March 28, 2023

Episode 6 Transcript | Michelle Suzuki of Instructure

Michelle Suzuki of Instructure joins co-hosts Alysha Smith and Peter Stevenson of modern8 and a8ency to talk about her career starting out in communications and transitioning to marketing and what makes a successful marketing team in today’s environment.

Peter Stevenson

Thanks for joining us here at by subject podcast. This is Silicon Slopes brand and marketing podcast. We’re here today with Senior vice president of marketing at Instructure, Michelle Suzuki. Welcome.

Michelle Suzuki

Thank you. Good to be here.

Peter Stevenson

Good to have you. We’re so excited to get to have you here in studio. And so maybe first I’d love to hear just a little bit about your back ground, where you grew up, where you went to school, what things interested you when you were a kid, that kind of stuff.

Alysha Smith

And ultimately how that led you to marketing.

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah, that’s good. So I grew up in Hawaii and in the Midwest, so that was quite a change going from Hawaii to Wisconsin in middle school. So I kind of grew up all over the place. My dad was a university professor and taught music, so we had kind of changes with his job. And then I came out to Utah to go to college and went to BYU and I studied communications. I thought I was going to be like CJ. Craig on the West Wing and be like some big government affairs person and actually ended up starting my career in government affairs, working for the Levitt Administration.

Peter Stevenson

Doing communications when he was governor here in Utah.

Michelle Suzuki

Governor here in Utah. Yeah, way back in the that was my first stop on my marketing train of a career and after a while I decided that working in government kind of wasn’t my ideal and I really wanted to break into tech. And at that time in the mid 90s, it was pretty tough actually to get into tech. There were so few people that had experience, and I was, like, begging for jobs. And Martha Felt of the Martha Felt Group way back in the day, one of the pioneers of the space in Utah had this open position, and I said I would volunteer to work there and prove myself because I didn’t have any tech experience. And then I got a couple of months there under my belt and they offered me a job and that’s how I broke into tech, PR. So I was doing PR for the first part of my career, I would say about the first ten years, and learned that programs were really my jam and worked my way into marketing from there. Kind of straight up marketing programs at Novell in the late ninety s and then moved to San Diego and had a variety of roles in marketing and have returned back now about ten years in Utah. And it’s been blissful being back.

Alysha Smith

That’s wonderful.

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah.

Alysha Smith

I didn’t realize you started at Martha Felt group. Yeah, I had no idea.

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah, I worked at Martha Felt Group and then I worked at Broader Porto Noveli, so I started in agencies, so.

Alysha Smith

I also didn’t realize she had a tech focus.

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah, very much. Styles things. Yeah. Learn something new. Yeah.

Peter Stevenson

There you go.

Alysha Smith

I’m going to learn a lot today, I think.

Peter Stevenson

So you started out agency side as a non paid intern? Yes, like so many people of that era. So then what made you want to jump from agency to in house and what were the biggest challenges going from agency to in house?

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah, it was a really interesting opportunity that came my way. I was at Broder and was working on some tech accounts, doing communications plans and execution, and Ancestry came knocking and they said, hey, we’re getting big enough now that we’re starting up our PR function, would you come and start it up for us? And so a really big break early on in my career to start up that PR function and got some really great wins early on with kind of features on the Today show doing genealogy for Al Broker and Matt Lauer. And it was really a really good way to kind of break my teeth in the corporate arena and got a lot of opportunities to learn and grow and make mistakes and do all kinds of really interesting things. At that time, Ancestry had a property that was a lot like Facebook called Myfamily.com, and we launched and got a million users within like 30 days or something, just astronomically.

Peter Stevenson

I loved myfamily.com My friends and I had a group that we spent all day every day making each other laugh and cry on and it was one of the greatest things on the Internet at that time. I loved it so much.

Michelle Suzuki

It was really great. We had kind of this interesting genealogy side of the business and then we had this very consumery, family oriented side that was kind of a precursor to Facebook and it was a really great time. It was kind of the big.com boom years and so we had engineers that were sleeping on COTS and everybody was working 20 hours a day and it was a really heady time and the company was really successful. I ended up getting really burned out and at that time Novell came knocking on my door and asked me to go over and do internal comms and community relations for them. And from there I had a really interesting program that we ran and I learned a ton. It was my first time working with really big time executives. So Eric Schmidt was the CEO at the time, working a great deal with him, moved to San Jose to be closer to him and really got my skills built up kind of with marketing programs during that period of time. And then right after that he left the company, I made the switch over to corporate marketing and that was my first big marketing gig.

