#CTASpotlight | Val Route:
Curiosity, Compassion, and a whole
lot of Montana

By: Jordan Miller
11 May 2018

When Val Route sought a position in CTA’s Human Resources department, she went through the same application process as just about everyone else in the firm: she submitted a resume, wrote a cover letter, and answered questions about the position. When she received notice she didn’t get the job, she figured she wasn’t right for CTA and CTA wasn’t right for her, which may have been true at the time. Little did she know, though, she would find herself applying for the same department nearly 10 years later, discovering a mutually great fit.

Val spent her childhood in a tiny Montana town at the west entrance of Yellowstone, where she happily hiked, skied, fished, snowmobiled, and camped the days away. The area was ruled by seasonal tourism, so she began working at a young age, serving out-of-towners at restaurants and hotels. At her equally tiny school, she maintained her love of the outdoors and found herself on the basketball team despite a lack of skill in team sports—she says she was an expert at keeping the bench warm, though, and was undoubtedly a superb teammate.

Once she finished school, Val ventured into a career as a radio DJ, spending her time spinning twangy 1990’s country music. She became an expert on the genre, and the job even moved her for brief stints in Flagstaff, AZ, and Corpus Christi, TX. Though she was knee-deep in country music for years, she became fatigued with its repetitiveness in content and form, so she drifted. Fortunately, in recent years, Val’s love for country has resurfaced as the genre continues to diversify and evolve—it surely doesn’t hurt that she doesn’t spend hours in a tiny room spinning the same songs ad nauseum.

Val’s first encounter with human resources was a fairly traumatic one. She was part of a massive layoff, one where HR stepped in as a coaching service to help ex-employees reshape tragedy into something with positive momentum. Val admired their professional and personal wisdom, and was intrigued by the idea of putting her skills to use as a resource for the people around her. She comes from an HR family, but this moment marked the beginning of a journey that led her back to school and into a now-decades-long career in the field.

Before CTA, Val was an HR manager for a nationwide food distributor. Though the position taught her plenty, the corporate structure eventually changed and she was wildly frustrated with how impersonal and humdrum her routine became, as well as the amount of time she spent tied to her desk. Though she recognizes the value in regular, functional tasks, her strength is truly in one-on-one connections, and so began the search for a position with a bit more vivacity and freedom.

Cut to round two: Val reapplied to CTA, now with 10 more years of human resources experience and a clearer head about what exactly she was seeking. This time, it was a match. Val began work at CTA’s Billings office in December 2017, and has found a much better balance. On top of regular compliance items, tactical HR, and employee relations, Val is afforded the time to capitalize on her strengths. She makes a point to build learning into her everyday routine to keep herself professionally relevant and up-to-date, and she collaborates and exercises her HR muscles in one-on-one mentoring, her deepest strength and passion.

To this day, her life outside of the office is all about the outdoors. Though her knees don’t appreciate skiing as much as they used to, she continues to hike, camp, and fish whenever possible. With a shared passion for exploration and the West, Val and her husband Wade spend about 35 nights every summer in their camper, enjoying all the Montana lifestyle has to offer. Their relationship is so rooted in the place, in fact, that Wade proposed in their camper.

Looking ahead, Val continues cultivating a life of curiosity and compassion: for her work, for the people around her, and for the land she lives on.

The #CTASpotlight series features the unique stories of team members from the many CTA offices and disciplines. Find more stories like this one here.

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