Meet the Team: Faith Geronimo

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Faith GeronimoFaith Geronimo, the Vice President of Operations and General Manager at Hawaii Information Service, followed an unlikely path to where she is today.

But that path — from tomboy through rebellious band geek, winding through car washes, copier sales, and food service — certainly turned out to be the right one for both Faith and the company. Each step brought lessons that have enabled her to revitalize the corporate culture at a company now on the brink of great change.

“My road has not really been a road of ambition; it’s really been a road of knowing I could make a difference in a positive way,” she says. “I’m proud of my achievements… even surprised by my achievements.”

Faith was born and raised on the Big Island, and spent much of her childhood with her sister and grandparents after her parents moved to O’ahu. Her early schooling was shaped by her family’s 7th Day Adventist roots, starting at Mauna Loa School in Hilo and attending Hawaiian Mission Elementary in Honolulu when she rejoined her parents as a second grader.

By the fourth grade, her life had gotten much more colorful.

“I switched to public school at Salt Lake Elementary, where I learned to swear and be obnoxious,” she laughs. “I was not a smart kid, I lacked common sense, and was constantly getting yelled at for not being able to do math.”

Faith with her grandmother and mother.

Her family relocated from Salt Lake to Hawaii Kai, sending Faith to Niu Valley Middle School and then Kaiser High School. But despite shaky grades and an awkward adolescence, she found a sanctuary in music.

“I was always more on the artistic side, and I don’t ever remember not liking or responding to music,” she recalls. Memories of singing in church in Hilo, and even performing as a little girl at old folks’ homes, helped make the Kaiser band room feel like a second home. She started with the ukulele, then moved onto drums, and ultimately rose to percussion section leader.

“Absolutely I’m a band geek,” she says proudly. “Though I was definitely the naughty, more punky band geek.”

When she started, Faith says Kaiser was the “joke band,” invited only to marching band festivals for the entertainment value. But a new band director was brought in, Brian Mizuguchi from Farrington High School, and he turned the program around.

“He was one of the top three teachers that I’ve ever had — he brought passion to our music, he honed my listening skills, and he made me realize the importance of every single part in a piece,” she says. “No part is too small, and even if you have two notes in a whole song, it’s meant to be there, so you have to get it right. It’s definitely something I’ve carried into other parts of my life.”

Faith making music.
Faith making music with her band, “After Five.”

She also formed a band with her classmates (named ’5/80′ for the month and year in which they started), and they were good enough to get gigs around town, from McDonald’s to the Easter Seals telethon. And while she was the drummer, and picked up the guitar, she also found her voice.

“We were playing at a party, the lead singer forgot words to Waialua Sky, so I jumped in,” she says. “It was the first time I ever sang, and everyone said, ‘Hey, she can sing.’”

She even got good enough to inspire guys to ask her to sing to them… and their girlfriends.

After she graduated from high school, she joined the workforce, somewhat reluctantly.

“My sister has worked since she could work, but I didn’t get a job until I was 18, because my parents forced me to,” she says. “Even after I started working, my sister would write checks, pay all the bills — I was kind of hopeless.”

But she stuck with that first job, from washing cars to managing rental agents at Dollar Rent-a-Car, for seven years. And like her high school band director, Faith credits her boss with shaping some of the values she has today.

“When I got my first managerial position she asked me to work extra hours, seven days a week instead of six,” Faith says. “She told me, ‘You think title comes without having to work hard? You work the hardest of anybody here.’ I got a major part of my work ethic from her.”

She didn’t even want her next job, rushing to her interview after cruising most of the day on the North Shore, expecting only to check off another box on her unemployment card.

Faith and her friend and former boss Renee.

“I came to the interview with my hair still wet from a quick shower, and got scolded because I didn’t know how to type even though the ad said it was a requirement,” Faith recalls. “But Renee saw something in me that even I didn’t see at the time, and she hired me.”

Renee Gomes, owner and president of Hawaii Business Equipment (now Toshiba Business Solutions), is someone Faith now considers a key architect of her professional life.

“Renee was really all about character and leadership — she modeled the behavior she expected from you, she made sure managers went through the same things the employees did, and reached out directly to everyone who worked for her,” Faith says. “She helped me find my talents, she gave me self confidence, and she taught me how to coach.”

After a four year stint as an up-and-coming employee, Faith nonetheless leapt into a chance to try her hand as an entrepreneur. For her next act, she and a partner ran a startup coffee cart company, and in the days before Starbucks, business was pretty good… eventually.

