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Rose Rodriguez: ‘You really have to think like an Alaskan.’

When NorthStar Energy Recruiter Rose Rodriguez has open jobs in Alaska, she doesn’t rely on the usual recruiting platforms to fill them. Instead, she meets potential applicants right where they’re at—literally.

“You really have to think like an Alaskan. You won’t come across many truck drivers who have a LinkedIn profile. Sometimes, you have to join a community’s Facebook group or post the job on Craigslist. A lot of times, it’s a good idea to advertise the job at sporting events in smaller towns. And don’t forget the power of a good old-fashioned flyer. You can post it around town or at all the docks. Most Alaskans spend their times outdoors; they see things when they’re out and about.”

Rodriguez was born and raised in Ketchikan, along the state’s southeastern coast, and said being an Alaskan has shaped her in many ways.

“At one point, my family of six lived in a one-bedroom apartment.”

Growing up in an area that experienced a fair amount of tourism, she received her worker’s permit at 14 and landed her first job as a cleaner for a local Bed & Breakfast. Her brother’s childhood illness kept him and Rodriguez’s parents at the children’s hospital in Seattle for long periods during her teenage years.

“I had to be a mom to my two sisters,” she said. “I did a lot of the educating and tutoring for a while. After six years, the doctors finally pinpointed why my brother had been so sick, and he started getting better. His fight inspired me to study Exercise Science and Kinesiology.”

Unfortunately, Rodriguez said, none of the universities within Southeast Alaska offered that kind of program, so she chose to leave the state to attend Northern Arizona University.

“It actually snowed on my graduation day,” she laughed. “There’s a ski resort there and lots of snow, so I felt very much at home. Unfortunately, the rules changed before I graduated, and a master’s degree wasn’t enough to become accredited. I’d have had to redo my courses for the doctorate program. I’d applied for so many scholarships, but this kept me from moving forward.”

Instead, Rodriguez went home to earn her master’s degree from the University of Alaska Southeast through evening courses while working a full-time job as a manager. In 2014, she decided to take a year off to determine her next steps.

“I spent that year in Hawaii,” she said. “My parents were really supportive; they wanted me to have a lot of freedom since I’d spent my teenage years at home with a lot of responsibilities. At first, I didn’t know where I was going to go. I bought a pendant and just…swung it around a map, and it landed on Kauai, Hawaii. I met some amazing people and got to experience the ocean, the air, the islands.”

Proximity to home

Rodriguez’s time in Hawaii inspired her to take a job as an operations supervisor for Holland America/Princess Cruises when she returned to Alaska. After one season, the company offered her a position as an assistant manager. She moved up again, this time to operations manager, and her tenure with the company lasted almost nine years before the pandemic shut the cruise industry down.

“There was kind of a big halt for a long time,” she said. “No cruise ships were coming to Alaska.”

Rodriguez decided to move, first to Florida’s West Palm Beach, then to Seattle.

I wanted to see what life had to offer away from my town with only 30 miles of road. I knew I wanted to be close to the ocean, but I didn’t know exactly where.”

Rodriguez chose Seattle.

“Ultimately, it came down to proximity to home. It takes two days to get to Alaska from Florida, but in Seattle, I can catch a 50-minute flight home.”

Rodriguez was building her life in Seattle, working on personal projects, when a recruiter reached out to her regarding a direct-hire position at NorthStar Energy.

“When I was first introduced to NorthStar Energy, I knew family and safety were a strong foundation of their organization. My brother’s treatment required my parents and me to work multiple jobs for employers who allowed my parents to travel back and forth from Seattle. So it was NorthStar’s values that captured my attention more than anything else. I was able to speak with them, and honestly, it felt like a perfect fit. It fit like a glove. My title at Holland America wasn’t ‘Recruiter,’ but as operations manager, I did have experience recruiting drivers to drive the tourist buses when passengers disembarked the ships in various locations. It was a huge introduction to my logistics career.

