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WomanOf the Month 6-06: Faye Tate

Faye Tate is the vice president and director of diversity of CH2M Hill, a worldwide engineering, construction and operations firm based in Denver. But at a recent Women’s Chamber of Commerce Luncheon, Tate chose to speak not about diversity, although she’s “passionate about it.” Instead, she wanted to share what engineers often refer to as their “work approach”—in this case, her attitude or approach to life. “One’s approach to life can be impacted positively or negatively by our attitudes,” she said. “I want to share with you some examples of how attitude has shaped my life.”

Nearly seventeen year before, Tate was excited because although she had been plagued by infertility, at last—just as she and her husband had purchased a dog—she had gotten pregnant. Then misfortune struck. She was traveling smoothly on the management career track at Denver Water Department when unexpectedly, in the midst of her pregnancy, her dad passed away. “I was incredulous,apostrophe she recalled. “He went to sleep and didn’t wake up. He had been my mentor. He was a career military man and I have always been a proud military dependant. I was the only daughter, with four brothers, and Dad had always told me, if anything happens to me, you will have to handle everything. And he was right.apostrophe

Tate discovered that her attitude wasn’t good, despite the fact that her father had spent time with her displaying strength and resolve. Eventually, she had to reframe and transform her sadness into action. “I had to turn my helplessness into the strength and resolve he had taught me,apostrophe she said. “Shortly after this, I went back to work at Denver Water and went into preterm labor, which resulted in the birth of my daughter Elleana at 29 weeks. My attitude was really in the toilet now. I cried every day. I brought my daughter home from the hospital after eight weeks and then cried for six months every day. Then I realized that to help my daughter, I needed to change my attitude. She had fought to stay alive—she has cerebral palsy and is legally blind. But she has a fighting spirit, and I determined that I needed to get support systems in place and come up from the doldrums of fear.

“Today, I am motivated by her strength. So my message to all of you is you must try to be prepared for the challenges in life, don’t give up, don’t quit. Pull yourself together, deal with them. She’s just come back from eight days in England with her school and has graduated from eighth grade at a school that doesn’t have special education classes.apostrophe
The other challenge Tate shared with her audience was that of the role of political spouse after a failed campaign. Her husband, Penfield Tate, has held a number of political offices in Colorado. He has served in both the Colorado Senate and House of Representatives and ran for major of Denver in 2003. That mayoral race loss was the first time “we did not win,apostrophe recalled Faye Tate. “I was not the candidate, but I might as well have been. I was with him all the time. But it provided a change for us and it taught me to embrace change. I was able to smile again and I realized I’d have more time. Actually, I didn’t end up having all that much more time, and I didn’t end up preparing that many more “nutritious meals,apostrophe she laughed. “But it gave me time to regroup and to re-energize. I learned change can present a better and different opportunity.apostrophe

Tate joined the CH2M Hill Denver corporate office in July 2001, after having spent six years at Kaiser Hill, at the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site. Kaiser Hill completed its work for about $36 billion less than the original estimate and in far less time. Prior to working for Kaiser Hill, she was employed for over 8 years at Denver Water where she was a supervisor in Water Sales and Real Estate, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer and Small Business Liaison. Tate started her career at Colorado National Bank where she was a supervisor for Rocky Mountain Bankcard Systems and an Account Administrator in Corporate Trust. She earned a JD from The Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C., and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA.

Tate stressed that while personal journeys are as diverse as can be imagined, it is attitude that influences our actions. “I’ve described my own personal journeys to offer encouragement,apostrophe she said. “Attitude is everything—make it positive.apostrophe