Peter Stevenson

You talked about you had a lot of really big learnings at that point. What were some of those that still stand out today as monumental in what you learned?

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah, for me, the really big takeaway from my time doing internal comms at Novell was that when I came on, there was a real challenge. The employees were super detached from the executives. They had a corporate jet that was going back and forth to San Jose every day. The executives weren’t talking to the employees on the jet. There was just a lot of kind of standoffishness, I think they were busy, they were working on the plane. Other employees really wanted to get some FaceTime with them while they were captive. There were lots of issues that kind of arose when we did a survey and taking that data and orienting programs around that data to address the specific problems was my really big learning. The other thing was, it was my first time really having core exposure to a really big name executive and getting the knowledge about how to maintain executive presence and work with that level of executive who had so much of a presence kind of in the public with celebrities and politicians and just with such a big name in the Bay Area. It was a really interesting learning experience and I had a lot of people around me that kind of circled the wagons and really helped guide me. And those mentors I’m super grateful for to this day for their guiding hand. Because I was 30 years old, I didn’t really know what I was doing and it was really great.

Peter Stevenson

It’s probably a great experience to get to work with him and see him go on to even bigger and better things.

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah, we got things pretty well sorted, I would say, with the programs that we started. And then he left and went to Google and I was really proud of the work that we had done and I was really, actually super bummed that he was leaving because things were going swimmingly. Well, at that point, out of curiosity.

Alysha Smith

From the learnings that you gained from the surveys and the people, what were some of the things that you implemented that you also maybe have carried into what you’re doing now and then working with your teams?

Michelle Suzuki

That’s a good question. At that time, it was 1999 ish, 2000 ish. So we didn’t have podcasts and all of those kind of new fangled ways of communication. So we started a CEO radio show. It was very much like a podcast and it was kind of the one to many communication, but it was an update on kind of what’s happening in the executive suite and what’s happening at HQ because there were so many people working in Utah and HQ was in the Bay Area. And so really just keeping people in the loop on communications and doing those take teams of people to lunch, just very kind of natural motions, I would say, for an executive to do with their team. But when you’ve got 4000 employees or 5000 employees, it’s hard to really remember that you’ve got this audience of people who are really making your business work and being in touch with them and doing the right kinds of things to keep them integrated and motivated is still really important. Yeah.

Alysha Smith

And so would you say that now in structure with your teams, you have similar things that you’ve implemented to keep those relationships and to keep that communication flowing?

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah, our HR team is really fantastic. And they do twice a year, they do employee engagement surveys. And they ask so many really great pointed questions around how can we improve this element of teaching and learning? Or how can we improve this employee development piece? Or how satisfied are you with your direct manager or with that person’s manager? So really, the ability for us to drill down into that data using Qualtrics, by the way, okay. Is a really great way for us to get a good snapshot of teams and how they’re engaging and then create, on the marketing side, internal communications programs so that we can better engage and kind of resolve some of those issues and really shore up the things that are going well as well.

Alysha Smith

Yeah, that’s great.

Peter Stevenson

You probably also have learned how to wrangle executives really well.

Michelle Suzuki

I try.

Peter Stevenson

Let’s fast forward a couple of years. I know that we were first introduced to you when you ended up at Rise Point a couple of years later. So you worked at a couple of different places between there. But what brought you to Rise Point? And this was, what, seven, eight years ago now? What brought you there? And what were some of the fun things about being, I think looking at your history, that was one of the first tech jobs that you had in the marketing world, right?

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah. So I had come back to Utah and worked at Landesk, which is now called Avanti, and did global marketing programs there, and really enjoyed my time at Landesk, progressing kind of the company through multiple iterations of acquisitions and integrations, trying to create kind of a platform offering. And it was really interesting. The company at that time was probably about the same size as in structure and 1200 401,500 employees, so pretty substantial. And I, at that point was really hungry for a role that would allow me to have kind of greater span of control. I had gone from being a marketing director to interviewing for this job at Rise Point as the head of marketing. And it was a hobby type of company that had been around for quite some time, doing really great work in the SaaS world on compliance, but had then been acquired by a PE firm, revamp of the executive team. Frank Maillett was the CEO and knew about me just from in the network and rang me up and said, hey, come in here and talk to me about this job. And it was Kismet. I adore Frank Mail it with all of my heart, and he was a fantastic leader. At that point. The company was called Steton Technology Group. I was trying to remember what it.

