Getting to know Maria Isquierdo

UCAR’s new director of Human Resources

January 20, 2015 |As part of a series of interviews with new leaders at NCAR/UCAR, Staff News recently chatted with Maria Isquierdo. We asked five questions to learn more about her, personally and professionally.

Staff News:  Tell us a little about your background.

Maria: I grew up in the small city of Saginaw, Michigan. Saginaw was home to multiple automotive plants and my whole family worked for General Motors. I have one sister who is 16 years older than me. It was almost like having two mothers, growing up. After my sister moved to Denver and got a nursing job at St. Joseph’s Hospital, my parents moved to Colorado when I was in sixth grade so I could get to know my sister better. Despite our age difference, it was important to my parents that we were close.

Getting an education was also important in my family. My parents placed a high value on that, which is why I have multiple degrees, including a bachelor’s degree in political science (CSU-Fort Collins), Master of Public Administration (Syracuse), Master of Human Resources (The New School), and Master of Education: Organizational Performance and Change (CSU-Denver). I would like to go back to school while at UCAR, but I haven’t decided what I’d like to study yet!

My very first job was at the U.S. Government Accountability Office in New York City. I lived right around the corner from Times Square, which was exciting. I traveled to various government-funded programs and audited them. It was interesting work and a great place to get training.

I have moved around a considerable amount in my career to advance myself professionally, as well as following my husband through his various job changes. At last count, we have lived in eight houses. I love Colorado and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

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Maria Isquierdo. (Photo by Rebecca Swisher, ©UCAR.)

Staff News: Do you have any hidden talents?

Maria: I have a knack for learning by listening. When I was in middle school, I learned how to play clarinet by ear. I did really well without ever learning how to read music.

My parents spoke Spanish at home, but they never taught me to speak it. At that time, there was a lot of social pressure for Latinos to become more “Americanized,” so I only learned English.  I loved the sounds of different languages, so I made up my own language as a young girl, thinking that I was speaking Spanish, too. Later I studied Spanish, French, and Chinese in school.

Staff News: What is one thing you can't live without?

Maria: I am addicted to People magazine and celebrity news. I have been a subscriber for 15 years or more. When I worked in New York City, every Friday night I’d go down to Rockefeller Center and wait for the celebrities to come down the elevators after rehearsing for Saturday Night Live to get autographs. I’d camp out in the mezzanine level, to get in line early in the morning to get stand-by tickets to the show. My favorite celebrity of all time is Julia Roberts, but I have never met her.

Staff News: What are your goals for the next six months in your new role?

Maria: Over the next six months, I want to learn as much as I can about the needs of the organization and how we can enhance Human Resources services to support the organization. I have been meeting with many people to get feedback and learn from them. My staff and I are putting plans in place to develop an enhanced  recruitment process with rollout planned for the end of the first quarter of 2015. We also plan to educate staff about the total compensation package they have at UCAR. And we are going to start reaching out each year to staff that are approaching or at retirement eligibility to ensure there is understanding of our retirement benefits.     

Staff News: If you could have a second career, what would it be?

Maria: I’d want to be a roadie for U2. I love music and U2 is my favorite band. I miss the days when I used to camp out to buy tickets to a concert. Now everyone buys them online. I miss the camaraderie with the other fans.