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| Written by Marie Johnson, CMP

Employee Spotlight: Incentive Travel Expert Gives Back at Home

When Nicole Raudabaugh, CMP, CIS, is not traveling the world over with incentive travel programs, she is making a difference in her own community. Nicole’s efforts started small when she recognized the pandemic meant more people would rely on area food pantries. In the spring, she reached out to neighbors to see if they would be willing to participate. Then, she and her family went door to door collecting bags of food left outside homes to be donated to Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, which then distributes everything to local food shelves. Nicole’s efforts did not go unnoticed and she was recently featured in the news.

“Initially, we were doing smaller batches. We’d target a hundred houses or so in a single weekend. Recognizing a greater need around the Thanksgiving Holiday, we were so excited that more than 400 families helped support the effort!” said Nicole. To see her and her family in action, check out this recent article and news clip by Jason Zimmerman, Appleton neighborhood begins food drive published November 23, 2020.

We wanted to know what other great things Nicole has accomplished or plans to tackle — and it is pretty amazing. Read for yourself below.

Tell us more about your current role at M&IW within Incentives & Recognition. And, what do you enjoy most about your position?

I joined M&IW in January of 2016 as a Buyer/Account Lead. I am currently the Sr. Account Lead for eight accounts with a primary focus on their incentive programs. There is nothing I love better than talking about travel, so destination and resort brainstorming is one of my favorite things to do. I also appreciate having the opportunity to create and design our clients’ incentive programs from the start – and then partner with all our buyers, program managers, and support teams all the way through the successful completion of them. It is rewarding to see the evolution, care, and detail that goes into creating unforgettable trips for our clients and their attendees.

You have traveled to many amazing destinations around the world. Do you have a favorite? Or, can you name your top three and why?

Hands down would be Switzerland. The country is so visually and culturally diverse with the German, French, and Italian influenced regions. Plus, their culture is punctual and precise, which is a perfect fit for me. Even though it is so far away from home, I have such a sense of comfort and could easily move there. Unfortunately, I only speak one language fluently and it seems everyone there speaks five at a minimum so I might have my work cut out for me!

Share one of the most exciting experiences you have had during your travels.

Personally, I have been skydiving, scuba diving, and in 2008, my husband and I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. I also loved our Hawaii vacation a couple of years ago where we were able to enjoy a helicopter flight tour of the Napali Coast in Kauai, basked in the sunrise at Mt. Haleakala, and drove the Road to Hana in Maui.  My work travels have also afforded me some very wow opportunities including a recent trip to Dubai where we dined at the Burj Al Arab, raced Chevy Camaros at their F1 racetrack, and toured the stunningly beautiful Grand Mosque. (Featured in Picture Above).  

Since you have not been able to travel recently, are you involved in planning and producing virtual events?

For the past four years, I have been part of the core planning team for our annual M&IW Summit which brings together our clients, supplier partners, and employees for a multi-day event filled with networking, education, and fun. This year’s event made the pivot to virtual and moved into a multi-day event across several months.  This has been an opportunity to let my creativity fly as we crafted game shows, ugly sweater contests, carpool karaoke segments, and mash-up videos to give levity and personalization to the educational content. We needed to rethink the way we engaged with our attendees and what played well “on screen.”  Successful virtual events are about energy and movement and just like anything, we absorb and learn best when we are entertained along the way. This temporary shift in how we need to gather safely has given me a great platform to help create the (insert jazz hands here) 2020 Summit “Shows!”

If you could have one “superpower” what would it be and why?

Ha, ha!  This is actually a frequent conversation with my 11-year-old son.  (He wants the ability to breathe underwater forever so that he can swim with all the fish in the ocean).  Mine would be the ability to time travel, but only to the past.  I don’t want to know what the future brings, I’d like that to be a surprise, but I’d love to be able to go back and see my parents as they met in high school or my grandma growing up on a rural farm in Minnesota. I’d love to see my hometown 150 years ago or my house when the first owners moved in. I think it would be an amazing opportunity to discover gratitude knowing that all the people and all the places that have come before helped shape me into who I am today.

How have you been keeping busy during COVID personally and professionally?  

Of course! I’ve been knocking a few of those annoying home projects off the list including relabeling the fuse box.  (I know I know, but now I never have to think about that again!)  My family and I have also been busy volunteering in the community including at the local Feeding America distribution center here in Appleton, WI and we’ve coordinated half a dozen neighborhood food drives to donate to our local food shelter. I am also active with the PTO at our son’s elementary school and co-chaired the teacher appreciation week, the virtual book fair, and the 2020 Giving Tree program. Volunteering to support your interests is something my mom taught me and I’m working hard to pass down that value to my son as well. 

Professionally, over the last several months, I was part of the launch team for our new merchandise and gifting platform. It’s an amazing and versatile addition to our gifting, incentive, and employee recognition service offerings! Let me know if you want to hear more! Plus, we’ve been keeping the engines of progress rolling with all our clients wrapping up 2020 and looking to the future as we usher in what I think will be known as the “Golden Age” of modern travel.  Until 2020 hopping on a plane was taken for granted. Now everyone is craving travel and experiences and I can’t wait to help make those a reality!

What is something most people would not know about you?

I have a sentimental collection. My dad traveled a lot when I was young and would bring me home souvenir spoons. Now, I have more than 250 spoons from my own travels to include attractions, states, cities, and countries. I’ve logged 19 countries from South America to the tip of Ireland, but have many more to experience.