In each edition, editorial staff of Chamber Exchange: The Newspaper look to include one question-and-answer-style interview with a Chamber member who’s really making a change in the community. This month, I sat down with Elizabeth (Liz) Wambui, the new director of diversity, inclusion, and community impact for Fontaine Bros. – a local, decades-old construction management and general contracting company. Below are excerpts from the interview with Ms. Wambui regarding her career change and new role at Fontaine Bros., the importance of her work in this field, and her community involvement and passion for Worcester – the city she calls home.
You’re now about a month in to this new position at Fontaine Bros. What does this role as Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Impact entail? What are your day-to-day tasks and what are the long-term goals?
It has been a busy and amazing first month at Fontaine. It’s been wonderful getting to know my colleagues and connecting with other people who are in similar roles at other companies. One of my major responsibilities is the compliance reporting to the cities of Springfield and Worcester. As you may know, many cities and towns have established workforce goals to ensure individuals working on publicly funded projects are reflective of the community. In Worcester, the workforce goals include city residents, people of color, womxn and business enterprises owned by people of color and womxn.
I’ve taken time over the last month to meet with different stakeholders including compliance officers in Springfield and Worcester, union representatives, and other individuals in the industry involved in similar work – learning from them and building a plan for how we will achieve and hopefully exceed these goals. I will work closely with our subcontractors and serve as a resource throughout the duration of our projects.
The long-term goal at Fontaine is to provide opportunities for members of underrepresented communities and actively engage them in the city’s economic development. This is about making sure that all members of our community thrive and benefit from all the investments we’re seeing across the city. This will be part of our DNA at Fontaine – to create and sustain great careers for the next generation of tradespeople in Springfield, Worcester, and in all areas we are engaged in.
Why did Fontaine feel it was important to create this new position and how does it feel to be the first person to serve in this role?
The fact that Fontaine created this position illustrates how serious and committed the entire company is to equity, community, and making sure no one is left behind. Having one person whose time and efforts are wholly focused on working with contractors, unions, trade schools, and other community partners is crucial to not only achieving these workforce goals, but also helping provide opportunities to individuals who have been historically left out of this industry.
It’s about making sure that anyone who is interested in a career in construction has a great lifelong career. Trades are an excellent way to make a great living and those opportunities should be afforded to anyone who is interested in this industry. I am so honored and so thrilled to be the first person to serve in this role. I’m incredibly humbled that Fontaine has entrusted me with this responsibility, and I will give it my all.
You previously worked at Nativity School of Worcester as their Director of Advancement. This is quite the career change, no? What made you want to take the leap into a new field?
I owe a lot to the students, families, graduates, faculty, staff, Trustees, Trustee Associates, and many other partners at Nativity Worcester for giving me the opportunity to serve as the Director of Advancement. It’s hard to quantify how much I learned and grew during my five years there.
Yes, this is quite the career change, but I learned many things during all my years in fundraising that will help me in my new role. From relationship building, storytelling, and working in partnership with different stakeholders to achieve a common goal – this is the essence of what we are trying to do at Fontaine. We all need to work together to move our communities forward. This is what drew me to this role: the opportunity to develop partnerships that are going to be critical in shaping a workforce that is representative of our richly diverse community.
I know you’re a Holy Cross graduate, a Leadership Worcester graduate, and you serve on a number of boards and committees — so your Worcester ties are definitely strong! What drives you to be so involved like this beyond the office walls?
Worcester is my home. I want to do whatever I can to contribute to the growth and development of our community. As you know, we have an incredibly vibrant nonprofit sector in Worcester, and I’ve been so lucky to have been offered opportunities to serve in different capacities in some incredible non-profit organizations.
I currently serve as a Board Member at the Bancroft School, Shine Initiative, Women in Development of Central Massachusetts, Worcester Historical Museum, and YWCA. I am also a Mechanics Hall Modern Mechanics Guild Member, Worcester Art Museum Corporator, and have served as a Greater Worcester Community Foundation Early Childhood Committee member and scholarship community reviewer. It’s great to see the city thrive and I would like to play a part in making sure that as many people as possible are part of that journey.
Dominique Goyette-Connerty is the Director of Communications at the Worcester Chamber. She can be reached by email here.
This story was originally published in the August 2021 edition of Chamber Exchange: The Newspaper, a quarterly publication of the Chamber. All newspaper editions are archived here.