Chams Habib

My day job is talent acquisition consultant at CUNA Mutual Group, which is an organization that provides financial and technology solutions to credit unions for their members.

I fell into human resources, HR, during college. I was attending the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and fully intended to be a French teacher—I liked kids, I liked to teach and I spoke French. But I got a summer job with Bombardier Transportation as a bilingual receptionist and reported to HR and that set me on my path.

My most memorable HR experience was being part of the recruitment staff for the North Vancouver fire department. During training, I had to put on all the firefighting gear and go up a ladder. Let me tell you, that equipment is heavy.

When I moved to the States, I opted to stay home and raise kids for a number of years. I’ve been with CUNA Mutual Group for nearly two years now and it’s been a great experience. They’re very focused on diversity and inclusion and I appreciate the opportunities and flexibility I’ve been given here.

Often when people who make hiring decisions look at someone who applies for a role, they notice the applicant doesn’t have all the qualifications the recruiter is looking for. My role as a recruiter is to highlight what that person can do and their potential. Managers naturally want to give the person a chance, but they’re also worried about making the wrong decision and having to deal with the consequences.

I like to point out that if Allison Osting and my manager Linda DiOrazio at CUNA Mutual Group hadn’t been willing to hire for potential, it would have taken much longer for me to reach my career goal. When a hiring manager has doubts about a candidate, I’m not afraid to speak up if I feel strongly this person would add value to our organization. I put myself out there and say, “Do you think I’m a good recruiter? Am I doing a good job?  I didn’t check all the boxes, but here I am.”

I like to help open people’s minds—personally and professionally. To help them see that people with different skills, talents, faiths, skin color and paths have lots of similarities to them once you take the time to know them.

Alex Shade, our director of Corporate Social Responsibility, once shared a quote with me. It was something along the lines of “If you don’t see representation, be that representation.” And that’s what I’ve tried to do.

My most memorable caffeine would be hard to pick as I’m not really a coffee drinker. But I do remember having my first caffeinated drink, which was a Frappuccino, on Robson Street, in Vancouver, Canada.

My current caffeine of choice is a London Fog tea latte at Starbucks. It’s tea with citrus and bergamot, which is an oil that affects mood, especially depression. It was created in Vancouver—which has a lot of grey days!

My favorite place for caffeine is Starbucks.

The person I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with is my biological mother, whom I’ve never met. She wasn’t able to raise me and gave me to my grandparents to raise. I was originally born in Madagascar and moved to France with the people I called “Mom” and “Dad” when I was a toddler. I found my mother about 10 years ago and we’ve connected online, but never on the phone or in person. At this point I’d be too emotional, but I hope I can do it someday. Especially for my children.

I would like to know more about the circumstances in my mother’s life that caused her to give me up. I can’t be angry because it’s the best thing she could have done for me. She gave me life and she gave me to someone who could provide for me. Without that, I’d probably still be in Madagascar and none of my beautiful life would have been possible.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: I’d love to create a program that values parents who took time off to raise children and help them return to work. There’s such a scarcity of talent—it’s a huge problem.

We have this untapped market of highly talented, efficient, effective people—many of them women—that we’re not tapping into. Plus, employers tend to dismiss their experience/skills. Our culture doesn’t value the sacrifice people make to raise their children.

If I could have that perfect amount of caffeine, I’d create a staffing agency that would work to match up companies and women around Madison. And provide the training and resources they need to return to the workforce.