To honor Black History Month this February, Noodle is celebrating a number of our Black colleagues in a series of "Profiles in Diversity." We are incredibly grateful to our colleagues who have shared their stories with us here. We hope they inspire you like they inspire us.
Alix Dejean leads us in Noodle's mission to lower the cost of education, enrich our culture, and catalyze change in higher education.
Meet General Manager Alix Dejean
“In building a team, I truly believe the entire team wins
when we lean on each other's strengths.“
Alix Dejean joined Noodle from Dewey Square Group (DSG), a global strategic communications and advisory firm, where he was a Principal in the State and Local Affairs and Multicultural Affairs practices. While at DSG, Dejean advised Fortune 500 companies, foundations and emerging companies on strategic communications, stakeholder engagement, crisis management, diversity, reputation, and public affairs matters.
Prior to that, Dejean had a proven track record of accomplishments with more than a decade of public and national government affairs and national electoral politics with four years at the Democratic National Committee and Obama Victory Fund 2008 serving in different roles, including Finance Director for the African American Leadership Council (AALC).
What elements or traits does a great leader exhibit?
A great leader has a strong vision and is able to communicate and execute that vision, while inspiring their teams to be as great.
When you think of great leadership, who comes to mind? Why?
The names that immediately come to mind are President Barack Obama, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Oprah Winfrey, former president Bill Clinton and Ursula Burns, one of the few African American CEOs of a major corporation. I admire President Obama as a master communicator, and his ability to put together great teams; Speaker Pelosi for her strong strategic mind and approach to lead Congress and carrying herself with grace while nevertheless being a consummate ballbuster; Oprah Winfrey for her ability to meet an opportunity and build and inspire; Bill Clinton as a master of systems and structures who can communicate with all types of people without leaving anyone behind; and Ursula Burns as an amazing corporate leader, as well as her ability to communicate with stakeholders as a non-traditional leader.
How has your personal leadership style evolved?
I have leaned more into being a coach leader, trying to coach and inspire my team into being great, and encouraging each member to bring their whole person to the table in order to meet our goals, as well as trying to maximize each of their strengths.
What is it about your background or career experiences that successfully positioned you for your role at Noodle?
I would say that my work in campaign politics, in particular, positioned me well. It provided great training, because in political campaigns, you know the date of the election, or the date when a vote will happen, and you have to create/build a plan working backwards from the end date - very similar to a program launch or the start of an academic term. You need to bring all the teams together in order to achieve your goals. Also, my work at a crisis communications firm prepared me to be client-facing at Noodle. There’s certainly an immediacy to a crisis situation: you must understand all your stakeholders, then plan how to maneuver in order to deal successfully with that crisis quickly and efficiently.
How do you build momentum as a leader among diverse stakeholders at Noodle?
I try to remind our teams that we’re all trying to bring our best selves to work daily! We are all working on big, lofty goals but if we accomplish small tasks, we will get to a win together. As a team, we have to support each other and when one person is weak, we have to fill in the gaps. I truly believe the entire team wins when we lean on each other's strengths.
How do you support the success of your team?
I like to meet individually with team members to learn from them what they feel is working, what’s not, and how they like to be supported. In my experience I’ve learned that the more people feel truly valued, seen and heard, the more they give of who they are and their talents.
Describe how your career has been enhanced by exposure to diverse people, places or experiences.
Working on President Obama’s 2008 election as Finance Director for the African American Leadership Council was an amazing opportunity, working with so many different people who were focused on the one goal of getting him elected. For example, reporting to Phil Murphy, now Governor of New Jersey, Tina Flournoy, now Chief of Staff to Vice President Harris and Chairman Governor Howard Dean, I learned the importance of bringing your entire life experience with you to work and that your diverse background is an additive because it enriches the conversations/goals.
What are some of the most effective tools in your leadership arsenal?
The most effective tools in my leadership arsenal include an ability to stay focused on the big goal, an ability to understand the interconnectedness within the teams, and an ability to appreciate the value add of collaboration.
Please provide an example of how you introduced an innovative idea or practice at Noodle.
At our first offsite, I joined the “meetings” breakout group that pushed to change the length of our meetings from one hour to either a 25-minute or 55-minute structure. I think that structure has helped change Noodle because we are more efficient in our time in meetings.
Tell us something about yourself that people would be surprised to learn.
I grew up doing chores on the family farm in Darlington, South Carolina, and, like many others, I love Michael Jackson.