Carmen joined Group Health Foundation as our finance and administration director in December 2017. She has been enjoying getting to know the staff and board, and helping establish our financial and operational systems and processes.
Q: What has been your path to Group Health Foundation?
A: During college, I tried different courses from psychology to computer science. Through that exploration, I came to realize I really enjoyed economics and finance, and particularly accounting. A professor recommended that a good job to get out of college would be working at one of the big five firms. I started my career at a large accounting firm, where my clients were big banks, high tech companies, and a few nonprofit organizations. While all the work was interesting, my favorite clients were always the nonprofits—I love the energy when you walk into a mission-centered organization. Ever since then, I’ve been on a path to work with nonprofits that are focused on social justice. Most recently, I was at Thrive Washington, a statewide organization working to ensure that all children have quality early learning opportunities for a strong start in school and life.
Q: What is your role at Group Health Foundation?
A: I’m the director of finance and administration. Part of my role is making sure we have policies and processes in place that both align with who we are today and accommodate our anticipated growth. For example, our technology systems are all in the cloud because we will eventually have people working across the state. It’s also a great challenge to be establishing the accounting and grants management systems that will enable us to serve our future partners as well.
Q: What do you love most about working at Group Health Foundation?
A: It’s really a dream job! It’s rare to work at a start-up foundation and have the opportunity to research how to move forward productively. We have time to think, plan, and be intentional about building our systems and processes. I also really love being part of an organization that values equity. I appreciate the conversations we’re having as a staff. They are tough, uncomfortable conversations, but also nice to be building equity into our culture from the start. Right now, we’re doing a book club with staff. Each of us is reading a different book, like “White Rage,” “Rising Strong,” and “Brain Rules,” then sharing what’s applicable to our work. I cannot wait until we bring more people on board and start having even more program dialogue. It’s really inspiring to part of Group Health Foundation’s mission.
Q: What has been an important lesson while working here?
A: I’ve been learning to slow down and not be as reactive. It’s a shift from working at a nonprofit, where you wear multiple hats. Here, I’ve had the opportunity to focus. I’m also learning it’s okay to make mistakes. We’re an organization that is going to have to take risks and challenge the status quo.
Q: When not at work, what do you like to do with your time?
A: I have a toddler, who is four years old, and love spending time with him. The smallest things get him so excited. That brings me joy, as well as spending time with my husband. I also love the beauty of where we live and spending time outdoors.
Q: Anything else you want to share?
A: I think about the connection between our mission and my personal life of having a child who was born prematurely (he came 14 weeks early). It was extremely stressful, and I experienced a lot of complications. But, I was fortunate to know the language and have the resources and support to navigate the health system. I’m excited to be part of an organization that can influence and shape the conditions for other parents who don’t have the same opportunities I did, so that someday, a zip code doesn’t determine a person’s health.