Join us this month, in our Get to Know ME segment, learning more about Michael Southerton. He’s been a lifer with VIKTOR, now Motivation Excellence, and has some serious indoor and outdoor abilities to share! Read below, and be sure to watch the linked video to hear more about what makes Michael a great member of our team. Thanks, Michael for letting us get to know you better.
What’s your title and how long have you been in the incentive industry?
I started working with VIKTOR Incentives & Meetings under an internship as a graphic designer in the summer of 2006 before my senior year of college at Northern Michigan University. I continued to work on small projects through my senior year, and I was hired full-time when I graduated in 2007. Almost sixteen years later, I’m proud to still be in this industry and joining Motivation Excellence with the rest of the VIKTOR team.
What does your job entail?
At its core, problem-solving. Sometimes the best code is no code at all. But I specialize in website design and frontend development, and I’ve always been involved in the full stack of web development. That’s led me to build and maintain a lot of websites and applications that help manage the large amount of data required to operate travel and rewards programs and the systems they run on. I also provide technical support to our staff and assist with technical infrastructure, along with the rest of our awesome Tech Team.
What’s something special about the people you work with you’d like to share?
As a technical person, who on occasion, has experienced the frontlines of service on our group travel programs, I’m constantly blown away by the level of detail and coordination that our Client Services team juggles while delivering our large group travel programs. There are a lot of moving parts to get thousands of participants on-site, each with their own custom itinerary and requirements, and the smallest details can change quickly. Even with the best technology, it takes an amazing team of talented people to get your head around it all and successfully operate a large travel program with events that are happening all around you.
What’s an unknown or odd talent you have?
I play table tennis locally in Traverse City at the Northern Michigan Table Tennis Club, and I have competed in Michigan’s state tournaments.
What motivates you to accomplish things in your life (work or personal)?
I’ve always enjoyed improving efficiencies, for both timesaving and convenience. Whether I’m installing home automation systems to automatically turn on my lights and unlock my front door when I arrive, or I’m redesigning a user flow in one of our web applications so that it takes 1 click instead of 5 to accomplish the same task, I really like making things as simple and easy to use as possible.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
My fiancé and I like to take our kayaks to as many different small lakes in Northern Michigan as we can find. We like to explore, fish, and sometimes just soak up the sun.
One thing that always makes you laugh is?
The Detroit Lions. Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I cry. But, I’ll always watch and support them. Next year is our year.
What have you done that helped you get through the pandemic?
I hate to speak so nicely of a time that was so hard on many others, but personally, I thrived. My fiancé and I are homebodies, so that part was no problem; we caught up on a lot of TV shows. But we also became healthier; we cooked at home and ate better, and we got outdoors more often than we’ve ever done before. We were hiking, running, and biking all the trails by my house, and we were kayaking almost every weekend when the weather was good.
What is the most unusual job you’ve ever had?
This one! Before I started here 15 years ago, I had never heard of the incentive travel industry. As someone who was once looking for any available job after college to start my career in web development and user experience design, I never imagined I could be building digital solutions for live events used all over the world, not to mention personally traveling to some of these amazing locations to watch them come alive and support their success. It’s led to some pretty incredible experiences I could not imagine having while working web development in another industry.
This month, our theme for social media is about volunteering. How does this speak to you either personally or professionally?
Our company has offered a lot of different opportunities that made it easy to volunteer over the years: we’ve worked the counter of our local non-profit movie theater, we helped our local City Opera House build their green room, but the most memorable is our stretch of road we clean each Spring and Fall through the Adopt-A-Highway program. It is located on Traverse City’s Old Mission Peninsula, and we get a gorgeous view of the local wineries and Grand Traverse Bay as we walk it and keep it looking great.