Michael Riechers, Dane County Regional Airport

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Michael Riechers, director of marketing and communications, Dane County Regional Airport.
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What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

Working in the travel industry during a global pandemic has had its fair share of challenges. Ironically, it’s also this time and place that’s most rewarding. Navigating the challenges of COVID has been difficult for sure, but working through those problems and seeing the products of your effort has been incredible. I’m both optimistic and excited to see the full recovery unfold and life return to some sort of normalcy over the coming weeks, months, and, let’s be honest, years.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

Without question, my parents. Both from rural areas of Wisconsin, they each went on to lead successful entrepreneurial endeavors. My father left college after just a handful of semesters and went on to run his own company for over 30 years. His business brought cutting-edge farming technology to the Wisconsin dairy farmer, thereby allowing farms to become more efficient and minimize waste. My mother left a very successful corporate career to spend more time at home with my brother and me as we were growing up. She later entered the world of small business ownership with two shoe stores in Madison. During her time in retail, she also served on a number of local and national retail and visitor’s boards. I can’t image a better pair of examples of what “right” looks like than those two.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

I’d have to say completing my MBA while working full-time stands out as a highlight. Pursing a master’s degree was both a personal and professional goal of mine, but I wasn’t able to pause my career to go back to school. I ended up choosing an MBA program that offered its curriculum 100% online and was structured in a way that would fit nicely into my hectic schedule. For any busy professionals who want to go back to school but are worried about how to squeeze it all in, I highly recommend doing some research; the right program for you is out there.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Things won’t always go as planned and that’s OK. Mike Tyson famously said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” When you face a setback — which you will — don’t let it slow you down. What’s more important than the hardship itself is your reaction to it. Seeing the opportunity within adversity will set you up for long-term success.

What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

I was born and raised in Madison, and there’s a reason I’ve stuck around. This area has an incredible mix of restaurants, breweries, and live music — pre-COVID, of course. Not to mention our iconic chain of lakes and the endless park and trail system that surrounds the area. I have two dogs that come hiking with me all the time and we STILL haven’t seen everything there is to see right outside our front door.

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

It doesn’t often come up in casual conversation, but I’m also a helicopter pilot in the Wisconsin Army National Guard. I’ve been flying UH-60M Blackhawks since 2014 and have flown about 1,000 flight hours, a third of which was flown in Iraq between 2017 and 2018. My favorite part of being in the National Guard is how diverse the job can be, especially after 2020 — one month we might be working a polling location for an election, the next month we’re helping the DNR fight wildfires. It has been an extremely rewarding and humbling experience that I believe adds a tremendous amount of value to my traditional career.

What are your guilty pleasures?

I’ve never seen a pizza that I didn’t want to eat or a dog that I didn’t want to pet. Fortunately, living in Madison affords plenty of opportunities to do both! Although it’s tough to narrow it down, I’d have to say my favorite spots are Prairie Moraine Dog Park and Glass Nickel Pizza — pro tip: get the Nickel Nuggets; you won’t be disappointed.

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