Meet Managing Director of Marketing Communications Michelle Winsor
“Online education is a monumental thing for both universities and students because it enables them to tap into a much larger pool of potential students and program opportunities.”
Managing Director of Marketing Communications Michelle Winsor has almost 20 years of experience in the higher education space, most of which have focused heavily on multi-department process development, web/SharePoint development, and project management. She serendipitously joined the email and CRM communication space in 2015, successfully aligning her expertise in strategy, creativity, and technology. Since then, Michelle has implemented numerous engagement strategies, improved inbox placement from 30% to 90%, and has consulted and spoken on email best practices since 2018. Focused on the balance between the end-user and overall email performance, her strategies and tenacity have strengthened the organization's ability to effectively reach prospects, resulting in open and click % increases of more than 450% year over year.
What does it mean for you to identify as LGBTQ+?
I identify as bisexual and have been an active part of the community since 2005, when I started opening up to friends and family. For me, identifying as LGBTQ+ represents a sense of freedom and identity. I don’t hide who I am anymore. Having that freedom of expression remains really eye-opening for me.
Why did you choose to work in education? How have your educational experiences shaped your career?
Coming off a really challenging time in my life, I received a job offer to work at the University of Phoenix. I started out setting up classrooms and recording attendance manually. Over time, I’ve built everything from web sites to business processes – I have both a technical and a business background with some creativity thrown in. It’s really made me sensitive to the value of higher education, and I’ve seen many of my friends and loved ones get the first degree in their family. In effect, we became the first generation of educated individuals. That’s demonstrated how education can improve your life and your income. The online space has also allowed people the opportunity to earn their degree while working. Online education is a monumental thing for both universities and students because it enables them to tap into a much larger pool of potential students and program opportunities.
What makes a leader great?
Ensuring that the people who follow you have a clear target, the right tools and resources, as well as the right incentive to accomplish it. Also, that they’re supported in terms of guidance and learning. I found that when you set up those things, you don’t need to motivate your staff. Remove the obstacles in front of your team so that they can do what they want and need to do.
Are there any LGBTQ+ leaders you admire or look up to? Why?
Yes. My favorite is Jen Wong, the COO of Reddit. She’s really accomplished – having earned degrees from Yale, Stanford and the Harvard Business School. Her attitude is amazing – she does really positive, forward-looking interviews and posts. I really like the way she talks about business in terms of facilitating the growth of her people. I admire almost everything she posts.
How has your personal leadership style evolved?
One thing I focus on is dealing with team members’ grievances. I work with individuals by giving them, first of all, an avenue to vent their frustration. I take advantage of opportunities to hear their core challenges and whatever obstacles might be in the way, then address them in structured, functional ways that help eliminate the issue from their future.
What is it about your background or career experiences that successfully positioned you for your role at Noodle?
I specialized in marketing communication for four years, and before that I’d been developing multiple business processes and doing project management for launching new online programs as well as building the teams to accomplish that. I speak both technology and business, and also have a creative background. It’s not a combination of skill sets usually found in one individual, and it enables me to cross over with ease into different areas. In fact, I’ve been called a unicorn many times.
How do you build momentum as a leader among diverse stakeholders at Noodle?
I treat everyone as a unique individual, so in terms of diverse stakeholders, it depends on each one’s background. I meet everyone where they’re at. If I feel there’s tension, I have no problem asking, “What’s going on here?” so we can work together to reach a common ground.
How do you support the success of your team?
I primarily offer a safe place for brainstorming. We call our internal team meetings “cone” meetings so that people can freely discuss all their frustrations and any obstacles in their way with a sense of security. That way, I can determine effective ways to address them. It’s really amazing that when you provide a safe and supportive place, your team will go above and beyond for you.
Describe how your career has been enhanced by exposure to diverse people, places or experiences.
Not just my career has been enhanced, but my entire life. My very first job as a teenager was at the visitor center in Valdez, Alaska, so I was able to meet and interact with people from all over the world who were there to experience their Alaskan adventure. It taught me that everybody is coming from their own interesting story, so whenever I work with someone new, I always wonder where they’re coming from. I believe that finding fascination in the differences between people enhances all of us. From my point of view, it’s a huge benefit that we are all so diverse and have so much to add to each other’s lives and stories.
What are some of the most effective tools in your leadership arsenal?
Communication, and focusing on communicating collaboratively. What I mean by that is that whenever anyone comes with an argument or an opposing point of view, I always take a future-oriented approach. Focusing the conversation on the opportunity instead of the challenge reduces conflict and creates a path towards success.
Please provide an example of how you introduced an innovative idea or practice at Noodle.
I came to Noodle first as a contractor and then as part of the Versidi acquisition, and we’ve improved so much since the Versidi team joined. We continue to identify multiple opportunities for more innovative marketing tools and improving processes.
Please tell us something about yourself that people would be surprised to learn.
I own a little farm in Tempe, Arizona, on a third of an acre. It has 30 different fruit trees and one tiny house rooster, which wakes me at about 4:44am every morning. One thing I’ve learned is that if you have a rooster, you no longer need an alarm clock, and this one, you can’t snooze.