about 2800 square feet – single story. We have almost four and a half acres, and we're going to raise chickens and do gardening and try to live off the land.
What do you do outside of work now?
I do really, really love to cook and one of the things I'm really looking forward to is having the opportunity to do enough exercise that I can enjoy the cooking I plan to do!
Also, I love my dog Sadie and I love being up here in Washington. My dog is having a blast and that is fun to watch.
What's your favorite food to cook?
Italian – I love Italian. I also like to barbecue, and I just love to make bread and sweets.
Do you have any other plans for retirement?
One thing I would like to pursue after we get the house built, and after I've taken my trip to Italy, is to get involved with a program of fostering babies. That’s a program for when a baby's born and either the mother has a drug problem or can’t take the baby right then because she has to go into rehab or something. So, you usually have babies for around six to 18 months, somewhere in that neighborhood. And then they either get adopted or they get reunited with their mother.
I was reading your biography. You served in higher education for 17 years, then you came to RINA where you first started working in audit, and then you became Director of Human Resources. That that's an amazing breadth of talent. Do you see any commonality among those assignments?
Not really. When I started in higher education I worked as an administrative assistant in something called the supervised ministry department. I did that for six years. And then they asked me to take on the role of registrar. While being a registrar certainly doesn't equate to the HR role, there are similarities – the personal interaction with people who are registering and just that sort of thing.
Accounting was just something I wanted to try. And a friend of mine, who also worked at the school, left and came to RINA. And that was my introduction to the firm. She told Rich Laveroni, who was the HR director at that time, about me and that I wanted to look at switching careers. And so he asked me to apply, I did, and they hired me.
I had no educational background in accounting, so it was going to take way too long to qualify to sit for the CPA exam. I was having to take classes just to qualify and I could not even start studying for the exam.
A lot of times, people ask me what I like about RINA. One of the things that I share is this story, because it seemed like I was a good fit for RINA, and RINA was a good fit for me, but we were not good fit in the role I was in. And so, they found a different role for me.
And it turned out to be one I've really enjoyed, and hopefully have done well.
What's changed most about RINA since you started?
I don't think there's been any drastic change as far as direction. I think the firm has held true to its values.
People who don't work with the values as often as I do with recruiting and with interviewing and things like that, may not be as aware of what those values are. But I do have to pay attention to values because people ask about those things and want to talk about those things. And I think that as well as a company can, RINA has done a good job of holding fast to those values and operating with them in mind.
Do you have any personalities that stand out that are great people or interesting stories?
I would say personalities that have stood out are the people that I've worked the closest with – Ed Fahey was a fabulous boss. I really enjoyed working with him. I always felt like we were working together to bring about change, trying to make it one of the best places to work that we could. And Robin, you know, there's probably no one in the firm who has a bigger heart for the employee than Robin. And that fits well with who I am. So that stands out.
And of course, Tracy. Tracy was my unofficial “advisor” when I first started at RINA. She was a senior at that time. We kind of grew up in the firm together. I am her oldest son’s godmother and consider her a really good friend.
Is there anything you’ve done that would surprise people at RINA?
I have won two Chili Cook Off competitions! But I would say most of the fun and exciting things that I do, people already know about.
What do you like most about working at RINA?
One thing I really enjoy is working with the interns. They're just so new and fresh and eager to figure it out and learn. And, and I think that's a lot of fun. I really like welcoming the new employees and being a part of their first impression. Also with the orientation I am the one to help them get settled in. I really enjoy that!
I also love working with the employees that we have already on staff and the ones that have been here for a long time. I do think it's a place where you get to know people. And, I feel that I managed to create a sense that I'm someone people can talk to if they're struggling with something or they want to propose some crazy idea about scheduling or something – I feel most people feel that they can come and talk to me about those kinds of things. And so, I really enjoy that!
What do you see changing in the profession?
I think that it's gotten harder because computers do so much. People who come into the profession have to start out at a higher level than they used to have to. It used to be that you would learn on easy returns where all you had to do was a lot of adding things up on an adding machine. There were things that you could do that didn't use so much brain power, and there's nothing like that now.
I think that the pressure of public accounting also is just getting higher and higher because the laws change so often, and it never lets up. You have to survive the 55–60-hour work weeks for a period of time – but it seems to go on and on and never seems to stop and then all of sudden, you’re already at the end of October.
What words of wisdom do you have for people as you leave?
I'd say spend your time doing what makes you happy? Don't waste your time doing stuff that you just don't enjoy!