Alysha Smith

Was before we renamed not to be confused with stetson.

Michelle Suzuki

Not to be confused with stetson, which it was often confused with stetson cologne. So it was at that point that we engaged with the agency and really brainstormed a lot of different options on rebranding the company to really represent kind of that forward looking spark. And it was such a really great concept and came up with the rise point name and new logo and new brand and new message and positioning and it was a really great time. I learned a lot. It’s interesting that you kind of go through your career and you kind of hit your stride in your forty s, and you feel like, well, I kind of know all there is to know, and then everything kind of upends. You learn a whole bunch of new, incredible things. Same thing happened when I was at instructure. I joined the team to head up digital marketing, and then I was offered an opportunity to go and do international marketing out of our London office. And I was like 50, I know everything there is to know about everything in marketing. And I went and I learned so much. I realized that I really had no idea. Working out of an HQ with the regions, I realized you don’t know anything until you’re actually in the region with everybody literally on an island trying to get business done, communicating with HQ and off hours. It was a really great learning time for me. I learned so much.

Alysha Smith

You were in London.

Michelle Suzuki

I was in London? Yes.

Alysha Smith

Fun.

Michelle Suzuki

Moved our family, put our kids in public school there, and it was a really great experience, especially for my husband, because he would drop the kids off at school and go tour around London for the day. Yeah, pick them back up. Dream.

Alysha Smith

Oh my gosh, I had no idea.

Peter Stevenson

One of the things that I think is unique about some of the things I’m hearing you talk about early on, getting those, getting the survey data back from the employees and here, learning about the information that you can gather, but only when you get to the place. It seems like that information gathering has been a real big part of what has made you successful in all of your different parts of your career. So tell me how you synthesize that. How do you think about data? How do you think about qualitative versus quantitative data? How are you digging into that?

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah, it’s really interesting. I was having a conversation with someone recently about kind of how my career started and how it’s going now, and I think that there are fundamentally two different kinds of marketers. There are brand marketers and then there are demand marketers. And it’s the demand marketers that are really focused on the ones and zeros, and it’s the brand marketers that are focused on kind of that softer side, and the more anecdotal feedback loops. But it’s interesting because I feel like the two definitely are merging and modern marketers are a really solid mix of both of those capacities. And what used to be Frank Lovingly calls it pizza and balloons. Marketing has really gotten very metrics driven, right. See, when you go to events or when you’re doing PR, you understand what having a share of voice really means. And you can track and quantitatively measure kind of the impact that those kinds of branding activities are having, just as well as maybe not just as well, almost as well as you can on the demand generation side where everything is imminently. Measurable you can run a test overnight and over a few hours, know if your ad is punching above its weight, if it’s really resulting in leads and how those are progressing inside of the funnel. There’s so much, and I do think that there is a really tight merge of both of those sides of marketing happening right now.

Peter Stevenson

And so you feel like the ability to handle both quantitative and qualitative has become table stakes for marketers in today’s ecosystem.

Michelle Suzuki

100% and I think if you’ve come up kind of on the brand side, you really do need to learn that demand side. And the same thing, if you’ve come up in the demand generation side of the universe or performance or growth or however you call it, it is really important for you to understand the work from the brand side. It’s like an umbrella that covers the demand motion, and it is all measurable and all contributes to the end goal, which is to sell more products to more people and to increase your revenues. So I think it’s definitely a nice, firm handshake between the two.

Peter Stevenson

Okay, so let’s dive into your promotion to Senior Vice President at Instructure. So you had to sadly move back to here for your husband’s sake, but for all of our sakes, we’re happy about it. So tell me about that role, that transition to that space. And then how is being public, going private, how has that affected the way that your role and your job is handled and kind of what life is like there now?

