Heidi Hamlow is the wearer of many hats at SecondMuse, as she works on finance and accounting, human resources, business development proposals, operations and project work such as in-depth research and writing reports. Before coming to SecondMuse, where she has been for nearly four years, Heidi had several years experience in business management and community building and has an educational background in natural sciences and education.
1) You’re passionate about the outdoors and have a young daughter. What do you like to do with your family when you’re not working?
My oldest passion is the outdoors. I grew up surrounded by public land in the desert Southwest near the San Juan Mountains, and the sheer volume and variety of wild spaces available to me as a child and young adult had a deep impact on what I have come to care about most in the world. I have chased birds and sunsets, hiked, backpacked and mountain biked my way through coming of age, marriage, and now motherhood. My six-year-old daughter now rides on the back of a tandem with her dad as captain when we go on family rides. We hike with her as well and are making plans for our first family backpacking and bicycle touring trips this year, as well as some canoe trips on the Rio Grande.
Beyond cultivating the love and awe of nature through enjoyment of the outdoors, as a biologist and an educator at heart, I see our family life as an opportunity to empower my daughter and others around us with a deeper understanding of the natural world and the impact of the choices we make on it. We strive to live a family life that is increasingly sustainable and spend family time that reflects that as well — gardening, cooking and preserving our home-grown produce, harvesting rainwater, and co-housing with grandparents with whom we also spend time.
2) You came to SecondMuse after studying biology and education. How do those topics come together in the work you do?
They almost never do — not like you’d think. It may seem out of touch with what I care about, but I studied ecology out of pure love for the subject matter and at one point intended to research and/or teach professionally. As I grew to understand how out of balance human behaviors are within natural systems, I found myself thinking “it’s not enough.” I wanted to have a greater impact.
Then life happened — deaths and births and the ensuing choices to prioritize family over the pursuit of a career for a time, during which I picked up main street business and eco-hospitality management experience. When I was ready to pick up the career thread again, SecondMuse had an opening, and I realized for the first time in my life I was onto something with the potential for the kind of impact I had envisioned. Systems thinking, coupled with community in collaboration, has the capacity to place human systems and ecosystems on the same map for deep understanding — not only of the way things are, but of how they could be. It is at its heart an ecological endeavor. It is also educational, as the process itself reveals truths about reality that we almost never uncover unilaterally. Though on occasion I may have the opportunity to participate in SecondMuse work that directly relates to ecology in the conventional sense, the work we do at SecondMuse is ecological on a grander scale, which is a perfect convergence of my interests with the impact I want to be a part of making in the world.
3) Your role at SecondMuse is made up of many different parts and projects. What do you find most rewarding and most challenging, and how do you stay motivated through that?
From making rigorous research and writing contributions to significant works such as The LAUNCH Report to coordinating company finances to planning meals for a company retreat, I do wear a lot of hats at SecondMuse. Being enabled to do a lot of different things keeps it interesting in itself, but that also poses the greatest challenge: staying on top of a large number of disparate tasks. When those tasks are more mundane, I stay motivated by maintaining awareness of our sense of purpose. When the task is highly intellectually challenging, I am motivated by the task itself and the resultant personal growth, which is always deeply rewarding.
Though it may sound trite, at a more general level the overarching theme for me is motivation by love and reward by impact. From working to make the palm oil industry more sustainable to making expense reporting easier on my colleagues, all the work is rewarding when viewed through this lens.