Cat Dragon, CFE, Facilities Coordinator at Scottsdale Community College was profiled in CFE Corner in the most recent edition of Facility Manager. In this segment, Ms. Dragon shared with us her background and pursuit of IAVM’s Certified Facilities Executive designation.
In what facilities have you worked?
Los Angeles Theater Center; Mark Taper Forum; Old Globe Theater; The Herberger Theater Center; Phoenix Theater; Arizona State University School of Theater; UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television; Scottsdale Community College Performing Arts Center and over 100 more across the U.S., Canada and Europe.
What is your formal education?
I couldn’t sit still long enough to get beyond three years of formal classroom-based education. (My second grade teacher once taped me to my chair.) Mark Twain is quoted as saying: “Don’t let your boy’s schooling interfere with his education.” While I work at a college, and have numerous college credits logged, my education has been outside the classroom from the venues I have worked in, community-based organizations, museums, libraries, travel, and the countless amazing people I have met all around the world. That said, I constantly encourage students to “get your degree.”
What first attracted you to the public assembly venue industry?
A job posting that made it sound like an “easy retirement job.” (Can you say “bait and switch?”)
Outside of working in our industry, what would your other dream job be?
A member of the MYTHBUSTERS.
Mopping up the blood spilled on the stage from “The Scottish Play,” performed by the San Diego Old Globe Theatre at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts in 1978.
What advice would you give to those new to the public assembly venue industry and IAVM?
Be a student of excellence, learn from everything you do and from everyone you meet.
Why did you choose to pursue the Certified Facilities Executive (CFE) designation?
To prove to myself and others that this “girly girl” actually knew what she was talking about. Although things are changing, this is still a predominantly male job. In 1992, I was the only woman on stage (out of 56 men) at the Oscars. There was one African American gentleman as well and no one would eat with us, or ride in the elevator with us. I learned positive feelings come from love and negative feelings come from fear. I love what I do and obtaining my CFE is not the end, it is only the beginning. It has opened doors for me to provide greater service for the good of the whole.
What do you feel is/are the benefits of having the CFE designation?
Credibility… with my colleagues and students; with clients; with potential employers for my students creating better hiring opportunities; to design course work gleaned from the body of knowledge I have learned through IAVM; to advise and prepare students to take this type of career seriously; and to show my commitment to my own pursuit of personal growth.
What advice would you give to fellow colleagues who are thinking about pursing CFE designation?
Start now. Document your activities and start counting your points. Write your paper. Gather materials and study for the test. Stay on task during your interview with the board… and if at any point, they ask you to go back and try it again (to gather more points, re-write your paper, re-apply), don’t be discouraged and use it as a learning experience. The certifications are not given out lightly, they are earned. The certification fosters a stronger spirit of professionalism and shows your commitment to the educational value within our field.
What would you like your future involvement with IAVM to reflect?
The creation of many more educational opportunities for IAVM members, students and those we connect with, especially related to safety.
If you had the opportunity to have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
My Great Grandfather, James Madison Hanford. (The town of Hanford, California was named after him.) I have his diary that chronicles his walk across the United States with covered wagons and a group of interesting people, including my Great Grandmother, who according to him… cried the entire way! He later worked for the railroad and once spent all the money he had on a white suit, so he could stand out in the historic photo at Promontory Point, where they drove the Golden Spike.
Who was/is your professional mentor?
Actor/Director/Writer, Buck Henry. His attention to detail, insights into human nature, and how to follow through under extreme pressure and his humor are things I use every day.
What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
“Wear ‘waterproof’ mascara.” – Joan Toggenburger, Producing Director, ACT
What motto, inspiration or quote represents the way you conduct your day-to-day life?
“Provide kind, artful, beautiful human behavior at all points of contact, all the time.” I’m not perfect, but this is my motto and that of my staff. It came from Robert Perry’s class on Leadership Thinking Styles, IAVM’s Senior Executive Symposium, Cornell University.
What is your greatest fear?
What was the most unique or memorable event you have experienced in a facility that you worked?
I have a multitude of unique experiences… everything from being the only person backstage who could read music and inheriting the last minute job as John Cage’s page turner (1984 Olympic Arts Festival), to the time the head usher of a packed classical concert came to me close to the end of the event and said, “An elderly woman left a trail of ‘poop’ from the lobby bathroom into the theater, and no one is willing to pick it up. We are all volunteers.” Not having a custodian in the facility, it became my duty to pick up the doodie before hundreds of people walked it into the carpet! It was very unpleasant and humbling, but reinforced my respect for those who are the “custodians” of our venues.
What advice can you share for maintaining a healthy work/life balance?
“Take time to sharpen the blade.” Years ago when I taught at UCLA, there was a carpenter, Everett, that told me how important it was to stop and pull the blade off the table saw and send it out to be sharpened. All work with that tool needed to stop until the blade was sharp and properly re-installed. At that point the work could commence, with greater precision and speed. As people we are no different. Stop, appreciate, and sharpen the blade.
What is your favorite place on earth?
I have two… the relaxation room at Beverly Hot Springs (Los Angeles) and a very thin but deep water passage on the edge of Lake Powell (Arizona) that one can only travel through in a kayak. It ends on a sandy beach in a narrow canyon, far away from people, with rock cliffs on either side of you going up 100’s of feet. It is humbling.
Type of music do you enjoy listening to?
Country Western, but not at work. My staff only allows me “Cat’s Country Minute” and then it’s back to rock and roll.
What book are you currently reading?
Kouzes and Posner’s “The Leadership Challenge” and I just started the 2nd Edition of Russo, Esckilsen and Stewart’s “Public Assembly Facility Management: Principles and Practices.”
What does “Family” mean to you?
Family are the people who there for me in good times and bad. DNA = Relatives, not Family.
If you could be transported back in time, what period or moment in history would you like to be dropped and why?
I would like to go back to the late 1700’s and hang out with Benjamin Franklin. His colorful life and legacy of scientific and political achievements has always fascinated me.
What is the one thing that most people would find surprising to learn about you?
My age. Everyone tells me I look much younger. On November 18, 2012 – I turned 51!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I want to add my appreciation to my IAVM colleagues, who have taught me so much and supported me through the CFE process, even though I fought the “Community College” stereotype. Scottsdale “Community” College (SCC) is not a “Junior” College. It is one of 10 Colleges in the Maricopa Community College District, one of the largest Community College Districts in the country. Those of us in education with multiple smaller/mid-size venues do the same job as other CFEs, with smaller budgets and fewer resources. Also SCC is unique among colleges, being located on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Our Faculty members are world class. Our glorious desert vistas are both a backdrop to a quiet, contemplative place to learn and an exciting artistic and cultural environment. SCC is a great place to work, I am very thankful.