“I had never been so broke, and yet so happy,” she recalls. “We struggled for everything, but had a lot of freedom.”

As they helped set people up with their own small businesses all over the island, Faith cherished the opportunity to share her business and management knowledge and find success in the success of her customers (including the people that eventually founded the Teddy’s Bigger Burger restaurant chain).

Her next two jobs were short but challenging. She was a shift supervisor at a restaurant at the Pacific Beach Hotel in Waikiki, and a manager at Kaka’ako Kitchen. And during that time, against all odds, she also returned to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in business.

“After that, I finally found refuge in 2001 at HIS,” Faith says. “I was brought on as an accounts receivable clerk, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Over the years, Faith has had the opportunity to put every lesson and skill she learned into practice at HIS, building the foundations of the company even before it was officially her job to do so. “I’m a lead from any chair kind of person,” she says.

And now, as a vice president and the lead person in charting the company’s path beyond next summer’s transition to a new MLS system, she’s even more resolute in her belief that HIS has evolved into a very different company, and as a result, can continue to succeed.

“I’ve worked for small companies and big companies, good bosses and terrible bosses, and what’s common is that people want to come to work with good people, and that’s the kind of place we’ve tried to create here at HIS,” she says. “Positive growth for a company is something that only comes when it’s happening individually, so to increase productivity and creativity and efficiency, I want to make sure that we all come to work and want to work with each other.”

The Hawaii Information Service ‘ohana.

And with fewer layers of hierarchy and fewer boundaries between departments, she’s proud of the company’s rejuvenated culture of collaboration and recognition.

“We’ve all bought into each other now — we all want each other to be happy and we want success for each other,” she says. “This culture, and this model, has had more success than anything I’ve seen in the last 11 years.”

Perhaps moreso than anyone at the company, Faith lives and breathes her work. But she also knows that her journey is far from over, and continues to invest in her personal growth. Last year, in addition to her job, she earned a Master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. That included dozens of hours in an internship program working with the severely mentally ill.

And she’s recommitting to her first love: music. She still periodically plays in a band called “After Five,” and wants to finally put out an album. That’ll include a return to original songwriting, something she hasn’t done since her twenties.

“Most of my life I wanted to be book smart, so I went on that long quest, and now I’m learning that my smarts were always there, especially in terms of creative things,” she says. “It might not be where I’m making my livelihood, but I’m passionate about music.”

Faith says she can even see writing a book or two, or teaching, in her future. And as far as the teachers and mentors that she’s met through the years, she still keeps them close.

Faith’s sister Michelle now handles accounting at HIS.

She still good friends with Renee, and several coworkers at Renee’s company have come to work for HIS, including Colleen Yasuhara, VP of Product Development. And this year, her sister Michelle joined the team to manage accounting.

“I think my sister is the most significant relationship in my life, and I’m lucky that we don’t compete with each other like siblings often do,” Faith says. “She took care of me when I didn’t know how to take care of myself, and now she’s helping to take care of the company.”

“I think it’s a myth that you can’t work with your family, or with your friends,” Faith adds. “You can, if you have honesty and good communications skills — and without those, you really can’t work with anyone.”

You can ask Faith about the custom ‘ukulele she’s having made by e-mail at faith@hawaiiinformation.com. Make sure you didn’t miss our profiles of SamVictorJerry,Gay, and Novena.

December Training Schedule

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Below is the schedule of upcoming online training classes for the month of December. If you’re new to REsearch, we strongly encourage you to attend the “Orientation” session on Dec. 6. You may also be interested in our “Cloud CMA” session on Dec. 14.

Even if you’ve participated in a session before, it’s often a good idea to get a refresher. Our live trainers can answer your questions and help you get the most out of REsearch. Descriptions of each HIS webinar can be found here.

To sign up immediately, simply click on the links below. If you are going to participate/watch online classes as a group, only one person needs to sign up.

Dec. 3-7, 2012

The Basics

Dec. 4, 2012 from 9:30 AM to 11:00 AM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/714311654

How to Enter & Manage Listings

Dec. 4, 2012 from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/655005662

Basics to Formats

Dec. 6, 2012 from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/335830054

Orientation

Dec. 6, 2012 from 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/688207646

Basics to Searching

Dec. 7, 2012 from 9:30 AM to 11:00 AM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/301845294

Adnvanced Search Techniques

Dec. 7, 2012 from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/239826046

Dec. 10-14, 2012

Farming & Labels

Dec. 11, 2012 from 9:30 AM to 11:00 AM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/606192918

Prospecting & Contacts
Dec. 11, 2012 from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/304763054