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah, that’s a really great question. So when I went to London, we were a publicly held company. While I was in London, we were taken private, purchased everything by a private equity firm, Toma Bravo. And as is the objective with any private equity kind of take private, they want to really get their arms around cost savings. And the thing that is so interesting about Toma Bravo and I think about PE in general, is they’re so focused on the return on investment. And I think as a corporation, especially a publicly held one, it’s easy to get kind of lost in the breadth of kind of the brand to demand spectrum, on the marketing side at least, and really wanting to do everything for everyone, all the time. And what PE allowed us to do was to get really tight on the way we are executing as an organization. And of course, we were taken private at a valuation that was really substantial for us at the time. Went public again last July, a year and a half ago or whatever and went out at a much higher valuation than when we were taken private. So obviously they were able to really accomplish what they set out to do. And now we are a publicly held company again with the majority of shares still owned by the PE farm. So what I like about that is they see the big upside in the future of instruction and in the time we were taken private to taken public, we more than doubled in size as an organization. And I do think we had some tailwinds of COVID and really helped teachers teach and students learn during that time.

Alysha Smith

Oh, that must feel so good.

Michelle Suzuki

It really was super meaningful. And I think this is such a special place to work because our employees are so incredibly focused on the mission of our company. And it was such a really difficult time for educators during COVID and helping them help their students in that really difficult time was something that was so meaningful to more than 1000 employees worked in a structure. Yeah, really cool. Very cool.

Peter Stevenson

As you think about that values of your company and do you end up seeing that from your buyers quite a bit and using that in your marketing? Is that a big part of it?

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah, I mean, educators have these incredible moments in their careers, right? They get into this job knowing that it’s not going to pay them a ton. Which is really unfortunate because I think all of us learn during COVID those of us who have children, that it’s like really difficult to be a teacher and really difficult to wrangle one kid. Yeah, let alert. Exactly. So I think the importance of educators and those moments that they have with their students really helping impact their futures is what inspires teachers to do what they do. And us being able to enable kind of streamlining some of the work that they do. Like we take care of the yucky stuff that they don’t want to have to do that can be automated so that they can engage more with their students and have more of those special moments, which is why they got into teaching in the first place.

Peter Stevenson

I taught school for a couple of years right out of college, 1520 years ago and I loved everything that had to do with the kids, hated everything that had to do with the parents or the administrators or grading tests.

Michelle Suzuki

Yes, that’s it.

Peter Stevenson

Those were the worst parts. But every time I could hang out with the kids, it was the best. I loved it so much. It sounds like that’s a big why around the instructor plan is helping the communication with parents, the grading of all those tests. I know my kids nowadays have to do all of their tests online and it automatically grades them for it. And as a teacher or as a parent of that, thinking back to my teaching days, I think, oh man, that would have saved me so much time.

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah. And it’s really different from the time I was a student to now. We have canvas for my kids. And it’s interesting as the parent to be able to see like in real time, as things are graded and as assignments are turned in, it’s interesting to see kind of where my kids are behind, where they’re caught up, how their grades are doing. When I was in school, it was like you just waited until the end of the term and then your parents were like, what? We’re a parent teacher or parent teacher conferences. So it is a different world. And I like how it keeps parents kind of in the loop more with what’s happening at their kids school.

Peter Stevenson

I’m super curious about your interaction with the brand. As a parent who uses the product and then also as a marketer, how has that affected your marketing? As you’ve used the product and you’ve felt it, has that impacted what you’ve told the product team they should do? Has that impacted what you’ve done as a marketer?

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah. It’s interesting because when students complete an assignment, there is like a confetti moment that they have. And the thing that we hear from administrators and teachers is like, hey, when I’m done with this thing, why don’t I get a confetti?

Alysha Smith

Congratulations.

Michelle Suzuki

Exactly. So it’s interesting kind of being a parent and seeing the execution side of it. I think for me, as a marketer, it’s more important for us to know the day to day users and what their feedback is. So teachers, administrators, the people that are executing instructional design, their feedback is so important because not only are they in there and using the product, but they’re seeing the way it’s impacting their kids that they’re teaching. And really that element of it is.

Peter Stevenson

Far more impactful for them than you as a parent.

Michelle Suzuki

Like, I want some confetti.

Peter Stevenson

I sent my kid to school today. I’d like some confetti. I’m curious what you see the future of Bdb marketing is you are leading a top 15, I see all the time. You post top ten trafficked website in the world and you’re leading the marketing for this. What do you think is coming next in this B? Two b space. What are you doing now? What do you see as the future in this space?

