Staff Spotlight – Michele Richardson

We each have a story—one that is crafted page by page by the moments, experiences, struggles, joy, and achievements that make us who we are. Michele Richardson’s story is one of determination, hard work, perseverance, and laughter in the face of the dreaded unknown.

Born in Misawa, Japan, a small town on the northern tip of the country, the daughter of an American Air Force father and a Japanese mother, Michele’s childhood was anything but typical. Her military childhood involved moving every two to four years. Finding her place among new cities and new friends wasn’t always easy. So, during high school, when her family put down roots in San Diego, California, she reveled in finally having a place to call “home.”

As a young girl, Michele aspired to become a writer, but her strict and tell-it-like-it-is father had no qualms about expressing his discontentment with that choice of profession. “Get a real job,” he would tell her. “He encouraged me to follow in his post-Air Force career footsteps and become an accountant or get into a hard science like biology or chemistry. In college I tried to do what my dad wanted, ‘trying on’ six different majors before ending up with a degree in English.” The contrarian pursuit of her dream to write might be what most would expect to be next for Michele, but life had other plans.

Throughout college, Michele worked at a credit union where she moved from teller to loan officer despite being a part-time employee. But it wasn’t her financial acumen that positioned her for what came after college; it was her knack for technology. Whenever her colleagues ran into trouble with the software or hardware systems, Michele was the resident “fixer.”  This positioned her for her next opportunity, working for the company that delivered the software platform she used at the credit union. “I was on an implementation team that would travel to various client sites to convert the credit union to the software platform and train the entire staff.”

An introvert by nature, Michele unexpectedly found satisfaction standing in front of large audiences delivering technical training. She later weaved her writing background into her work, growing into roles that included instructional design. When an Internet start-up called upon her, she leapt at the chance to be a part of the dot-com boom. “It was the first pay-for-click search engine. The company was growing quickly and needed soft-skill training, such as development programs for leaders and diversity training. Although I was hired for more technical training, my colleague Mary and I established their learning program from the ground up.” While in this role, Michele got married, started a family, and returned to school to get her master’s degree in Organization Development. Shortly before completing her masters, the 28-year-old new mom decided to pursue a career on her own terms, launching a solo consulting practice.

Early in Michele’s career as a business owner, she met a woman who owned the largest female-owned construction company in Southern California. Michele gained two pieces of advice that, when coupled with the Air Force motto to “Aim High,” has shaped how she’s approached her work/life ever since:

  • You will never know what’s possible unless you try. Don’t be afraid to take some risks.
  • You can never reclaim time with your children. Don’t put work first and regret it later.

Michele has since always prioritized her family and challenged the status quo by taking thoughtful risks. This has created her, what many characterize as an, “interesting” career history. She’s been hired as a ghostwriter for executives and high-profile authors. She’s a former keynote speaker who spoke on topics related to leadership and work/life integration for conferences and large corporations. And, she was once a sponsored mom blogger, earning “revenue” through perks like early access to products and fully paid vacations.  

Life took an unexpected turn in 2010 when she found herself as a single mom, raising three children, ages five, seven, and nine, on her own. That dramatic change in her life demanded an equally dramatic change in how she approached her work. She reinvented her business from the ground up and adjusted her work schedule to 4:00 a.m. – noon so that she could devote the rest of the day to her children. Through the hardships of that time, she and her children created indelible memories filled with joy and laughter (ask them about “Mommy Summer Camp”).

A lifelong learner, the university climate was enough to draw Michele from California to Connecticut in 2018. With her, she brought the collection of her work/life experiences—the ups and the downs—to her current role as Senior Organizational Development Consultant in the department of Organizational Development at Yale. In this role, she advises senior leaders in navigating change, building cohesive teams, and creating environments where staff can thrive. While the path that led her here was undoubtedly a winding one, her tenacity and willingness to forge into uncharted territories have led her to a career that Michele feels is an ideal fit.