Women In Leadership: Marissa Gagnon

For another edition of our “Women in Leadership” series, we interviewed Marissa Gagnon, the Team Resource Lead at Twisthink. Gagnon traces her career path, and she details some of the stereotypes that she is trying to change as she progresses in her career. She is an Act I, meaning that she is early-in-career.

How long have you been with the company? What is your current role?

I have been with Twisthink for over a year and a half. Twisthink is a professional service company that partners with clients to help bring their products and services to life. Currently, we have a team of 30 engineers, designers and strategists that work collaboratively on some of the most challenging problems, all with the goal of helping our clients succeed.

As part of the leadership team, one of our strategic initiatives for this year is to grow our team by 10-15% with a larger focus on increasing diversity. My primary responsibilities are to build a great team, maintain our high retention rate, while helping create new policies that put Twisthink ahead of our competition. As the first team resource lead at Twisthink, I am currently developing and defining my role to ensure it supports the company’s strategic needs and culture.

Describe your path to your current position:

It wasn’t an easy path, but thankfully it wasn’t long before it was on the right track. I graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in Psychology and Sociology. I chose this field because I have always been interested in counseling and helping others. After graduating with my undergraduate degree, I obtained my master’s degree in counseling from Grand Valley State University.

While working in Social Work, I started questioning if this was the right career path for me. I started to search for other opportunities that would allow me to help people in different ways. Then I decided to focus on moving into the field of Human Resources. I started working as a recruiter until I found a job at Twisthink as an Administrative Assistant where I had the opportunity to learn office management, while also learning business operations and what it was like working for a professional service company. I was very fortunate when they offered me a full-time role in HR where I could utilize my previous recruiting background. I couldn’t have painted a better picture for myself if you asked me. Twisthink has everything that I’ve looked for in a company and I’m thankful to be here today.

I know a lot of people who go through many difficult hurdles after graduating college and figuring out what path is right for them. It’s important to know, we all go through it! I used to be embarrassed to say I have degrees in fields that are not specifically Human Resources, but now I can look back and recognize that because of those degrees and my path, that’s why I ended up where I am today, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Do you have a mentor? 

Yes, Kaitlyn Marsman who is the Marketing Lead at Twisthink has been my mentor. Kaitlyn was actually the one who interviewed me and offered me the administrative assistant role first before offering a full-time position in HR. Kaitlyn not only interned here but also took this job right out of college and has taught me a great deal about the company, which helped me navigate into my role. We are the first two women to have leadership roles at Twisthink, so it’s great to have a female support system together.

In your current ‘Act’, what is the number one challenge you face?

Right now, my main challenge is trying to break through the stereotype of “millennials.” Typically, when you hear the term millennial, its accompanied by words like “lazy” or “entitled”, which is simply not true and has given our generation a bad reputation. Our generation grew up in a technology era where everything we wanted to know was at the touch of our fingertips. We can get the same amount of work done as previous generations in half the time. We are also the first generation within the workforce that is working with generations that are vastly different from our own. Currently there are 5 generations working today, soon to be 6!

Companies are beginning to understand how to employ and retain our generation. Companies are including more collaborative work environments, more workplace flexibility, and ability to have constant feedback so we can grow and develop into leaders. We want to take on responsibilities, make an impact, and receive constant feedback on how to keep improving. I wish these topics were what followed the term “millennial.”

What does the phrase “women supporting women” mean to you?

That phrase means a great deal to me because we see it on a daily basis in the media where they are pinning women against women. It’s so widespread that it becomes part of the culture whether it’s in the workforce, in friendships, or in families. Instead of competing, we need to take a step back and recognize that there is room for all of us at the top. If there is enough room for multiple men to lead, why can’t women be the same? I believe there is not just one spot available for women, but there are many. If we work together, we can move faster, go further and challenge the status quo.

I also think the phrase means lending a hand to more women, and looking for ways to mentor each other, especially for women in further ‘Acts’ of their life. These women have been through a lot more in order to get where they are, and by lending a hand we can create an easier path for more women in leadership.

What would you like to tell the women just entering the work world? 

I would advise them to understand that everyone is going through similar experiences and they are not alone. Communication is key because once you start communicating with each other, you realize that we are all on the same playing field and trying to overcome the same hurdles. It just makes it easier on yourself to move forward in the work world.

What would you like to tell the women in Act II or Act III? 

When new women enter the workforce – regardless of if they are asking for the help or not – making the first move and introducing yourself will help start that conversation that you are there if they ever have questions. Even if they don’t lean into your offer right away, at least they know they have someone to go to when that moment does arise. It’s all about making that initial step to create a relationship that can help women who are new to the workforce.