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Valerie Neumark Michela

Valerie Neumark Mickela

El Cerrito, California

Title: Co-Founder & Brand Strategist

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Graduate School of Education and Psychology Class of 2003

MA, Education

What does being one of Pepperdine's 40 under 40 honorees mean to you?

It is a great honor to be named one of Pepperdine's 40 under 40. As a graduate student at Pepperdine, I felt supported and encouraged to explore, learn, and grow. Even though at that time it was in the framing of educating young people, my graduate education provided an incredibly strong foundation for me to teach and communicate effectively—a skill which has led me to a unique approach to nonprofit brand and communications strategy.

Describe your success:

I have always felt a deep drive to contribute and build community. I truly take to heart the phrase, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Whether it be serving as a resident advisor in undergraduate school, a teacher and private school principal in Los Angeles, or now as a co-founder of my own communications strategy firm, I am driven to build genuine relationships and leave the world better off than I found it. As long as Rootid has a thriving and cohesive company culture and our clients feel understood, well taken care of, and a part of building something important, then I will feel successful.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

My graduate education at Pepperdine was a time that I got to think beyond the classroom and consider how I may have greater impact within my community. When I left teaching, I felt equipped with the skills and resources I needed to venture out and see where my career might take me.

Marketing and communications is really just teaching to a broader audience. Just like in a classroom, you need to explain content in a way that it will be absorbed as you intend, and just like in a classroom, you want to lead your audience to "ah ha" moments that will make them want to engage more deeply. The trick is guiding your audience authentically and not just adding to the superficial marketing noise.

Who inspires you and why?

Our clients inspire me most of all. The amazing work that they are doing and the ways they are trying to better our world is what gets me up in the morning. Whether it be environmentally focused, social justice, education, health, or community organizing, our clients' work is truly inspirational, and I feel grateful everyday that I get to be a part of it.

What's next for you? What's your five year outlook? What's your ten year plan?

For a smaller/lean company, we have a pretty unique set of skills on staff and would like to help build technological capacity in the nonprofit sector as a whole. Since we have a unique perspective and see issues arise across the organizations we work with, there is a huge opportunity for coalition building to solve some of our clients common issues in more impactful ways.

What's your secret sauce?

Spinach, cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips, though my husband says that does not count as dinner.

How do you prepare for a busy day?

I always try to have an hour of play with my daughter in the morning. Sometimes we read a book, sometimes do a little "dance party" time, sometimes just sit and rest quietly together. Though I am a new mom, this quiet time before work helps me stay focused throughout my day. If I have time to jog her over to daycare, even better.

What is one of your hobbies?

I love to hike and play soccer. I feel like my creative needs get filled pretty well through my work, but I still enjoy some abstract photography here and there.

What is your favorite quote?

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." –Marianne Williamson

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I think if I had it to do all over, I would have done computer science in undergraduate school as well as art/design. I would enjoy spending more time on the engineering side. I really like to make things.