“Everyone deserves a home, whatever that means to them.”
This is one of the first things Susan Zambonin tells me when we sit down to chat. It seems like a simple enough message, yet it is incredibly powerful.
Having grown up in Ontario in a family of builders, Susan developed an early love for construction. While still living in Ontario, she became involved with the board of directors at her local Habitat for Humanity. When the opportunity presented itself to move to PEI to work with Habitat for Humanity PEI, she jumped at the chance.
Those who work for non-profit associations often do so out of passion, and for Susan, this was her driving force. Her work with Habitat was a 24/7 labour of love. If she wasn’t working in the office, she was on site at the builds. She was completely immersed in her mission to help people make their dreams of having a home a reality. Weeknights, weekends - it didn’t matter. This wasn’t a simple 9-5 job.
After 18 years working with the Habitat for Humanity PEI team and winning two awards for mentorship from Habitat for Humanity, Susan made a big career change. In early 2015, she left her position as executive director of Habitat for Humanity PEI and joined the team at Canadian Home Builders Association, where she continues to help people get into their homes but from a different angle.
For those who don't know, CHBA is the voice of the residential construction industry in PEI. Its membership is made up of residential home builders and suppliers. Through her role as the association's full-time executive officer, Susan is helping business owners to improve their business through their membership with CBHA, helping them overcome challenges and seeing what supports are available. She is working hard to increase memberships, getting involved in the residential construction sector the way it should be - fixing things up so the association can move forward.
CBHA is focused on building homes and that was something that appealed to Susan when she was looking to make a career move. "It's a big honour to help someone build their home," she says. Since accepting her new position, the CBHA has reported a 50 per cent increase in memberships!
No matter what industry you work in, Susan is quick to point out the importance of finding a mentor and attending personal and professional training sessions whenever possible, like PEIBWA’s Women in Business Symposium and Women Unlimited or the various training workshops facilitated by Winding Path Inc.
“Spend the time on yourself and work with other people," she advises. "What you get out of it is a lot more than you ever thought you would.”
“Sometimes it’s as simple as having people in your life who tell you can do it, people who have faith in you even when you don’t. Never underestimate the power that having this kind of support can have on a person’s life.”