Interview with NextGen Leadership Series: Michelle Cadena

August 4, 2020

Changes to the workplace bring on new challenges and can sometimes leave us wondering what will happen next. Our leadership team at NextGen is familiar with changes in the workplace and have a collective goal to see our company succeed. When we transitioned to working from home in mid-March, we didn’t know what to expect. By looking to leadership for guidance and positivity, we are seeing continued success and keeping our expectations high for future growth and progress. To get some additional insight into where we are at as a company and what leadership’s thoughts are, I interviewed our leadership team individually to see how they were dealing with the changes, both personally and professionally.

For our third interview, I spoke with Michelle Cadena, our Vice President of Sales. Michelle has been with NextGen since it was founded in 2009. Her journey began as a Regional Sales Director, then she transitioned into the role of Vice President of Sales in 2020. She has been in sales and recruitment within the telecom industry for many years and brings a wealth of experience and expertise to her position. Michelle works remotely in California for NextGen, and this is what she had to say about the current state of our company and navigating through the current times:

  1. How did you adjust to working from home?

This was a little unique with me, considering that I’ve been working from home on and off since 2005; most of my career has been remote rather than working in an office. I’m a self-disciplined person, I know when I need to take a break or step away from my desk.

The challenging part was having the once in a lifetime experience of having my children not able to attend school. Luckily, we have a large house but having my children home in what is usually my workspace and having that 24/7 can make a house feel small! In addition to working and providing for my family, I am now acting as their teacher and even their therapist. They are missing out on a lot of things being out of school, so they need that person to talk to and lean on for support.

  1. What are some things you have done to stay entertained while staying at home?

We have found Netflix shows that we could watch as a family; it has been important to find things that are age-appropriate to watch together. We’ve been watching “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race” most recently. I like “The Amazing Race” because it shows the kids different parts of the world and different cultures.

We’ve also cooked more; normally it’s a hectic schedule between school, sports, and other activities, so it’s nice to have more time to cook as a family.

  1. What is the biggest difference you have seen in your daily routine?

The biggest change has definitely been the lack of traveling. The interesting thing is that I have been busier than ever though. I’m now available for every call, whereas before I would be on planes and missing out on some meetings. I’ve also been able to work more consistently with full availability. I do like seeing the team and sitting with them, but this added availability has been a blessing in its own way. Even though I can’t physically be with the team, I can be available to support them and be helpful. Plus, it is nice to finish my day and just be done, and not have to rush to an airport or travel after a long day.

  1. What are some positive things that have happened for you personally since the current restrictions began?

I feel like we got our weekends back. That was a gift I didn’t know I needed. It can be difficult as a working parent because you would love to have weekends to yourself, but I have active kids! Every weekend before this, we were headed to tournaments, cheer, dance, or other activities. Staying home, we’ve finally been able to tackle things around the house like cleaning out the garage, closets, and other chores. Not having the extra activities has been nice for that added time. I feel like we have control over our weekends with nothing to be at or to do.

Also, our dog is living her best life! She has been so happy and thriving with constant human contact and attention.

  1. What are some silver linings that you feel could come from this for NextGen?

I think the opportunity to trust people to work independently and give them the empowerment to take the flexibility and run with it. Our employees will be able to show us what they can do with a more flexible option. For some people who had long commutes that took away from their day, now they may not have to worry about that anymore. These more hybrid working models may also lead to cost savings if we don’t need to expand offices. We were put into a position of having to trust to our employees to work from home, and they are rising to the occasion. The hybrid model may not work for some who really need that routine of going into the office. Overall, if our employees want flexibility, they have the opportunity to prove that they can still succeed and keep that flexibility, even when things return to normalcy.

  1. What is one thing you want NextGen employees and/or the community to know?

That we will come out of this! We have taken the right steps as a business to adapt and evolve. Although this is unprecedented, our leadership team has experienced things like market crashes, national tragedies, and other difficult times in the past. It isn’t directly comparable, but we do have a team who has faced challenges and adversities to a business previously and can help lead us through this with strategies from the past. For a lot of people, this may be their first major working challenge, but for many of the leads it isn’t, so we can get through this. The acquisition by Kelly in 2019 was a blessing; we have a big company that has our back.

Despite everything, NextGen is going to continue to grow. We have a great book of business, strong client lists, and we are making investments and thoughtful hires. It adds a level of confidence to see that although most other companies are doing layoffs, we are still strategically hiring. By doing so, we are staying focused on the future. Our success will help Kelly, who in turn will help us.

Key Takeaways

The key takeaway in speaking with Michelle was that she is positive that NextGen will be coming out on top when things return to a sense of normalcy. In addition to that, she felt that working remotely can be a good change, especially if we continue to demonstrate success and dedication. Although she hasn’t had to chance to travel recently, there have been some unexpected benefits, like being present for more calls and able to consistently be there for the team.

As we continue to navigate day by day, week by week, we hold our heads up high and look to the future. Our leadership team is made up of strong individuals who have gone through changes and turmoil in the past, but it is clear to see that we are still going strong!

To hear more from NextGen’s Leadership team, be sure to follow us on social media and stay tuned for the next interview in our blog series! If you missed the first two interviews, be sure to visit our News page to see what our other leads had to say!


Sarah Janich is a Talent Acquisition Specialist at NextGen. She joined the team in March 2020 and has been working to recruit internal talent as well as assisting with marketing blogs and campaigns. Sarah has been recruiting in the staffing industry for two years, and recently earned a certificate in Digital Marketing from UCSD Extension. Be sure to connect with her on LinkedIn for the latest news and internal openings at NextGen!

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