Interview Marina Tanay
How often do you hear someone make an observation that something is broken in the world around us? It’s easy to share your opinions about fragmented systems with your friends under the guise of, “Just wanting to see a better future.” What separates the naysayers and bystanders from the doers is rather simple, it includes rolling up your sleeves, getting into the mess that you see and becoming a part of the solution.
I recently came across a beautiful quote,
“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once
Whether you believe in the same cause, when you meet a volunteer, you are faced with someone who is invested in being a part of the change that they want to see. Change is not easy. It takes years to get into a mess and it typically takes much longer to get out of it. When we connect with others, to collaborate towards the results we want to see, we have a much better shot at conquering the obstacles of improvement. I enjoy hearing the stories of everyday people who are working to develop themselves and are intentional about making a change in the world around them.
Marina Tanay currently serves as the Capital Projects and Facilities Manager for the Sumner-Bonney Lake School District. Marina was recently voted in as the President of the Washington Association of Maintenance and Operations Administrators (WAMOA). WAMOA is a professional networking and education association for those working in the realm of facilities and operations in educational settings. We had the opportunity to meet and to interact for this interview.
The DYOJO: You have been with Sumner School District for 11 years, correct?
Marina Tanay: I actually started with the Sumner School District over 19 years ago.
DYOJO: Did you plan to be working in facilities/capital improvement when you started your career?
Marina: When I first started, I just wanted to work around my kids' school schedules and have a job that I didn't have to take home with me. My background as a paralegal and a writer made me seek out more and more responsibility as my kids got older. After subbing in M&O, I found my niche.
DYOJO: Did you start in part time work? What position was your first?
Marina: I did start part time in the child nutrition world with the district as a cashier. It worked for me as I had just recently been diagnosed with cancer and I wanted to have a job that I didn't have to put so much of myself into while I dealt with that. I had previously been writing and doing advertising for a small local newspaper.
DYOJO: Wow, cancer. What led to this discovery?
Marina: I had a very rare cancer called chondrosarcoma in my right hand. I had a lump in my hand that I questioned being a tumor, but the doctor thought it was a cyst. It grew for about 3 to 4 years in my hand before I insisted on follow up. At that time, my options for treatment were limited. The cancer wasn't one that would respond to chemotherapy and radiation wasn't an option with my hand. So amputation was my only real option.
DYOJO: How old were your children when you were given this news?
Marina: My kids were both in elementary school when I was diagnosed in 2000. My kids were troupers. I worked with school counselors to make sure they had support on the school side and my husband and I were open and honest with them throughout.
DYOJO: Scary stuff. Glad that you and the family made it through.
Marina: Getting through it was mostly an emotional battle. It wasn't always easy, but I got through it.
DYOJO: You are originally from this area, what has kept you here?
Marina: I am a native Washingtonian and have lived all over this state. My husband recently retired from Boeing and it was his employment at Boeing in Auburn that helped keep us in this particular area.
DYOJO: Federal, state, county, city and district budgets are always an area of concern for local communities and their schools. What are some of the unique challenges you face working on facilities and capital improvement within the public sector?
Marina: Such a true statement! It is challenging on both the general fund and capital budget sides. For the general fund, with McCleary, we've had to go through a couple rounds of budget cuts that have been a challenge for the entire district. It's hard to lose good co-workers to layoffs. From the capital perspective, the hot Northwest construction market has not helped school districts. I miss the days in 2009, 10 and 11, when our projects were routinely bidding below estimate!
DYOJO: What have been some of the most rewarding projects you have worked on?
Marina: I have been very fortunate to work on projects from two bond initiatives. I'm most proud of the elementary schools we have opened in Tehaleh as I worked closely on the FF&E for both projects:
DYOJO: You are the incoming president for WAMOA, how did you first hear about the organization and when did you become a member?
Marina: WAMOA is the Washington Association of Maintenance & Operations Administrators. I remember becoming acquainted with WAMOA in the early 2000s by reading the journals. I began attending region meetings about 7 or 8 years ago.