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah, I do see the bringing together of the two sides of marketing the brand to demand. I see kind of a through line as content marketing. Content is so important, it brings both sides of that together. It is the way that we can tell the story in the best way for our users. And I think that even clearer definition of your users, your buyers, your influencers. As that becomes more clear, you can better define the assets that call loudly to them, the channels that call loudly to them, meet them where they are with the types of content offerings that they want to consume. Some people are visual, they want to see an infographic, others want to read a long form white paper about chat GPT. There’s like a lot of ways that you can get to your buyer and your influencer. And I think that we’re going to see more and more technology used in that and a bringing together of the brand and demand sides to this kind of new unicorn that is modern marketing.

Peter Stevenson

When you talk about building those personas, the buyers, the users, all of those different people in the past have the brand people and the demand people use those personas differently and now they’re collaborating to build something better.

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah, I think in the past, my experience has been that on the demand side, you have a much tighter view of marketing to your personas. And on the brand side, there’s more of a broad kind of shotgun approach where you’re trying to hit a whole bunch of people in a whole bunch of different applications all at once. I think a tightening and a bringing together of the sides and really getting a fully integrated marketing plan together is really the way forward now. And I’m seeing that we’re getting a lot more success on our brand side as we work closely with our demand side to bring those two together to really go to market in the tightest way possible and we’re getting much better returns.

Alysha Smith

How is social media playing a role in B to B marketing these days?

Michelle Suzuki

We’ve got an amazing social media marketer at Instructure. Her name is Jen Carroll and she is doing amazing things. I think again meeting your audience, knowing who they are and meeting them where they want to be. So we didn’t have a TikTok channel and we understood that teachers have a lot of their own TikTok teacher tips and we wanted to kind of get in on that action. So we started, finally, our own TikTok and really engaging with teachers, primarily not students, not administrators, but with teachers and giving them the tips and tricks that they need to better use Canvas and Mastery Connect in their classrooms has proven to be super successful and also having that hint of fun, which is what TikTok is all about. Right. That’s a much different audience than the audience we try to reach on LinkedIn, for example. So that is a lot of prospective employees, current employees, some thought leadership in the business space. So we really have segmented out our audiences and what it is that we’re trying to communicate and do on those different channels and Jen’s just knocking it out of the park.

Alysha Smith

That’s so fascinating.

Peter Stevenson

It’s got to be so hard to think through all of those different places to talk to those different audiences and how I’m going to use this voice here and this voice here and this voice here. How does she do it?

Michelle Suzuki

Because she is like a superstar.

Peter Stevenson

I know this was just a layup for you to talk about how great you are.

Michelle Suzuki

It’s so important to really be audience focused no matter what it is that you’re doing. And I think we constantly have this drumbeat of here are our personas, here’s the way that we’re talking to them. Here Are Their self interests. Here Are Their Biggest concerns. Here’s how We’re Able To do Anything to Help Resolve Those as an organization and everybody on the entire revenue Team, from sales to sales enablement to the sales developers to the marketers, our Web developers, everybody really is Kind Of Singing from the same Song Sheet and It Helps A Lot.

Peter Stevenson

I would imagine that a big part of your success comes from working with the sales department. Tell me what has made a good relationship between sales and marketing and instructor?

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah, I think the thing that has really been so beneficial is that sales and marketing are on the same team. So we created a revenue organization that included sales and marketing together.

Peter Stevenson

So you have a PNL that lives in together.

Michelle Suzuki

We do. And it really helps avoid this kind of natural conflict that I’ve seen in so many other jobs where we have kind of marketing versus sales and we’re generating these opportunities and you’re not following up on them, and they’re saying you’re giving us crap leads and what more can we do to get more FaceTime on LinkedIn and those kinds of things, right? I think working hand in hand with our objectives together, understanding our audiences and really marketing being super synced in with the sales teams on their weekly stand ups and on all of their update calls. We are in all their forecast calls. We understand the challenges that they’re facing as sellers and they’re understanding that we’re there listening and really trying to absorb all of that and help resolve all of those issues as we go to market together.

Peter Stevenson

That’s amazing.

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah.

Peter Stevenson

As you see young marketers out there, what are some tips that you wish you would have known 25 years ago when you’re just getting out and start?

Michelle Suzuki

Good one. I think having attention on the buyer and really understanding those personas and what drives them. I’ve seen really interesting persona work that really dives down into kind of affinity groups that they’re part of. So if we have an audience of educators who are super into Crocheting, we’re not doing that. But you know that there is like a Crochet affinity group on Pinterest that you want to get in on. There are a lot of organizations that get into that kind of detail and I think the. More data you have, the better. It can sort of get cloudy at the end. But having that really religious commitment to understanding your buyer and their wants and needs and desires and problems is everything.

