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Getting to know the CNF team – Altaira Northe

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Every week, we’re sharing an interview with someone from the CNF team. This week, get to know Altaira Northe, CNF’s Director of Communications and Storytelling.

Photo of Altaira Northe

Altaira Northe

What’s your role at CNF?

I’m the Contract Director of Communications and Storytelling. One of my main goals here at CNF is to enable members of our community – whether it be caregivers, physicians, or CNF staff – to share their stories about their experiences with children and families with neurologic conditions. By sharing our stories with each other, we can help to empower each other, build empathy, and grow stronger as a community.

How do you spend your time when you’re not at work?

I live in the Pacific Northwest, so I spend a lot of time in the outdoors – usually hiking or sailing with my partner. I also love cooking for friends, and sitting on the back porch with a nice bourbon after work.

What is your power color and why?

Red. Literally every time that I wear red, someone tells me that it’s my power color. I feel put together whenever I wear it. If it’s not in my clothing, I also wear red lipstick almost every day. It’s my signature.

If you could have one super power, what would it be?

If I had one superpower it would be to erase other people’s debt. Debt is crippling. It breeds fear, and it stifles creativity. Imagine what we could accomplish as individuals and a society if no one had to make their life choices based on their ability to pay their debt off.

What do you love about your work with CNF?

I love that my work at CNF is so rewarding and purposeful. I love that I can tangibly see the effects of the programs and resources that we create with our community, and that I’m enabled every day to try to make our organization stronger, and to connect with our community to better serve families of children with neurologic conditions.

Which CNF Value do you identify with the most?

Collaboration!! There’s an old model that says that if there are limited resources available, that you have to compete. But CNF has shown time and again that working together, pooling resources, sharing knowledge, and listening to diverse perspectives, produces incredible results.

How did life lead you to join CNF?

Somewhat randomly. I’d worked in pediatric health communications for years, and had decided to take a break and take a stab at freelancing. I was working mostly with different startups. I was living in a small town on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, and went to a party where I met a woman who was really interested in my past experience in health comms. She took my info, but I didn’t hear anything. Then 6 months later, a couple who run an agency together gave me a call and asked me to work with them part time. Near the end of this contract, they introduced me to CNF. I worked on a short contract with them, but never considered that they would offer me a full-time contract. I actually took another job working in architecture. Four months in, I realized that it wasn’t for me, and followed up with Amy to ask if there was a way to work with CNF. The rest is history!

What do you love about CNF’s story?

I love that CNF isn’t afraid of self reflection and a change of direction. I’ve worked with organizations that get really stuck in the same unhealthy patterns, but when staff try to dig in to change them, there’s a lot of hand waving. I love that CNF has evolved year to year in response to the community, and in response to feedback, rather than sticking rigidly to one course, because of a fear of change.

You have 30 seconds to pitch Bill Gates about CNF at a conference – what do you say?

Our understanding of the brain and its complexity is still in its infancy. But what we do know is that children’s brains have extreme plasticity and an incredible ability to adapt. Currently 1 in 6 children are impacted by a neurologic condition, and this condition ripples out and impacts their entire family and community. CNF is the only physician led advocacy organization in the child neurology space, and we’re uniquely positioned to bring together all stakeholders in our community to make change. The impact that we could have on families today, and as a contribution to the overall body of brain health science in the future, is infinite.