The Calendar

Dec. 13, 2012 from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/814609542

zipForms & Downloading the Roster

Dec. 13, 2012 from 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/276531526

Update & CMA Features

Dec. 14, 2012 from 9:30 AM to 11:00 AM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/694733006

Cloud CMA

Dec. 14, 2012 from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/138748990

Dec. 17-21, 2012

Maps I

Dec. 18, 2012 from 9:30 AM to 11:00 AM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/208228454

Maps II
Dec. 18, 2012 from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/860853942

The Basics

Dec. 20, 2012 from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/163621598

How to Enter & Manage Listings

Dec. 20, 2012 from 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/489085726

Customizing

Dec. 21, 2012 from 9:30 AM to 11:00 AM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/894344646

Downloading

Dec. 21, 2012 from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM
Register: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/503985078

In-Person Training

TMK Essentials

Dec. 14, 2012 from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM
680 Iwilei Rd., Suite 777, Honolulu, HI 96817 [Map]
Instructions on how to register for online classes:
  • To register, please click on the applicable link located below the class. The link will then take you to the registration site.
  • Please complete all the required fields marked by a red asterisks (First Name, Last Name, Email Address, Phone, Organization AKA Office Name).
  • Click “Register Now” to complete the registration process. Once registered a confirmation email will be sent to your email address to confirm your registration along with a unique web ID number and instructions on how to login to the session on that day.
  • If you need login assistance, please feel free to contact our Customer/Technical Support team at 800-628-3121, press # and then 457.
Remember, after you have participated, please make sure to fill out the survey or e-mail me your feedback so we can continue to improve upon our training efforts! Mahalo. 

 

System Requirements for Online Classes
  • PC-based attendees – Required: Windows® 2000, XP, Vista, Windows 7
  • Macintosh®-based attendees – Required: Mac OS® X 10.4 (Tiger®) or newer
System requirements apply only to the GoToMeeting webinar service, not to the REsearch system.
Questions? Comments? Please feel free to contact us via support@hawaiiinformation.com or call (808) 599-4224 or (800) 628-3121.

Reminder: Real Estate License Renewals

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Real Estate Commission BulletinThe State of Hawaii Real Estate Commission is reminding real estate professionals that the license renewal deadline is drawing near.

The state has provided online renewals of professional and vocational licenses (PVL) since October. At the PVL renewal website, you will be able to renew your real estate broker, branch office, and salesperson licenses 24 hours a day, through Dec. 31, 2012. Late renewals must be handled by mail or in person.

While the official deadline is Dec. 31, 2012, the commission notes in its November 2012 bulletin (PDF) that Continuing Education (CE) requirements need to be completed by November 30, 2012 in order to allow time for CE providers to report course completions.

Licensees can also check the status of their CE requirements online.

Please note that Hawaii Information Service refers to the state PVL website to verify the eligibility of members to access its services. Prior to this year’s online upgrades, forfeited licenses would not be reported online for several months. However, we have observed newly updated license status notes that include an ending effective date. This may suggest that the state will mark incomplete or unpaid licenses much more quickly following the January 1, 2013 renewal date.

As always, the renewal of active licenses are dependent on the renewal of your principal broker. If your broker has not yet renewed, your renewal will be held in a pending status.

With what we hope will be a festive and productive holiday season approaching, we hope you and your colleagues will take the time now to ensure that you and your business are ready to hit the ground running again come the new year!

This is a courtesy reminder for our valued members, but please note that Hawaii Information Service is not affiliated with nor able to speak for the State of Hawaii, the Real Estate Commission, or the Real Estate Branch of the Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs. Please contact these agencies directly with any questions or concerns you may have.

Meet the Team: Sue Ann Militante

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Staff - Sue Ann Militante

For normal people, Halloween has only just arrived. But in the Hawaii Information Service office, the pumpkin lanterns and paper skeletons have been in place since the last week of September. The reason? Sue Ann Militante, a.k.a. Sam.

Officially, Sam’s job is Membership Coordinator with a dash of Customer Service. But to her coworkers, she’s a force of nature, with a knack for the crafty and colorful.

“I would say that I am a ‘Girl Friday,’ Sam says. “I do everything, and a lot of ‘everything’ is probably not in my job description.”

So while the company’s primary focus is serving its customers, Sam’s talents are often tapped to turn the workplace into a second home. Every holiday brings an opportunity to decorate every corner of the office, and Sam gives the office a big serving of personality, even on a small budget.

“I love a good challenge, and whenever I have a challenge I get it done,” she says.

