We are so thrilled to introduce you to Michelle Selesky Giuda, UCLA Gymnastics Team Captain turned Senior Vice President of Global Corporate Communications for Weber Shandwick, with lots of success in between. Read on to learn about the skills and wisdom she's picked up along the way.
Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.
I believe communication is the most powerful tool of leadership. Throughout my career, whether it be leading global corporate communications across 81 countries, directing media relations for a U.S. presidential campaign, or becoming a two-time UCLA Gymnastics Team Captain and NCAA Championship team member, I’ve experienced the incredible power of communications to connect, inspire and move people to accomplish great things.
I’m currently Senior Vice President of Global Corporate Communications at Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s leading global communications and engagement firms. In my role, I am responsible for setting and executing our communications strategy across six continents to enhance and protect the reputation of our firm. This includes external and internal communications, media relations, corporate citizenship, marketing, events, content publishing, and digital and social media.
The communications landscape is changing rapidly thanks to digital innovation, so I’m focused on showcasing the exciting ways Weber Shandwick is innovating ahead of the curve to deliver best-in-class solutions to our clients – through our digital expertise, our creative talent, and forward-looking thought leadership. I’m proud that we’ve recently been honored as PR Week’s 2015 Global Agency of the Year, The Holmes Report’s 2014 Global Agency of the Year, and the only PR firm named to the prestigious Advertising Age Agency A-List in both 2014 and 2015.
Prior to joining Weber Shandwick, I began my career in politics in Washington, D.C., where I witnessed the power of communications to change lives and history. I served as a lead member of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s communications team, ultimately serving as National Deputy Press Secretary to the Speaker throughout the 2012 presidential primary campaign.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career to date?
The time I spent as Deputy Press Secretary on the campaign trail in 2011-2012 was perhaps one of the biggest challenges I’ve had the pleasure of taking on. As anyone who has worked a presidential campaign will explain, it’s mentally, physically and emotionally taxing. Every day is a battle, the hours are long, and the pace relentless. But the opportunity to fight for what you believe in makes it all worthwhile. The experience strengthened my instinct for agility, focus on problem solving, and deep commitment to teamwork – skills that have continued to help me throughout all avenues of my career.
What was your biggest career breakthrough moment?
The biggest breakthroughs in my career aren’t attributable to any single moment. For me, it’s been about the daily successes and series of short-term milestones that have shaped my journey. The first time I staffed Speaker Gingrich at a television interview, the day I took on my global SVP role at Weber Shandwick, building and supporting my team and seeing them grow and excel each day -- those are the kinds of daily breakthroughs that, collectively and powerfully, continue to impact my career.
Finish this sentence: "I knew I had 'made it' when…"
I returned home from my first visit to Vietnam with my mother and grandmother, who both fled Saigon just days before South Vietnam fell in April 1975. I saw the places where they had lived their lives before having to leave it all behind. I also saw the remnants of the military base where my dad, a veteran, served his tour.
Returning home to my studio in Washington, D.C., I was made deeply aware of just how fortunate I was, in a way that I wouldn’t have understood otherwise. I was in my early twenties, living in a comfortable apartment in Northwest Washington, D.C., had just completed graduate school, and was working for one of the most influential political figures of our time. These wonderful opportunities were the result of the risks and sacrifices my family had made. From then on, I knew I had already “made it” thanks to them, and have been keenly aware of the responsibility and opportunity I’ve been given to make the most of those gifts.
If you could go back and talk to your younger self (before your career really began), what professional advice would you give her?
Soak it all in. Have confidence in yourself, and always have trust in your preparation. Most importantly, keep imagining.
Share your two cents about money. What lessons have you learned about money along the way?
Money is not the end game, but a means to an end. That being said, it’s an important resource that helps make sure you have the ability to take care of yourself and your loved ones. Be smart about saving from the get go – use a budget and have a plan. As with everything, goals help!
What is your secret to success?
Preparation. My first career was as a gymnast and student-athlete. I had the great honor of serving twice as Team Captain of the UCLA Women’s Gymnastics Team and winning an NCAA Championship together. From a very early age, I learned that success and confidence only comes from relentless, deliberate, focused preparation. Lots of it.
I keep Coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success framed on my wall so that I always remember: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”
Why are you a member of Ellevate?
As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats! Ellevate provides the opportunity for us to help lift each other – by sharing ideas, experiences, learnings, and building a community of support. That opportunity for collaboration and teamwork is valuable no matter what point you’re at in your career. I’m grateful for all the help I’ve received throughout my journey, and want to be able to give back and continue learning with the Ellevate network.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Communications
Communications is the most powerful tool of leadership. I’ve dedicated more than a decade to this principle, leading global corporate communications across 81 countries, directing media relations for a U.S. presidential campaign, and becoming a two-time Team Captain and NCAA Championship team member with UCLA Gymnastics. Agility is in my DNA. Whether you’re an individual, company, sports team, politician or brand, communications is how we tell stories, connect, inspire and move each other to act and... Continue Reading