Following a Life Journey to Russell Herder

Michelle Newlander on Project Management

Although she came into the advertising field in a roundabout way, Michelle Newlander embodies our unofficial motto of “Wake Up, Kick Ass, Repeat.” If you call in Michelle to work on a project, there will be as many no-BS assessments as necessary, and zero dithering.

Her upbringing in the north-central region of greater Minnesota might factor into that pragmatism. She grew up in Cold Spring with dreams of becoming a marine biologist. She majored in Travel in Tourism at what at the time was called St. Cloud Business College (now Rasmussen Business College). After graduation, she stayed in St. Cloud, doing data entry at online retailer Fingerhut.

In 1996, her mother’s chiropractor, who also happened to be a recruiter, set Michelle up with a job as an administrative assistant at Campbell Mithun. In its day, the firm was legendary in the Midwest ad scene, and occupied its own skyscraper in downtown Minneapolis. They handled some mom-and-pop accounts for brands you may have heard of, like Pillsbury, Land o’ Lakes, Hamm’s, and Northwest Airlines.

She worked directly under the head of Accounts, so when Campbell Mithun was doing market research, Michelle often found herself being queried on her thoughts about client products that were being marketed to young women.

“My opinion always seemed validated,” she says. “I was in my twenties back then, so the business we had was for Kmart, and packaging for food products.”

Michelle was then tapped for a job in the New Business department at Campbell Mithun, actively working with clients and developing a deep understanding of their perspectives and needs, strengthening these relationships.

“I remember the ones we didn’t get, because they were the most labor intensive,” she says of the prospective clients she helped the firm pursue. “Eventually, this type of work wasn’t sustainable for me or my lifestyle anymore.”

She switched to project management, and after a successful span working at Aveda corporation, founded by legendary entrepreneur Horst Rechelbacher, Michelle today skillfully leads the department at RH. It has a similarly holistic approach as New Business, and Michelle can now see the campaign develop throughout its entire lifespan, from project brief to final deliverable.

When asked her technique to manage the varied and passionate personalities among the different departments of an advertising firm, and how she identifies and elevates each team member’s professional strengths, Michelle ascribed it to simply having a robust knowledge of those people.

“COVID was hard, because to be a good project manager, you need that face-to-face contact,” she says. “You need to learn how people respond to you, how they respond to other people.”

She decided to switch jobs when a bout with cancer inspired her to give back, and Michelle noticed Russell Herder’s commitment to being a B Corp (Benefit Corporation).

Michelle’s depth of experience and readiness to expertly manage people has developed over time; strengthened by her dedication to helping others. The things she’s learned about herself, and other people, over the years as a professional has led her to her make the types of contributions that continually shift projects forward for the greater good.

“I want to do good, and do good work for other people,” she says.

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