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Alumni Q&A: Erik Michielsen
September 12, 2012
Daytime MBA 2002
Fuqua Alumni Council
Founder, Capture Your Flag
What do you do professionally?
I'm a media and education entrepreneur focused on Internet video and film. My roles range from company president to on-air interviewer to director to producer. I believe in the power of knowledge capture, retention and transfer and have developed learning methods (Near Peer Learning), an online documentary interview series (CaptureYourFlag.com), and corporate educational video programs and production services to help individuals and organizations innovate how they learn to lead more impactful and fulfilling lives and careers.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
Bringing out the best in people and sharing those stories to help bright, ambitious people achieve aspirations and flourish in life and career.
What is the biggest challenge you face?
Getting the business model right. I've worked in innovative industries—high tech, Internet, mobile—my entire career, and with Capture Your Flag it is all about testing, learning, and adapting our products and services as we gain experience, as new technology becomes available, and as market needs for leadership and career education evolve.
What sorts of interesting places has your position taken you? Do you have a favorite?
My work has taken me into the epicenter of next generation global leadership communities. I am so fortunate to continuously be meeting up-and-coming individuals working across all industries who are building the companies, creating the art, and leading the communities of tomorrow. A good community example of this is the Sandbox Network (www.sandbox-network.com) and its inspiring membership. Another example is the South By Southwest Conference Series in Austin, Texas (EDU, Interactive, Film, and Music) and the inspiring stories that have opened my mind to what is possible in life and career.
What is the best professional advice you have received?
My method is my model. I document career stories on film by repeating interviews annually. Fundamental to this is advice I hold dear to my work and what I see as the legacy I am building—a need to finely balance persistence and patience over the course of what is and what surely will continue to be a long, hard journey. The sacrifices are great, the rewards come slowly, the challenges seem endless, and yet I believe that Capture Your Flag will change the world by opening millions of minds to what is possible in life and career.
Aside from your current role, what is your dream job?
Charlie Rose's table becomes Erik Michielsen's table.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I'm a marathon runner (training for my 3rd right now—NYC 2012), I absolutely love cinema and film and the popcorn that comes with the experience, and from an intellectual and culinary perspective I'm a man about town in New York City in that I am always looking to immerse myself in the conversations and flavors that are shaping our culture.
What is the most important thing you learned during your time at Fuqua?
Follow your passion and go your own way. There is no blueprint career path, and with the friendships, education, and support structure the Fuqua experience provides you can truly do anything as long as you are willing to sacrifice, work, and persevere.
Who was your favorite professor?
I absolutely love innovation and change, so from a business perspective the classroom experience breaking that down from strategy and marketing perspective puts Bill Boulding, Debu Purohit, and Will Mitchell up at the top. I'm thankful to still be in contact with each of them and watch them thrive in their own distinct ways. From a change-led culture perspective, it was a thrill to have Chip Heath teach my first class, Managerial Effectiveness, before he returned to Stanford GSB. As a guy that is back 2-3 times a year talking leadership across Duke, I would also say it would be a dream to spend classroom time with Joe LeBoeuf and Sim Sitkin at Fuqua/COLE and Tony Brown and his social entrepreneurship teaching at the Sanford School across the street.
What is your favorite Fuqua memory?
There are so many treasures in the personalities and characters making up each Fuqua class. I have always tried to break down the class into approachable segments and then immerse myself in their worlds. I was able to identify those segments and student clusters—the foodies, the runners, the internationals, the digital nerds, the families, the ethnic and minority groups—and get to know them individually, on their own terms, in their homes and then bring together collective experiences, most often breaking bread at my place. As the years have passed this has been fundamental in living my passion (or running what I call my "motor") to stay connected, stack adventures together, and strengthen those bonds year over year as life, family, and career unfold.
What does Team Fuqua mean to you?
I feel Team Fuqua is personified in my work with the Fuqua Alumni Council. Our membership reaches across graduation year, program, geography, competency, and our overall desire to serve the collective Duke community and help its participants thrive in life and career. Team Fuqua is so much more than the starting block bonds you build with your graduating class, and I'm devoted to finding ways to better interconnect this great web of inspiring people around not just memories but more importantly possibilities.