Alysha Smith

I mean, just the case in point with the TikTok, because I could have assumed that your buyer would never be on TikTok. That’s for kids. And even my son has to remind me that I can literally learn anything that I want to on TikTok. Like, I just need to go there, but yet I still have a resistance to it. So just your openness to saying, okay, yeah, let’s try it, that’s really where they are. Let’s do it. And you’re seeing success, which is really neat.

Michelle Suzuki

I mean, my natural inclination was, okay, it’s going to be the students right onto the box, right? Do we really want to talk to our end user students who are like, oh, man, canvas, I have to go do my homework. How do we get them excited about homework? But it really was digging in and really understanding our audience and understanding why educators were going to TikTok because they’re finding each other and finding their own tips and tricks with each other and using TikTok to do that. I thought that was so interesting. We had seen a big gathering of educators on Facebook, kind of more traditional channels, but TikTok was an interesting one. And so when they brought it and said, hey, teachers are really where it’s at on TikTok, I was like, let’s do it. So a little commitment and a little bit of elbow grease and there we are. Yeah.

Peter Stevenson

That’s so fun. I tried TikTok one day and I said, oh, this is addicting. I am deleting this right now or I will never get anything in my life done.

Michelle Suzuki

The TikTok black hole.

Peter Stevenson

It’s incredible. I can’t believe how good of a job they have done. Great, isn’t it? All right, well, a couple of things that I would love to know about your day to day at Instructure. Who are you working with on a day to day basis? Are you doing most of your work here in Utah? Are you traveling a lot? What is your week by week, day by day?

Alysha Smith

Like?

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah, I usually am here in Utah. I do some travel, but really since COVID I think we’ve found a good cadence of meeting via Zoom. And we stagger our meetings so that we can meet with our European offices kind of in our Utah mornings, their afternoons, and then in our afternoons in Utah, it’s the morning of the next day in Sydney. So we have opportunities to kind of really balance out our communication so that we can meet remotely. So not nearly as much travel as I used to do, which is actually really nice. And I can’t remember the second part of your question.

Peter Stevenson

Just what is your day to day like? Who are you working with on a day to day basis, how much of the work is being done here versus outside.

Michelle Suzuki

So I would say my greatest partner in crime at Instructure is our senior vice president of revenue operations. Her name is Joanna Frankhauser, and I am just tied to the hip with Joanna. And Joanna and her team do all of the data analytics that we rely on so much in marketing and all the business intelligence around that. So they gather all of the information from all of our different channels, including our website and other kind of predictive data sources that we have, and put all of that into dashboards that we can easily consume because we’re not data analysts. The data analysts on Joanna’s team are brilliant, and they just live and breathe inside of those numbers, and then they bring those to life for us so that we can understand, okay, we tested this ad overnight. It’s not working so well. But hey, it is sort of resonating in Singapore. This is really interesting, helping us dive into that data and make educated decisions about where we’ll double down what we’ll eliminate and the directions that we need to go in for the future. So Joanna and I are just absolutely hand in glove as far as diving into the business every day. And aside from that, I work really closely with our sales leader, Justin Beck, and he has responsibility for global sales, so sales development, channel sales, direct sales, and working really closely with him to understand kind of what enablement needs to happen. How can we kind of grease the skids for the sellers when it comes to marketing generated opportunities? What is the quality like on those? We can see the conversion rates, but anecdotally is there any feedback? I think for me, just daily checking in with all of my stakeholders in the organization, making sure that we’re delivering against our objectives, meeting all of the goals that we’ve got for ourselves, and also having as much fun as we can possibly fit in in a day as possible.

Alysha Smith

That kind of leads me to a question. You talk about so many of the things that you do at work that are necessary, but what do you love about being in this industry? What do you geek out over? What is your why in getting up every day and going to and running such a large organization?

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah, I think this is, for me, mission wise, the most meaningful company I’ve ever worked at. And we’ve got employees who are so incredibly committed to this mission of helping teachers teach and helping students learn. We recently signed up a partnership with Arizona State University. They’ve got this 100 Million Learners initiative, and they have created these certification types of programs that will go out into Third world countries. And they’re focusing on getting 60% women signed up for these programs, helping get them certified in any number of fields with the skills that they need to ensure, like, a brighter financial future for themselves and their families. And I think that that is just one of many, many programs that we partner up to make sure gets executed in the best way possible. And those are the whys around why our employees work at Instructure, why they’re so committed to Instructure, and the whys for myself, of why I want to work at such an amazing company that really does advance teaching and learning and secures the financial futures for millions of people worldwide.

