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Q&A with Learning Leader Michelle Braden

Friday, June 12, 2020

Tell me about where you grew up and how that has shaped who you are today.

I grew up in the Midwest. Even though we didn't have much, my parents always instilled in my siblings and me that it was important to help others and give back to the community. When trying to decide on a career, I was interested in sociology or psychology. However, since I did well in math and science, my father encouraged me to pursue a career in data processing (today known as informational technology) as it was just becoming a "thing." I was amazed at how easy it was for me. In fact, I progressed in my IT career rather quickly, but the higher I rose, the more isolated I became. I needed to be around people. My only real opportunity, though, was when the company needed someone to train the end users on the systems. I seemed to be the best person for the job.

What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your work?

No matter where I go, I want to help others unleash their potential through growing their skills, developing their confidence, and navigating their careers. At this point, it is not about me and how far I can go, it is about others. When I leave a group of people or a company, I will feel accomplished if the people on my teams and in my organizations are better equipped to reach their potential than when I joined them. In other words, I want to leave my mark.

What would you say most motivates you to do what you do? What are you most excited or passionate about?

I am most passionate about the potential learning and development has on a business. Many business leaders still do not realize that every dollar they invest in their people and their growth will come back to them, sometimes tenfold! I love being able to share stories of business impact with leaders as they are shocked and surprised every time. While that is fun, I long for the day that we no longer need to convince them that learning is worth the investment.

What are you most proud of accomplishing?

I am so proud of the work my team and I did at TELUS International. We built a learning organization from the ground up in just a couple of years then proceeded to evolve it to become one that has won more than a dozen industry awards solely based on the work we did growing leaders and impacting the business! It is incredible when I look back at how far we came.

What would you do differently in your career if you had a chance?

Sometimes I wish I had gotten into the learning field 10 years earlier. However, I look back and realize that the first 10 years of my career really shaped me, my knowledge, and my interests. Going into data processing, even though it is hard to admit that my father was right, was really a good decision. I was at the beginning of something big. Young people today are at the same place I was because of machine learning and AI. There is so much to learn and lots to be achieved in this field.

What’s next for you in your work? What are you looking forward to?

Before I wrap up my career, I would like to do executive coaching to help others that are coming up the ladder in the learning industry. I feel as if it is my duty to leave a legacy and help us to succeed in this field.

One piece of advice that I have for others working hard and growing their careers is this: It is so easy to get caught up in the present and not realize the tremendous progress you have made. As you are climbing that mountain, stop, rejoice, and look down to see exactly how far you have come. I promise, it will amaze you.

About the Author

Michelle Braden is chief learning officer and vice president of global learning and talent management at WEX.

Braden is passionate about L&D—and about using her business savvy and leadership expertise to look beyond typical adult learning strategies and toward innovative talent development approaches that drive true business impact. She is laser-focused on enabling WEX team members to grow as individuals and professionals in their careers while delivering upon business goals and providing world-class services and solutions in the financial technology industry.

Braden recently left TELUS International after serving as its CLO and vice president of global learning excellence for 6.5 years. There, along with her globally based team, she built a multi-award-winning learning strategy, which fundamentally changed how the organization built and maintained a robust leadership pipeline to support its fast growth while providing team members with a comprehensive learning journey throughout their career with the company.

With 25 years of successful management experience in and around leadership and talent development, instructional design and development, information technology, and sales in companies that include Xerox and SAP, Braden understands the impact that proficient and fulfilled employees have on engagement, attrition, and business performance.

She has an MBA with a leadership specialty and a BA in management/communication with a minor in information technology.

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