Q & A with Bonnie Muhigirwa, RFL Academy and Mastermind Alum

Bonnie Muhigirwa grew up in the Roaring Fork Valley and studied political science and international relations at Wheaton College in Chicago. But it was building codes that ultimately captured her interest for a career that has brought her back to the valley, working for the City of Aspen. Currently, Bonnie is an enthusiastic member of the International Code Council, the nonprofit organization that oversees building code development. Locally, she volunteers in the Roaring Fork School District where her kids, ages 8 and 12, are students.

RFL spoke with Bonnie about how her experiences in the Academy and Mastermind programs helped her take advantage of opportunities to move up in her career and achieve her most recent promotion.

Roaring Fork Leadership: What’s been your career trajectory so far?

Bonnie Muhigirwa: Right out of college I started working for City of Aspen in the Community Development Department. I got interested in building and energy codes and got certified to be a plans examiner and inspector. Then I moved into that role and was doing that up until a year-and-a-half ago when I became the deputy building official. In November of last year, I was promoted to chief building official for the City of Aspen.

RFL: What drew you to RFL?

BM: I knew a lot of colleagues from the City [of Aspen] who had done the Academy and had a really good experience. I was interested in making more connections in the valley and finding ways to get involved with community engagement. Additionally, although I had some leadership experience in nonprofit and school settings, the Academy would be my first leadership training in a professional setting.

RFL: What were the big takeaways from your RFL experience?

BM: It’s been a while since I went through the Academy — I graduated in 2012 — but I do remember that the experience of doing the civic impact project was formative for me. Our group was working on energy conservation and now I work a lot with energy codes, so that was a neat experience for those things to overlap. I learned a lot from my group participants.

More recently, in Mastermind, I learned how to look for what Nancy [Fredericks] called, “white space” in your career. Once you’re meeting your job description, it means looking for those areas where you can bring more of your passions and your unique perspective to your work.

RFL: How did RFL affect your professional and personal growth?

BM: Going through the Mastermind program changed my perspective, making me want to go for big opportunities when they present themselves. I learned to have the confidence in myself to put myself out there, to make it known that I wanted to grow with the organization, and to make sure that I was doing the things inside and outside of my role that would make me ready when the opportunity for a promotion came along.