Alysha Smith

That must feel good.

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah.

Peter Stevenson

How long till instructor is the number one site on the Internet?

Michelle Suzuki

Oh, my gosh. Well, I don’t know. With TikTok out there, who knows?

Peter Stevenson

I don’t know. They’re starting to chop that one down.

Michelle Suzuki

We’re certainly a good leader in the space. I think one of the things that was so interesting during COVID was we had a lot of inbound interest from the market. Just help. All of a sudden, I’ve got to do this remote teaching and learning thing. Help me do this. So we had a lot of inbound interest. So what we did was we really fortified our content marketing, understanding this audience who were so desperately in need of, hey, I’m a teacher. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I’ve got a file cabinet in the back of my classroom. I’ve been working with my quizzes and everything out of the same filing cabinet forever. How am I supposed to do this online now? I never even get to see my students. I don’t even know how zoom works. Right. Getting them onboarded onto the platform, and understanding how to put all of the things that they’ve been doing in person for the last two decades, how to get that online, how to easily replicate that lesson, and how to create a quiz and how to grade quizzes and all of the elements of how can I be successful when I am just tired as I’ll get out? I’m not interacting with my students on a regular basis. This is not what I signed up for. Making that easier for them was something that was so meaningful to us on the marketing team during COVID And again, it’s just another why as to why, I just love this organization that I work for.

Alysha Smith

Cool.

Peter Stevenson

That’s amazing. All right, well, we get to my favorite question, which is, can you give us some food or restaurant or so many coffee shops or bars recommendations here around town or anywhere?

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah. So I will say that I ate at Provisions twice last week.

Peter Stevenson

So good, so good.

Michelle Suzuki

So good. Went to brunch for the first time, and it was delicious. Chicken and waffles to die for, by the way. There was another one that we tried two weeks ago and can’t stop, and it’s called it’s in Murray. It’s called Gordo’s tacos and beer.

Peter Stevenson

I’ve heard great things.

Michelle Suzuki

I have not been so good. Like, we lived in San Diego for ten years. Yeah. And I’m going to say, Gordo’s, San Diego.

Peter Stevenson

San Diego. Good. Tacos, which is saying something that’s amazing. Okay. And it’s in Murray.

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah.

Peter Stevenson

Gordo’s taco.

Michelle Suzuki

And how did you hear about it? I follow SLC foodie on Instagram. Yeah.

Peter Stevenson

Okay, so provisions for brunch? Gordo’s for tacos.

Michelle Suzuki

Gordo’s for tacos.

Peter Stevenson

What’s the go to taco.

Michelle Suzuki

There the alpa store.

Peter Stevenson

Okay.

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah.

Peter Stevenson

All right, any others? Any other you can throw?

Alysha Smith

What about in your neck of the woods down in Lehigh?

Michelle Suzuki

I’m in Sandy. I’m in Sandy.

Alysha Smith

You’re in Sandy?

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah. I love mint, tapas and sushi. Oh, this is good.

Peter Stevenson

I haven’t been there.

Michelle Suzuki

Oh, it’s good down in Sandy. Yeah. Mint toppings right on some of these. Okay. Yeah.

Peter Stevenson

Well, thank you so much for joining us. I am going to go eat tacos right now.

Michelle Suzuki

Yay.

Alysha Smith

Yeah, we could stop on the way back.

Michelle Suzuki

Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Peter Stevenson

Thanks, Michelle.

Michelle Suzuki

Thank you.

Peter Stevenson

Bye bye. By Subject is production of modern8, a8ency, and Silicon Slopes. Executive producers are Alysha Smith and Peter Stevenson. Editor and producer is Dave Mecham. Video production by Connor Mitchell, development production by Eric Dahl, production management by Shelby Sandlin, original music composed by Josh Johnson, website designed by modern8. Please make sure to follow and share the show with your friends and your enemies. Thanks for joining us.

*Pardon our transcriptions, They’re transcribed using ai.

By Subject is a production of modern8, a8ency, and Silicon Slopes, and is invested in highlighting, promoting, and celebrating the unique and talented marketing and brand leaders in the Silicon Slopes community.