Q&A with Michelle Brown - United Hub

Q&A with Michelle Brown

By The Hub team, March 12, 2018

In honor of Women's History Month, we are sharing stories of the inspired and strong women of United, like Michelle Brown. Michelle, Managing Director of Customer Service at IAH, is responsible for customer experience and strategy in our Houston hub.

1. Who is a woman who has inspired you?

I have so many inspirations! Too many to name. My grandmother has been the biggest inspiration in my life. She survived the depression, raised her siblings and her children, nurtured me and countless others. Her formal education stopped in the second grade, but she never stopped learning. She inspired me to believe that I could achieve anything with determination, hard work and perseverance.

2. What challenges have you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

I can identify three major challenges I have faced in my leadership journey thus far.

First, I voluntarily stepped away from a high paying role without a job offer and a clear understanding of what I was going to next. This turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life because I finally felt like I had the freedom to choose what I wanted to do versus doing what people expected me to do.

Second, I have lacked confidence at times during my career. In the past, I have felt like I wasn't keeping up with the other "high performers" in the company. My style was different; how I worked was different from my peers and I was convinced that my way must not be the best way. I doubted that people were actually comfortable with giving me honest feedback because of my positions as a black, female leader. All of these thoughts compounded and made me feel very uncertain. I doubted whether what I achieved was meaningful or if I was making a difference. I felt like I lacked measurable wins and achievements, when in reality I had accomplished a lot but I was too humble to feel comfortable talking about and celebrating my accomplishments.

Finally, my transition from marketing to operations was a very uncertain time for me. I was excited about the possibilities and anxious about the unknown. This leap of faith has turned out to be one of the most interesting career moves I have ever made.

3. Who at United has helped you succeed?

Too many people to name. The people who have most helped me are the ones who believed in me, even at times when I doubted myself. People who encouraged me to take on a special project, people who supported me "testing" some crazy idea, people who prepped with me as I prepared for interviews, and last but not least, the people who cheered and celebrated every success.

4. What's the best part of your job?

The people. I absolutely love working at the airport. I have a great team here in Houston. It's great walking down the concourse and being greeted with smiles from employees and customers. It's so much fun knowing that every day my job is to interact with people and make a difference to someone's day.

5. What advice would you give to girls or other women to help them succeed?

As female leaders we need to talk about leadership and mentor other women so that they will model leadership behaviors. Women and girls should aspire to be leaders in their schools, homes, communities, workplaces and we should talk about this and celebrate it. We should remind each other that it's ok to be the one in charge or to lead. It's ok to own a decision, good or bad. We should teach girls that they are resourceful and if or when you fail, you should learn from it as most mistakes are recoverable. We don't have to be perfect.

Personally, I learn from doing and observing so I often model or role play situations that happen in one-on-one situations or behind closed doors. I also try to lead by example by being visible. We need to expose young female leaders to other women who are leaders in their own right.

Finally, we should coach each other, share with each other, and learn from each other. Too often, mistakes are repeated because people lack vulnerability to share their experiences. We have to be candid and frank with each other to show the next generation of female leaders that leadership does not have to be scary.

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