Michelle Kadlacek is Vice President of the Channel Partner Program for Spectrum Enterprise. Michelle leads the enterprise channel responsible for driving the growth of fiber-based solutions as well as the strategic development and recruitment of master agents throughout the country. Michelle has over 18 years’ experience in the telecommunications and cable channel industry, holding various channel roles throughout her career. Michelle is a board member of the Alliance of Channel Women, a member of Women in Cable Telecommunications, is active with CTAM, and helps lead the Spectrum Women’s Leadership & Development Forum. Michelle is a 2018 Channel Partner Circle of Excellence winner, has earned multiple CRN Women in the Channel honors and volunteers with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
1. Who influenced you in your early years to become a leader in your own life, and what did they do for you?
My mom was one of my biggest influencers early in my life. She showed me how hard work, determination, and the willingness to survive can make a stronger individual. But I also had (and still have) a couple of mentors in my career that have coached me through difficult decisions, helped me see the bigger picture, provided guidance when I didn’t know which way to turn, and provided me a platform to speak freely and openly. I encourage everyone, if you do not have a mentor – get one!
2. What difficulty have you overcome that impacted your career for the better?
For me, this is more of a personal difficulty that I dealt with less than a year after accepting my first job as a channel manager. I took a channel manager position and relocated from Raleigh, NC to Columbia, SC. I wasn’t thrilled about the move as I had lived in Raleigh for five years and had built a good circle of friends. Nevertheless, I knew that, in order to advance my sales career, relocating was something I needed to consider. Less than six months after I moved, I woke up one Saturday morning and found a lump in my breast. At the time, I was only 33 years old so I did not really think about it the rest of the weekend. I contacted my doctor on Monday, and he advised me to come into the office for some testing – which was still in Raleigh. To make a long story short, after weeks of tests, doctor visits, ultrasounds, needles, and back/forth drives from Columbia to Raleigh, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Yep – the Big C word! Did I mentioned that I had just taken on my first channel manager role, I was living by myself, and I was a 4 hour drive away from my doctor? Talk about learning what it means to have work-life balance. It was during this time that I also learned what it meant to be strong and to fight like a women! I was determined, not only to beat cancer, but also to prove that I could be a successful channel manager. I knew that if I failed at my first channel sales role that I may never get another opportunity. For 12 months, I underwent chemo, surgery and radiation, while consistently outperforming most of the other channel mangers on my team. I went on to beat cancer (14 years cancer free) and won several top sales awards. I learned a lot of life lessons in those 12+ months, but one that has always stuck with me is to surround yourself with positive and good people – not just in your personal life but in your professional life as well. Encourage others. Be a role model or take on a mentorship. Always remember that you don’t know what others may be going through.
3. Why did you join Alliance of Channel Women, and what do you hope to get and to give to this membership?
I joined the Alliance of Channel Women the first year that it was formed, as I’ve always understood the importance of networking and collaborating with others – especially with strong, positive women. This organization has an abundance of influential female leaders in our industry, and I learn something new every time I am around them. Although very hesitant at first, I joined the board this year. I kept telling myself that I needed to do more and be more engaged but I kept thinking I just did not have the extra time. I am a road warrior, and I had just taken on new responsibilities at work. I thought I could not fit anything else into my schedule. Five months into my term, I am happy that I joined the board; I am building stronger relationships, learning from other influential female leaders in our industry, and making life-long connections.
4. What advice would you give to someone new to the channel?
Early on in my career, I took the opportunity to network as much as possible and build relationships with channel partners AND with my internal business partners. It is critical to build external relationships with channel partners, but do not forget about your internal boundary partners. Knowing who to go to, how to get things done, and gaining respect inside your own organization is just as critical. The first step in building relationships is gaining trust – doing what you say you’re going to do and following through with your commitments. It may sound basic, but practicing those key components daily will help you build strong relationships.
5. Where do you see the women in our industry thriving?
Everywhere – why not?!? There are no boundaries. There are no limits. Find what makes you happy, and pursue it. Do not be afraid to raise your hand, ask a question in a meeting, relocate to a new city, or voice your opinion. You deserve a seat at the table, so pull up a chair.
6. How are you positioning yourself to stay relevant and support your clients in the coming year?
Staying relevant is very important as our industry continues to evolve. It is imperative to embrace change; we must take the initiative to learn new technologies, new ways of thinking, and remain open to new, fresh ideas. Just because I have attended 25+ Channel Partners shows (yikes!) does not make me an expert. I constantly remind myself to remain open-minded and willing to learn from others.
7. When have you helped another women gain confidence and connection, and what happened?
About a year after I took a leadership role at Time Warner Cable, a young woman approached me at the office and asked if I would be her mentor. I had mentored a little in the past, but it had always been someone that I knew. I barely knew this individual, other than to say an occasional “good morning” in the break room. Her goal was to gain a certification and a promotion within the year. Over that year, we met and spoke on a regular basis; Many times, we would discuss challenges or obstacles that she was facing professionally and how best to handle those situations. She gained her promotion and certification, but what I gained out of that mentorship was much more.
8. What can we do to prepare ourselves for the changes that are coming to our industry?
Just realizing that changes are coming is the first step. Embrace it, never stop learning, network, and do not be afraid to try new things.
“Your success in life isn’t based on your ability to simply change. It is based on your ability to change faster than your competition, customers, and business.” – Mark Sanborn
ABOUT THE EDITOR
Morgan Granfield is a National Channel Manager for Fusion, growing relationships with master agencies and their partner bases across the country. Morgan has been in various sales, business development, and training roles at Fusion, previously Birch and Cbeyond, since 2012. An ACW member since 2016, she is a communications committee co-chair and a volunteer on the events and newsletter committees.