Meet Michelle Dawson

Michelle Dawson is the US fashion and sporting goods lead and a senior strategist in Quantis’s US branch. We spoke with Michelle about her role, her take on sustainability and her view of Quantis’s culture.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at Quantis.

Michelle Dawson: I’m a senior strategist and the US fashion and sporting goods sector lead at Quantis. My background is a little bit different from many other Quantisians. I have over a decade of experience in design and innovation consulting prior to being at Quantis. Design and innovation are at the roots of my thinking and what I’m most passionate about.

What brought you to Quantis?

MD: My personal mission is to connect planetary boundaries with design and innovation. I think about how they can be operationalized to become understandable constraints. There’s just so much opportunity for businesses to harness their creative potential to solve some of the most pressing challenges of our time. To do that, we need to understand how to make the science relatable and actionable within organizations. I was really drawn to the mission and expertise within Quantis, and I’ve found that the people and knowledge surpass what I had hoped for in terms of alignment with my personal motivation. 

As I dug more into Quantis — the clients and the types of projects that Quantis works on — it was really inspiring. This was a bit of a career shift for me. While sustainability and social impact have always been a guiding thread in my career path, I made the decision to focus fully on environmental impact a few years ago. I have a background in strategic foresight and scenario planning and was working on a 10+ year-out vision project for a top global company. While building the future scenarios to guide vision setting, we had to start tracking potential impacts of climate change as more certain, when previously they had a higher degree of uncertainty. That was a real moment for me to sit with. I embarked on a soul-searching mission to discover what I can personally do with my skills and expertise to change the narrative.

What does sustainability mean to you?

MD: It’s one of those words that carries so many different meanings, depending on who you’re talking to. For me, sustainability means designing something for the long term and really thinking about how it’s going to work within a complete system. The environmental aspect is, of course, one big part of that, but it also needs to align with the way that people really work, operate and function. It needs to work for all people and for the planet. It can’t just be any one facet, but it really needs to be a multi-dimensional, systems-thinking approach.

How are you and your team contributing to sustainable business transformation?

MD: Right now, I’m working as the US fashion and sporting goods sector lead. I’m really proud of the work that the team has been doing within this sector to advance it. Something that’s really cool about Quantis is the collaboration between our sector teams. It allows us to better understand what challenges, risks and opportunities are unique to each sector, but also to learn from one another to address shared challenges — leveraging the lessons learned from one sector to another to drive transformation.

A big part of what I have been excited about is building relationships with leaders within their organizations. We look to understand what’s specific to each culture or organization that we’re working with and find where there’s alignment in missions and values that are bringing us all to the table. How do we think creatively about what they need? What will really move things forward within their organization? As a strategist, that’s a big piece of the role — understanding what will help to move things within an organization and what’s really needed for change management.

There’s this mutual motivation toward the mission, and it’s our reason for getting up every day to go to work. I think that's hugely powerful, and it comes with the positivity and spirit that's at Quantis. We have this optimistic belief that we really can have an impact and make change happen.

What does your typical day look like?

MD: There are several different aspects to what I’m doing. There’s meeting with different members of the team and really thinking about what they need, both their personal development within Quantis as well as within the projects that they’re working on. How can I help to make sure that they’re set up for success? There’s also working directly with clients, checking in on projects, seeing how they’re doing and being there for project milestones. A big part of what I do is making sure everything we deliver is actionable and provides real insight for our clients. I also meet with the different communities within Quantis to understand how our sector overlaps with the different expertise across all of the teams. I think about how to shape strategies for our clients that will help them to transform.

What do you enjoy about working at Quantis?

MD: The people and the commitment, motivation and drive shared by everybody at Quantis. There’s this mutual motivation toward the mission, and it’s our reason for getting up every day to go to work. I think that’s hugely powerful, and it comes with the positivity and spirit that’s at Quantis. We have this optimistic belief that we really can have an impact and make change happen. 

The other part that I just love about Quantis is how deep the expertise goes. People can really dive into a particular topic area. You can ask the most obscure question about something, such as the greenhouse gas emissions contribution of a very specific ingredient, and somebody will probably know something about it. They can go off for a while talking about the complexities and challenges, and I think that’s so incredible. I love the ability to have open communication and a culture where you can reach out with your questions — people are really collaborative and genuinely want to help. I think that ties to that optimistic nature and the shared alignment on the mission. We all want to pitch in to help make sure that everybody’s successful in the work that they’re doing.

Inside or outside of the office, what’s something you’re really proud of?

MD: Within the work that we’re doing, it’s inspiring and incredible how we’re at the forefront of developing what’s needed, like first-of-their-kind programs, often in collaboration with our clients. I’m so proud to be a part of that.

I’m also proud of my garden (laughs). I pulled out my lawn and put in a whole native, perennial grass, pollinator-friendly garden. That’s what I do on the side with my two young boys. It took me a long time to realize that you really have to get to know each plant while also considering the full context of the garden ecosystem. In that way, it connects back to my love for design and taking an empathy-driven, systems-based approach to problem-solving, which is why I think I’ve gotten more interested in it.

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