“Often, CDL drivers want a manager who can fill in, who’s done the work, and knows the sacrifices made for the position. The only way to manage a team in logistics is to participate in all the positions from the ground up. Having earned my CDL while at Holland America, I understand employee concerns and am better able to stand by them. When (NorthStar) started talking about Hawaii, Alaska, and sister companies in Florida—those were all places I’d lived. Everything started clicking. Growing up in Alaska, I was familiar with most of our service areas. I know them physically—I’ve been there. I know the weather. I know how the people think because that’s how I think, and it’s a huge advantage.”

Becoming a resource hub

Rodriguez joined NorthStar Energy on July 6, 2021. She recruits skilled workers—for anything from warehouse jobs to executive accounting positions—for NorthStar, Delta Western, Northern Oilfield Solutions, Inlet Energy, and Alaska Petroleum Distributing.

“Truck drivers are hard to find in Alaska. We have a lot of qualified drivers, but because we’re HazMat focused, transporting fuel or methanol, it can take up to 60 days to get qualified, and drivers don’t usually want to wait that long in the recruiting process for their job to start.

“What’s nice about our HR team at NorthStar is that we’re becoming a resource hub for our teams in Alaska. It allows us to help them. Some teams need extra resources, and we’re building a platform ahead of us to give them training. It’s been a pleasure getting to know our teams in Alaska. I’m honored to have gained their trust thus far, especially in a DOT-compliant position.”

Instead of asking questions like, “Tell me about a time you had a problem,” Rodriguez’s CDL allows her to get a lot more specific in her interviews with candidates.

“Mine are more scenario-driven: ‘What would you do if your vehicle broke down in the middle of the road?’ or ‘How do you prepare for certain weather conditions?’ I try to make my questions more specific. This helps our teams determine if this member would fit in with safety, real-time incidents, and company values.”

Rose looks out at the Seattle skyline.

‘Nothing is impossible’

Rodriguez’s family hails from the Philippines. She speaks English and Tagalog, which can be helpful when communicating with some of the teams and current/future applicants.

“It’s nice to be able to understand and be aware of their culture. It improves our ability to communicate.”

She said she’s most surprised that her current position “just landed in my lap.”

“I didn’t search for it. It came for me. It was a sign,” she smiled. “Right now, I love everything about our operating companies and how we connect on many different levels. Every day I get survey results that help position me better on how I’d like to recruit.”

Rodriguez said NorthStar’s aim is not just to fill a job but to help candidates build careers, teach tech skills, look for potential, and promote candidates to new opportunities.

“We pride ourselves on helping our communities in Alaska find long-term employment.”

Rodriguez said she expects NorthStar will continue to grow in the coming years and serve its teams even more efficiently.

“I think the main goal is for everyone in our operating companies to feel confident in Human Resources and our hiring practices. We also offer opportunities for our employees, their families, and the whole community to give back. This is exemplified in our charitable donations and matching, and our tuition assistance program. In my senior year of high school, I applied to 107 scholarships and won 36. I had to work hard to pay my way through college. I was blown away when I found out that NorthStar contributes $4,000 per year for undergraduates and $7,000 for graduate students after one year of employment. Tuition assistance is important to me since I know secondary education has a significant impact on families, especially those in Alaska where graduate and undergraduate programs aren’t available everywhere.”

Rodriguez said she’s most proud of the fact that she took a risk and moved away from Alaska.

“It’s tough to move out of Alaska. When I first got to Seattle, I didn’t know anyone. I was in a whole new state. I went ahead and purchased a house. It’s scary, but I’m happy I did it. I love the people I work with. I’m happy I didn’t miss that sign, miss that opportunity. It’s been fun. It’s been exciting. Most of all, it’s a good challenge. Seeking out the discomfort helps you grow. Nothing is impossible.”

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Hilary Reeves

Hilary Reeves spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining the Saltchuk family of companies as a consultant. Since People of Saltchuk launched in 2014, Reeves has interviewed more than 200 Saltchuk employees from operating companies all over the world. Born in Tacoma, Washington, Reeves is a former president of both the collegiate and local professional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists, a graduate of the Society’s Ted Scripps Leadership Institute, and a Toastmaster. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, ski, and practice the piano. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two young daughters.