Women Tech Leader Series: Q&A with Michelle Huynh



March 16, 2021

This interview series spotlights women tech leaders across TWDC. For this edition, we sat down with Michelle Huynh, VP of Technology & Strategy for Marvel Entertainment. Discover her career path, networking tips, and more.

How did you get started in tech?

I was pre-law at UCLA when I was recruited by Universal Pictures to join their newly launched Anti-Piracy department after graduation. This was just right after Napster and the Studios were building up their content protection programs to measure and control the threat of piracy. I was working with the MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America] and FBI to build cases against criminal piracy syndicates. And through the process, I learned a great deal about peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing technologies, overlay networks, indexers, ad exchange, and so on. Eventually, I developed and patented custom solutions to track infringements and automated takedowns, implemented forensics watermarking, and advanced the Studios’ ability to measure illegal film consumption, which influenced the Studio’s early digital distribution strategies. I would say it was an unconventional start to a career in tech! 

Any advice you would tell your younger self?

To not take criticisms personally. I care deeply for any projects I am involved in and the desire to bring 110% into every job remains unchanged. However, life is about perspective, and you can interpret any situation positively by seeing it as a learning opportunity.

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?

There are a few. I’ve been lucky to have wonderful mentors and managers throughout my career. One of my favorite pieces of advice is to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. People who are smarter than you make you level up your game. They make you better and can introduce you to new concepts, ideas, culture, and people.

What’s your favorite networking tip?

Introverts do not connect with people the same way extroverts do, so it’s important to be comfortable and confident in how you reach out to others. Be open and engaged, and listen more than you talk.

"Jessica Jones" on Netflix

“Jessica Jones” on Netflix

What’s a favorite Disney project you’ve worked on?

I enjoy the camaraderie that comes with working on big projects — being part of a group of talented individuals, coming together and working passionately and tirelessly towards a common goal is one of the best, most rewarding feelings.

At Marvel, I would say the early days of bringing the Marvel/Netflix live-action series to life. They were amazing, hands-on learning experiences, and it was such a joy to be a part of a brilliant team that continually raised the bar and consistently delivered high-quality content, season after season. I still experience a hint of nostalgia when I see the artwork tile on Netflix.

Michelle’s Home Office

Have a go-to tool for staying organized?

I use a combination of Airtable and TrelloAirtable to track projects that my team runs for the company at a macro-level, and Trello to track my own to-dos. I’m a visual person, so having the information simply displayed, like in the Kanban view, helps me consume data faster. I can quickly assess the breadth of projects across each business segment that my team supports, including issues and remediation plans, in one holistic view. I also developed personalized dashboards to stay on top of project statuses and issue management. 

What’s your favorite quote?

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Have any work-life balance tips or tricks?

I have two young children, so the work-life balance can be tough to achieve — especially now that I work from home. I’ll let you know when I’ve achieved it!

What are you doing to take care of yourself during the pandemic?

I like to unwind with a glass of wine and watch a movie. I also play music on my guitar for the children, so we have a good time dancing and getting the “wiggles out.” Tiring the children is the secret to getting a good night’s sleep!