“She’s just a maniac that way,” observes Faith Geronimo, VP of Operations.

Sam’s family emigrated from Okinawa and ended up in Kailua on the Windward Side of Oahu. Her grandparents ran a farm where Castle Hospital now stands, making tofu and vegetables and selling produce on the side of the road. And Sam’s mother built a 45-year career at Foodland, working with founder Maurice J. “Sully” Sullivan since the grocery store chain’s first store in Kailua.

Sam grew up in Lanikai as an unabashed tomboy. While her older sister was more of an introvert, Sam was running around with the boys and taking on the yardwork. Sam set out on her own after graduating from Kailua High School, choosing to move into town rather than joining the Foodland family as her cousins had.

“When you’re the boss’ daughter, you get a lot of grief,” she recalls.

She pursued a secretarial certificate at Cannon’s Business College in downtown Honolulu, meanwhile working at “all kinds of weird jobs.” She was a hostess Shogun restaurant, cashiered at Hardware Hawaii, and did late-night inventory at ABC Stores in Waikiki.

Staff - Sue Ann Militante - Francis

After earning her business certificate, Sam’s first full-time job was as a receptionist at B.J. Furniture Showcase. A gig at Hawaiian Dredging and Construction followed, and that was where she met her husband Francis, during inter-departmental volleyball matches. The two have now been together more than three decades, married for 18 years and raising a son and a daughter.

Sam would bounce through a few other jobs, but in June 2001, she found her way to HIS. She joined the team the same day Faith did, and they’ve both been a key part of the company for more than a decade.

“I like it here,” she says. “It’s pretty non-corporate, very colorful, and very local.”

Today Sam handles membership issues, but more importantly, steps in wherever help is needed. Whether it’s coordinating a potluck for visitors, or preparing and packing supplies for a conference, Sam can be counted on to get things done.

The office certainly benefits from her comfort with tools and her passion for arts and crafts, skills that once powered a side business that took her to craft fairs all over the island. But once her two kids got smart enough to not work for free, soda tab leis and bottlecap potholders returned to hobby status.

She has also earned a reputation among her coworkers as a good cook, a fact that she finds a little perplexing.

“When I was a kid I was a Hamburger Helper master chef,” she says. “I’m a pretty simple cook, I just like to throw things together.”

Despite having what she describes as a “one-butt kitchen” at home in Wahiawa (only one person can fit inside at a time), Sam says she’s usually able to get a meal together in under 20 minutes. Part of that capability comes from experimentation and an obsession with QVC and the Home Shopping Network.

“I’m an appliance freak, always looking for that ultimate appliance that can do everything,” she admits. And any kitchen tool or cleaning gadget that doesn’t find a place in her toolbox at home often ends up in the office.

Sue Ann Militante - Shurinaha Club

Sam’s other passion is Okinawa, celebrating the culture of her grandparents. She’s a proud ‘uchinanchu,’ and is active with the Hawaii Shuri-Naha Club, an organization that’s been around since 1928. For the last decade, she’s volunteered at the annual Okinawan Festival at Kapiolani Park, where you’ll find her preparing champuru, a traditional Okinawan stir fry dish.

“It’s interesting learning your own culture,” she says. “And Okinawa is very different, with a whole different language.”

Sam only recently got to visit Okinawa, a trip that was her first international travel experience. She was able to visit with her grandmother’s cousins, and got to experience the ‘taikai,’ a huge festival that takes place every five years. One of the centerpieces of the event is a giant tug-of-war with a giant rope, and Sam was able to bring home a piece of rope as a souvenir.

Sam’s only other travels are visits to Las Vegas. While she has become a pro in finding airfare and hotel deals, she wasn’t always a fan of the ‘ninth island.’ But when her sister-in-law won an opportunity to buy house lots at lottery six years ago, she and her husband become property owners in Pahrump, located about an hour away from downtown.

“My sister-in-law lives right next door, so she can keep an eye on the place,” Sam says. “You can’t miss it, with the palm trees and fake grass.”

“Of course we did this at the peak of the housing boom, when developments and subdivisions were going up everywhere,” she adds. “It’s our expensive vacation home.”

In fact, Sam is vacationing in Las Vegas right now. But her coworkers eagerly await her return in a couple of weeks. After all, as much fun as she had with Halloween, we’re coming up on the most wonderful time of the year.

Office Halloween Decorations

Happy Halloween! Next month, we’ll introduce you to Faith. Until then, make sure you didn’t miss our profiles of VictorJerryGay, and Novena.


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