Humans of CLI: Elizabeth Garvin

CLI's director of HR takes a selfie while sipping on a coffee through a straw
Elizabeth Garvin, CLI’s director of HR

We thought it was high time we stopped hiding. It hasn’t been on purpose — it’s easier to talk about our interpreters and the incredible work they do. They are the reason non-English-speaking individuals can feel empowered to access the services they need.

But for every Spanish interpreter we work with, there’s a CLI recruiter vetting their skills to ensure you receive only the best service. For every call that comes in, there’s a CLI agent ready to assist with language identification.

Our employees are a thoughtful, passionate bunch, and we want to give you a glimpse into their motivations, their drive, and why they choose to be a member of CLI’s team. That’s the impetus behind Humans of CLI. You can find a new post every month featuring a different employee. We hope you like it (and us!).

For our first post in this series, we thought it only appropriate to sit down with our director of HR, Elizabeth Garvin. We talked about CLI’s journey and what brings her joy in her work.

Here’s Elizabeth.

How long have you worked with CLI?

Elizabeth: I have been with Certified Languages for 19 years and 5 months. Next February will be 20 years, so it’s been a while.

What attracted you to working for CLI?

Elizabeth: I was working in a call center at a huge phone company, and it just wasn’t for me. I was attracted to working with a smaller company again, and we [CLI] had about 10 employees when I started.

My previous experience was in accounting, and they had an accounting position open. I had done billing and collections at a previous job, and I was really good at keeping my accounts under 60 days and that is what Bill Graeper, the CEO at the time, said attracted him to my résumé.

Things in the world have changed dramatically in such a short time. How has the workplace (or your job) changed? And how do you go about changing with the times?

Elizabeth: There was no HR [department] at that time I started. There were 4 or 5 CSRs, an interpreter recruiter manager, me in accounting, a salesperson, and the CEO. So I made myself at home and talked to all these really young people. They were like 19 and 21, and it was a really fun place to work, and still is. There’s been a lot of growth since then, going from a team of 10 to almost 200 employees, and it happened naturally over time.

I think the biggest thing is to be adaptable. It’s not all about just what’s in front of me as far as HR. There’s always people who have questions, or have concerns they need answered, or there are celebrations that need to be planned. That’s where you get to know people, and I think that if you allow people to be who they are, and you treat them as human beings, they’re going to do what they can to help the company and the environment they’re in to grow.

Elizabeth enjoying the nice weather on a trip to Mexico.

What has working in HR helped you understand about people? What has most surprised you?

Elizabeth: I learned early that I can’t gauge everybody by the same standard. I can’t say, “Well, I can do that, why can’t they?” I have to understand that everybody has their own abilities and limitations.

Like I said, I tried to be a CSR once at the phone company … it didn’t work because it was a bad fit for me. It is a skill that other people possess that I do not. I just happen to possess a different skill, which is that I can work well with a lot of different personalities and be okay with that! I really enjoy each one of them, and they’re not discounted because they’re different. We accept them for who they are and what they bring to the team. Besides, if we were all the same, we’d be really boring, and we wouldn’t come up with very good ideas!

You’re the beacon of culture at CLI and the queen of events. Are there any events that define CLI? Or any that are your personal favorite?

Elizabeth: I love Team Week — it’s one of my favorites! It started out with one of our salespeople coming into town for the week for a few meetings, and we asked our current CEO, Kristin Quinlan, “Can we all do something fun for the team at the end of the week?”

The next time around, we thought, “Why not have all the departments meet?” And we did that for a few years, and each department would meet to work on and put out their plan for the coming year with something fun at the end.

We’d always done a holiday luncheon or dinner and tucked in a barbecue here and there, but Team Week was really special because you really got to sit down with your colleagues and your coworkers, learning more about what other people do in the company. It’s also time to bond as a department and as a company.

You love llamas. When did your love of llamas begin?

Elizabeth: I found out I love llamas about 2 years ago when I saw this event on Facebook where there was going to a llama. I really wanted to go see the llama, and I made my daughter and her friend go with me. His name was Rojo, and I even saw him in his last event before he passed away. I was so happy to see him [RIP, Rojo!].

We also went out to Von Ebert Brewing a couple of times to see him, and did a paint-and-sip night at the llama farm. All the proceeds went to their therapy program. They take them [the llamas] into nursing facilities and schools. The llamas and alpacas bring great joy. I mean, how can you be around a llama and not feel happy? You know, I just don’t think it’s possible.

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