Missy Makanui: Guiding a New Generation
After a brief stint teaching undergraduate persuasion and presentation courses at NC State University’s Department of Communication Studies, Missy Makanui entered the corporate tech world in the early 1990s. 26 years later, she joined the Poole College of Management as a lecturer in management with a renewed commitment to helping business students flourish as they embark on their professional journeys.
Q&A with Missy Makanui
What inspired you to pursue a career in business?
My father was a federal agent in law enforcement and often delivered presentations to various business leaders and organizations. Often, when I visited his office, I would wait outside the conference room to catch a glimpse of him and the work he accomplished. I eventually realized that I wanted to help people the way he did: by making complicated concepts accessible and applicable to personal and professional growth—and by helping other people see the potential in themselves.
What were some of the highlights from your work in industry?
I spent all 26 years of my corporate career working with SAS, which became one of the top software analytics companies in the world, while serving as a contracted leadership consultant for both public and private organizations. I had the privilege of helping managers develop into more effective communicators while accomplishing the company’s objectives.
By designing and implementing leadership training programs, management coaching, meeting facilitation and the development of interpersonal skills like conflict resolution, my colleagues and I worked at the forefront of enhancing and sustaining SAS’s award-winning workplace culture. Every member of an organization can thrive when that company’s leaders are effective and empathetic.
How have your industry experiences shaped your philosophy of teaching at Poole?
In corporate, I helped established professionals continue to advance their careers. Now, I guide students through the front end of their career journey. I’ve found that the coaching and mentorship skills I garnered through industry are equally applicable to a teacher’s role in academic education.
When it comes to helping students think through new research directions, I often emphasize that there is a difference between “nice to know” and “need to know” information. While academia and theories are important, research must also be applicable. In the corporate world, leaders want results that they can quickly translate into on-the-ground impact for their employees or clients. I adopt that mindset whether I’m teaching in Poole classrooms or advising students on their next steps during office hours. I always seek to go beyond the textbook definition or the exam. My goal as an educator is to equip my students with practical skills they can directly apply to their lives, both in their studies and as they launch their careers.
What advice do you have for students considering a career in business?
From medicine to fashion design and everything in between, every industry requires a foundational understanding of business. For example, even if you don’t become a marketing director or an accountant of sales transactions, you will have to market yourself and your ideas to managers, colleagues, clients and other stakeholders throughout your career. Whether or not you graduate with a business degree, storytelling and building real relationships will always be relevant to your role. Your time at Poole is a prime opportunity to cultivate these interpersonal communication skills.
How do you enjoy spending your time outside of the classroom?
As the parents of two daughters, who are now a freshman and senior in high school, my husband, Craig, and I try to spend as much time as we can cherishing these days, especially as our daughters grow and prepare to head into their next adventures. I especially love this time of year, when the humidity has dissipated from North Carolina, and we’re left with cooler breezes and sunshine. We take family hikes with our dog, Tanner, and try to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. I’m also a big foodie and enjoy extremely spicy food.
I’m of the mind that my professional and personal lives should both be as authentic as possible. I don’t want to be one person in the classroom and a different person at home. While each space might require different types of interactions, at the end of the day, both work and family are about relationships, and we ought to foster those connections to the very best of our abilities.