When did you know the path you wanted to take to your career destination?
It is a fact that I did not begin my professional career with a clear view of where I wanted to go and the path that I needed to follow in order to achieve professional success. For the most part, I allowed circumstances and emerging opportunities to direct and lead me in carving out my career path.
While this approach is not how most people often determine their professional career choices, I took the more circuitous approach. Even at this stage in my career, I am still open to the idea that there are new opportunities that could arise that would open up the possibility of a new career.
I would suggest that whatever career stage you are in, it's always important to find ways to weave through your organization's lattice and in order to grow in ways that make sense and simply not be confined by any particular approach in determining your career path.
How did you choose your career path?
In college, I was focused on acquiring a degree in economics which at the time I believed would lead me to a career in developmental economics in Third World countries. It was only in my final year of college that I began to question what I really wanted to do. So upon graduation, I left Canada and moved to the United States with no job prospect or a clear idea of what would come next.
When I began to actively search for employment, I realized that there were only a handful of great jobs that would be right for me so I had to choose between making the right connections between my values, interests, personality and the job that I wanted. So when an opportunity presented itself to run a national awards competition for the cable industry in the 1990s, I jumped at the opportunity as it did not pose any impediments that would run contrary to my natural tendencies.
From my first job to successive ones, each one has allowed me to learn different skills from event planning, television production, fundraising, strategic planning, marketing and research. It has been through these varied experiences that I have been able to chart my course and land my current job. In the end, I wanted a career that would allow me to touch as many disciplines as possible so that I could continue to learn and grow and to make an impact.
What was the critical business need or pressing issue you addressed?
In my job at the Walter Kaitz Foundation, the challenges of working in a small organization has posed many critical challenges. While the overall organizational objectives are clear, the lack of human resources and demanding workload requires me to juggle a host of responsibilities. It sometimes translates into long hours and not always being able to hand off rudimentary tasks.
Notwithstanding, the imperative of fundraising is always ever-present, and it is only due to my ability to work collaboratively with a broad range of organizations and people while incorporating my unique communication style, problem-solving skills and leadership abilities that I have been able to address these critical business challenges.
What was the main "hard" skill you needed or had to achieve your career destination?
My "hard" skill has been my writing ability which I have been able to hone over the years. It has served me well and has allowed me to drive editorial content and produce a body of work of which I am extremely proud.
In my current position, I am often relied upon to direct and produce a broad range of content for various purposes. I have developed some writing agility around speech writing, copywriting, web writing, writing press releases, producing annual reports among other things.
What was the main "soft" skill you found most useful on your journey?
I have been able to achieve some modicum of success in my journey primarily through my "soft" skills. First amongst these has been my strong work ethic and a drive to excel in whatever I endeavor to achieve.
In today's workforce, a strong work ethic is often seen as secondary to other skills. From an early age, I was imbued with the notion that possessing a strong work ethic was the key to any success. To my mind, this really encompasses a strong commitment to achieving outstanding results combined with discipline and focus. As I have progressed in my career, I have come to the realization that this one skill has served me well.
Michelle A. Ray
Deputy Executive Director
The Walter Kaitz Foundation
As Deputy Executive Director of the Walter Kaitz Foundation, Michelle is responsible for developing and implementing the Foundation's strategic direction, initiatives and programmatic activities. In her role, she acts as an emissary for diversity issues in the cable industry by identifying and collaborating with other national organizations that advocate for the social and economic interests of women and ethnic minorities.
Ms. Ray is part of the senior team which develops and manages the process for the distribution of grants to the industry's diversity organizations and collaborates with these organizations and other groups to refine and improve cable's diversity programs and initiatives.
Ms. Ray also has oversight of the industry's supplier diversity initiative which seeks to increase the number of ethnic minorities and women who do business with the cable industry while assisting those companies who wish to establish a formal supplier diversity program.
Ms. Ray has spent more than 20 years in the cable industry first at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) where she was responsible for the marketing of the association's annual trade show both domestically and internationally.
Ms. Ray's professional background is deeply rooted in production and event planning. She has produced several award shows including the cable industry's famed CableACE Awards, the NCTA Vanguard Awards, the Community Spirit Awards among others. She is a member of the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC), Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT), the Alliance for Women in Media (AWM) and the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE).
Ms. Ray is a graduate of McGill University in Montreal, Canada with a Bachelor's degree in Economics and Political Science. Ms. Ray is also a 2015 graduate of WICT's prestigious Betsy Magness Leadership Institute – Class 31; a 2010 graduate of NAMIC's highly respected Executive Leadership Development Program at UCLA's Anderson Graduate School of Management and a 2002 graduate of CTAM's Executive Management Program at Harvard University School of Business.