Women in Business: A Q&A with Michelle Micuda, President of Staples Professional

Friday March 17th, 2023

Author: Staples Professional Inc.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we did a Q&A with Michelle Micuda, President Staples Professional, Staples Canada’s B2B arm, servicing medium and large businesses across the country.

Michelle’s career includes a varied background as an executive including roles in both small and large businesses in Sales, Operations, Finance and HR. Michelle joined Staples Professional in 2006 and has held a variety of leadership roles within the organization including VP Operations, leading Warehouse/Delivery areas as well as VP, Sales, leading inside, outside and specialty sales areas. Since 2019, Michelle has held the President role, leading the organization through an integration with Staples Canada’s Retail & Online business, the pandemic and most recently, the acquisitions of Denis Office Supplies & Furniture and Supreme Office Supplies. She has been instrumental in driving organizational performance and growth, as well as leading our teams by building culture, connections and community.

Here’s what Michelle had to say when we asked her for some advice and guidance on being a great leader in the business world.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

I want to share two pieces of advice, “cheat yourself” and “take risks”.

Early in my career I was told that it was ok to “cheat yourself”. You have a choice to do your job or do your job and more. If you do your current job well and show that you can handle more responsibility, showcase your business acumen or take time to support other departments, you will be the one that is the most prepared to take on the next promotion, inter-departmental move or special project – if that is your goal. In a way, you have cheated yourself by doing more than your role requires, but you have prepared yourself for future success.
Later in my career, being reminded to “take risks” gave me the confidence to continue to make unconventional career moves, lateral moves and even leave jobs I loved, allowing me to build my career.
What would you like to remind young women who are just starting their careers?
A career is a journey with many twists and turns, hills and valleys. It’s not about who gets to the finish line first, but who enjoys the journey and people you meet along the way while making a meaningful impact. Lean on people around you; they want to help you more than you know! But most of all, enjoy yourself and have fun!

What do you enjoy most about being in a leadership role?

I have the pleasure of interacting with a wide variety of people in my role – people from inside and outside our organization, people from across the country, people with different backgrounds and views of our company.
First off, interacting with all these people is just plain fun, invigorating… and unpredictable! The lack of face-to-face interaction with people during the pandemic was difficult for me as I was missing out on the best part of my role. Second, the interaction keeps my thoughts fresh, allows me to connect pieces of information to see business problems differently and reminds me that I have an important responsibility to incorporate this valuable feedback in our business strategy, operational execution and ensure we make Staples the best place it can be for everyone.
What has been one of the most challenging obstacles in your career path, and what did you learn from it?

A few times in my career, I was ready for a promotion and the role I was hoping for opened up. I was excited and felt I was the best candidate for the role. However, the role was given to another candidate. Each time, this decision was challenging and frustrating for me. I felt that I had done everything that was asked of me and more, yet the decision didn’t go my way. In each case, I had to move past my disappointment, dig in, do my job and help my new boss be successful. I always learned something from my new bosses and it made me stronger as an individual and a leader. Wins don’t always come at the time you are expecting it, but if you persevere, success will come your way.
Do you currently or have you ever encountered any gender-related obstacles in your profession? If so, how did you go about handling it?

I’m not sure if I can say I encountered gender-related obstacles, but I have certainly encountered gender-related situations. Early in my career, I was always in male-dominated situations – as a math student at the University of Waterloo, as a Commercial Lender at a bank, as an MBA student in the nineties, as a leader in Warehouse/Delivery Operations. It was just a fact that there were many male-dominated areas within school and business early in my career; however, I just went about my journey to be the best leader I could be regardless of whether the role was an individual contributor or a manager. Gender doesn’t indicate who can do a job better. It’s up to you to find your best self and live it every day.
Today, I’m fortunate to be on a senior leadership team with more than 50% female representation and I’m proud that Staples Professional has more than 50% female representation within our management roles.

What do you wish you would have done differently in your career?

There are some things I wish I would have done a little differently, like finding my voice earlier in my career, nurturing my network more or taking week-long vacations earlier! But overall, my career has brought me to my current role at Staples with the support of my family, so I am very thankful for the journey that has brought me here.

Is it possible to achieve work-life balance?

For me, balance doesn’t always happen on a daily or weekly basis, but I do believe that you have to find a balance to thrive at work and at home that is right for you.

My role at work is one part of my life and my role at home as a wife, mother and daughter is the most important role that I have. I have always ensured I found a balance that allowed me to go to piano recitals/soccer games/dance competitions, to help with math homework and now that my girls are older, it means returning texts (not usually fast enough), reviewing term papers and just being available. The balance also includes personal fitness and health and I haven’t always kept this high enough on my priority list and so I’m always working to find my optimal work-life balance.
What is one thing do you think you did right in your career?

I developed a broad perspective throughout my career. I’ve worked at three companies since graduating from university, spending a sufficient amount of time to really understand each organization. I took the opportunity to move around the organization and experience different roles – branch office vs head office, personal lending vs commercial leading, human resources vs finance, operations vs sales. I was open to taking different roles within organizations even though they weren’t conventional career moves. Sometimes, I was given a push from a respected leader and I heeded their advice and sometimes I just took a risk. Having a variety of perspectives within an organization has allowed me to have a distinct leadership perspective, which I believe helps me relate to people throughout the organization and make better decisions. Have an open mind to unconventional career moves – they just might be the best career move you’ll ever make.

What is your favourite business quote ?

Not sure I have a favourite quote, but I like these:
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Edison. I grew up on a farm, so I relate to the reference and with every opportunity you seize, you will indeed need to put in the work to succeed.
“Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.” – John Maxwell

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