DYOJO: These WAMOA journals in the early 2000s, are those similar to the quarterly publication that WAMOA currently sends out?
Marina: Yes, I inherited a binder of early WAMOA journals that I really treasure.
DYOJO: For those who are not familiar tells us a bit about WAMOA and why you believe it is of value to those working in education?
Marina: WAMOA's core mission is reflected in our new vision statement: Developing successful facility leaders through professional collaboration. Managing school facilities is unique in the industry and our organization is an invaluable resource for its members. As a team, we work to provide up-to-date, useful information to support our members' success in their work and to develop as leaders in our field and our districts.
DYOJO: What sparked your interest in being involved in the leadership for WAMOA? What have you learned about working to serve your members as well as combine your voices to position your association to initiate positive change within the larger context?
Marina: At the heart of it is my desire to serve. I value my peers and am proud to serve them as they trust me to do so. Whether it has been as a region representative, vice president, or now president, I am dedicated to serving the organization and its members as best I can. As an organization, we are great collaborators and I value the organizations that we are developing collaborative relationships with to broaden our discussions and create positive impact.
DYOJO: As the president of a not for profit organization, what is your vision for your term?
Marina: Our 2020 conference theme really reflects my vision, "Leading by action and example" which is a concept that I believe in. The best quote I've seen that sums it up says that "Leadership is not a position or title. It is action and example." I believe that.
DYOJO: What do you believe are some of the keys to implementing your vision and seeing it executed to the best of your ability?
Marina: My goals for this year are to develop a vision statement, which we just recently accomplished with input from members and the board in a collaborative fashion. Next we will conduct a SWOT analysis and use the information generated to develop a new strategic plan so that we can carry out our mission, as reflected in our vision statement. Key to this work is communication and trust. I believe we have good communication in our organization and that the necessary trust relationship is developing as well.
DYOJO: We have discussed what it looks like to promote leadership development for and amongst your peers, what are some of the keys to doing this when your group is spread out?
Marina: WAMOA has it down! Our regions focus on local issues and provide good content at our regional monthly meetings. We invest in and work hard to provide the best keynote and leadership seminar speakers that we can find. Our conference committee works hard to put together a strong slate of workshops at our annual conference to meet the needs of all our members. The balance between the regional meetings and the leadership seminar and conference seems to really work for us.
DYOJO: For your own personal/professional development what have been some books, events and other resources that encouraged you in 2019, what did you draw from them?
Marina: 2019 was a HUGE year for me. I accomplished a lifelong dream and obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management finally. The course content was so relevant in both my professional and WAMOA life.
DYOJO: Congrats on completing your Bachelor’s, I know how good that feels as I recently completed mine as well. What are a few professional development components that you are looking forward to in 2020?
Marina: I've also been so motivated and inspired by some of our past leadership speakers. Brad Worthley, Phil Van Hooser and others inspire me constantly with their newsletters and blog posts that I continue to follow. I'm looking forward to hearing Denise Ryan in March. And it might be time for me to start pursuing my project management certification. That may be a new challenge that I set for myself!
I discovered WAMOA when we moved to Washington, as I had previously been involved with a similar group in Oregon called OSFMA (Oregon School Facilities Management Association). WAMOA does a great job of providing monthly regional meetings for local networking. There is a Spring Leadership Seminar in beautiful Leavenworth and a Fall Conference in the Valley of Hops, Yakima. If you work in education, facilities, operations, custodial, managing union labor or provide services that would be of value to these professionals, WAMOA will be of value to your development goals in 2020 and beyond.
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Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, is a contractor, author, and host of The DYOJO Podcast. The goal of The DYOJO is to help growth-minded restoration professionals shorten their DANG learning curve for personal and professional development. You can watch The DYOJO Podcast on YouTube on Thursdays or listen on your favorite podcast platform.