Women in Business: Tips & Guidance from Michelle Micuda

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we did a Q&A with one of Staples Business Advantage Canada’s top female influencers and leaders , Michelle Micuda, Vice President, Sales – Account Management.

Michelle joined Staples Business Advantage in 2006 and has held a variety of leadership roles at both the VP and Director levels including VP Commercial and Inside Sales, Line of Business Sales, Inside Sales, Commercial Sales and Warehouse/Delivery Operations. She has been instrumental in building teams, developing leaders, driving results and improving processes in each role she has held.

Here’s what Michelle had to say when we asked her for some advice and guidance on being a female leader in the business world.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

One piece of advice I received early in my career was that it was ok to “cheat yourself”.  The individual shared with me that you have a choice to do your job or do your job and more. For example, if you do your current job really well and show that you can handle more responsibility through special projects or showcase your business understanding by contributing to discussions or take the time to interact with other departments to understand the company, you will be the one that is the most prepared to take on the next promotion or inter-departmental move – if that is your goal. In a way, you have cheated yourself to doing more than your role requires, but you have prepared yourself for the next role more than others and you will be successful in landing that next role.

What do you enjoy most about being in a leadership role?

I have the pleasure of interacting with a wide variety of people in my role – people from across the country, people in different roles and people with different backgrounds and views of our company.  First off, interacting with all these people is just plain fun… and unpredictable!

Second, the interaction keeps my thoughts fresh, helps me connect pieces of information to see business problems differently and reminds me that I have an important responsibility to use the feedback from all these people to solve business problems and make Staples the best place it can be for everyone.

What has been one of the most challenging obstacles in your career path, and what did you learn from it?

A few times in my career, I was ready for a promotion and the role I was hoping for opened up. I was excited and felt I was the best candidate for the role. However, the role was given to an out of country candidate.  Each time, this decision was challenging and frustrating for me. I felt that I had done everything that was asked of me and more, yet the decision was made outside the country, where I was perhaps less known. In each case, I had to move past my disappointment, dig in, do my job and help my new boss be successful. Ultimately, I did learn something from my new bosses, whether it be another style to understand, or another perspective, and it made me stronger as an individual and a leader. Success doesn’t always come at the time you are expecting it, but if you persevere, success will come your way.

Do you currently or have you ever encountered any gender-related obstacles in your profession? If so, how did you go about handling it?

I’m not sure if I can say I encountered gender-related obstacles, but I have certainly encountered gender related situations. Early in my career, I was always in male-dominated situations – as a math student at the University of Waterloo , as a Commercial Lender at TD Bank (the only female lender at the branch, and only a handful in Ontario), as an MBA student in the nineties; and  more recently, I was  definitely the only female VP, Operations. It was just a fact that there were many male dominated areas within school and business; however, I just went about my journey – learning and doing my job to the best of my ability. Gender doesn’t indicate who can do a job better. It’s up to you to find your leadership style and be the leader who can do a great job – connecting with people, solving business problems and leading the way in the good times and the challenging times.

What do you wish you would have done differently in your career?

My role at work is one part of my life and my role at home as a wife and mother of three is the most important role that I have. I have always ensured I found a balance between home and work – going to piano recitals, soccer games, dance competitions, helping with math homework and just being there for my girls. However, now I realize that I haven’t always kept my personal fitness/health high enough on my priority list. I’m reading a book right now called “Younger Next Year” and am coming to understand the concept that if your fitness/health isn’t improving then it’s declining – a bit of a scary thought! I don’t want my health to decline, so I have to make a commitment to improve it. Make sure you keep your fitness/health priorities high enough on your priority list throughout your career.

 What one thing do you think you did right in your career?

I’ve worked at three companies since graduating from university – each for 7 years or more. I think I spent a sufficient amount of time at each organization to really understand the organization. I also took the opportunity to move around each organization and experience different roles – branch office vs head office, personal lending vs commercial leading, human resources vs finance, operations vs sales. I was open to taking different roles within organizations even though they weren’t conventional career moves. Having a variety of perspectives within an organization has allowed me to have a distinct leadership perspective, which I believe helps me relate to people and make better decisions. Have an open mind to unconventional career moves – they just might be the best career move you’ll ever make.

What is your favourite business quote ?

Not sure I have a favourite quote .. but I like these:

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. – Thomas Edison.  I grew up on a farm, so I get the overall reference!

Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential. – John Maxwell

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