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Cayuse Prairie IT director a ‘multidimensional gal’

by HILARY MATHESON
Daily Inter Lake | October 23, 2023 12:00 AM

Throughout her life, Kiki Moses has been an explorer in search of new pursuits and skills.

Moses is in her fifth year as the Cayuse Prairie School information technology director.

To get here, Moses broke an ankle and traded a high-rise city office for a shipyard and a gunsmith, among other companies.

It was in her late teens and early 20s that Moses was doing lifestyle modeling when she got an audition through her talent agency to be in a Faith Hill video.

“I got the very first audition I applied for and then I broke my ankle. It just never materialized,” she said.

Had she gotten into the entertainment industry, Moses doesn’t think it would have made for a healthy life. She still gets to dabble in entertainment, however, writing lyrics, including for a song at the school’s 125th celebration, and be married to a musician, TJ, who was her guitar teacher. She also has previously published articles and is working on a long-term project of writing a semi-autobiographical book.

The self-described “ham,” who loves a good laugh, still gets to be center stage at Cayuse Prairie.

“The joke is, I always wanted to be on stage and so the good Lord put me at Cayuse and I’m on the stage. Literally, I’m in the old gym and my office is on a stage,” Moses said. “And it’s the least glamorous … but I’ve never been happier. When it comes down to it, it’s about really who you work with and do you enjoy what you do."

In college, Moses initially studied biochemistry. An inquisitive child, Moses said she was fascinated by how things worked and could be found taking apart and reassembling watches, TVs and telephones. Her curiosity grew to how the human body worked which is how she got interested in biochemistry. However, “genetic engineering was just erupting at the time,” Moses said, which raised ethical concerns and questions.

Eager to finish school and move on to other endeavors she ultimately switched gears and finished a degree in accounting and auditing.

“It was easy to just knock out,” Moses said.

She began working for former “Big Five” accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, well before its collapse.

“They were the ones that went down with Enron, but before that, they were the place to be,” she said.

During her time there she was able to do auditing work with the FBI on high-level state and national cases. Moses loved auditing for the same reasons she loved learning how things operated and worked.

“Like finding a needle in the haystack — I love it. I will get obsessed until I find what they’re looking for,” Moses said.

Among all the typical audits, she assisted the FBI in state and national cases.

“These were hot issues. We were given boxes, kind of like you see on TV shows, boxes and cases of documents to go through and find usually evidence of fraud, at the time, money laundering,” she said.

Auditors would be provided with a scope of the work such as a range of monetary amounts or buzzwords to look for in emails and transcripts, for example, to build a case for litigators to take to court.

“I had something to focus on. It was a challenge and it truly helped me, no matter what I do, being in the details,” she said about auditing work.

She said these skills transferred to her work in IT.

“It’s just similar, finding solutions, researching, finding anomalies in data or a network system, and then creating solutions,” Moses said.

When changes came to the firm, Moses knew it was time to look for a job elsewhere. She moved on from high-rise city buildings for a job at a Florida shipyard from 2000 to 2002.

“I wanted to be a welder,” Moses said, laughing. “I thought it would be so cool and that’s how I ended up at the shipyard.”

The staff dissuaded her from becoming a welder as they needed an office manager.

“They totally talked me out of it but I do enjoy welding and plasma cutting. I know, I’m a multidimensional gal,” she said with a smile.

The company made luxury ocean trawlers.

“It was fascinating,” she said.

It was during her time at the shipyard that she transitioned into office management, learning Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations and marketing.

“Then again it was bootstrap, so there was no IT department and whenever there was an issue it was just me,” Moses said, learning what she needed to fix technology issues.

After two years, she moved to Montana where her husband at the time had previously worked in Kalispell and knew the area. Moses definitely knew she wanted to move West after taking a couple of church group skiing trips to Colorado.

“He told me how beautiful it was. I never was a Florida girl. It’s flat. It’s humid. I think the tallest point is the landfill. I mean palm trees and alligators are super cool but I do not like the humidity … I wanted to go out West,” she said.

“And we had a squawking bird, three dogs and no job lined out. We sold our house and drove out here. It was a total faith thing,” she said.

Once in Montana, she took a marketing job with a wealth advisor for the next five years. Then, she had the opportunity to work for a Kalispell company called Serengeti Rifles.

“That was my first foray into sales and then helping with marketing,” Moses said.

While she discovered she was good at sales and said the quality of the hand-carved firearms was stunning, it was a high-pressure position.

“The recession hit in 2009 and it killed us. It just killed us,” Moses said.

Her family moved to Helena when she received a call from the state to be a federal oil and gas auditor.

“That was fascinating and then I switched departments and went into like commercial audits, big companies, anybody that had a holding in Montana, wanting to make sure they’re paying their fair share, which is a whole hot topic,” she said.

While Helena proved to be an interesting and historical community her family wasn’t keen on the high desert landscape and returned to the greener pastures in the Flathead where they moved a mile from Cayuse Prairie School where her daughter attended eighth grade.

“My daughter and I, in particular, couldn’t wait to be back and I remember saying, ‘Flathead forever’ and that’s how I started my little personal business called Flathead Forever. I designed a logo, to me, that captures the essence of why we all love the Flathead and I sell that on merchandise at flatheadforever.com,” she said.

When she was set to start a grant writing job for a local nonprofit fate intervened. She got a call that the nonprofit was in the process of restructuring and the job was no longer available, so she sought out substitute teaching at Cayuse.

“Jody [Harp] our office manager said, and she knew me because I was a mom and she said, ‘Are you geeky or techie?’ And I said well, I’m ‘geeky Kiki’ like that was kind of my nickname. She said we lost our IT director and we really need somebody to step in,” Moses said.

At the interview, she was surprised when she had to jump right in when Principal Amy Piazzola brought her to a classroom, asking her if she could fix a projector and a Mac computer issue.

“I thought, ‘Lord, if you want me to have this,’ because I was just so nervous. I mean, I don’t know where anything is. She just said this is where our former tech director was and you just make it happen. And it happened.”

Moses was hired and coincidentally her first day was the same as what was supposed to be her first day at the nonprofit.

“So to me, that’s a whole God thing,” she said. “I absolutely love it here. The location is unbeatable.”

IT is one of the central skills she’s needed throughout her career.

“There either wasn't a department or the department was so busy, and I'm impatient. And I just learned how to do it,” she said.

Call it impatience or empowerment, Moses came to the realization that everything she pursued made her who she is today,

“As I get older I start to realize that whether personally or professionally, what I have learned [is] how it has helped me currently or in the future,” she said.

She views responsibilities not as a chore but as an opportunity, a perspective that took some time to establish.

“I guess, like an example, sometimes it’s more of a grudge, like, ‘Oh I have to do this.’ And now I got to the point where I think, ‘I’m glad I get to do this because I know I will need this skill or it will come in handy,” she said with a smile.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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