35 Under 35: Marlee Schmidt Olson, Learning & Development Coordinator, TrueNorth Steel

Written by: Brady Drake

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I grew up in Minot with two sisters that I am close with to this day. One of the most impactful parts of my adolescence was attending and working as a camp counselor at Triangle Y Camp. I attended Minot State University where I participated in a study abroad program in Peru, which drove me to major in Spanish education and inspired a serious sense of wanderlust. While working as a Spanish teacher, I completed my master’s degree in Teaching English as a second language. I worked as an instructor teaching TESL at MSUM and ESL at NDSU, and I found that I really enjoyed working with adult learners. In 2023, I shifted careers into the Learning and Development field. I am currently the Learning and Development Coordinator at TrueNorth Steel where I build a culture of learning and help meet company goals. One part of my job I am especially passionate about is creating training in Spanish for our Spanish-speaking employees, and an exciting new goal our team has is to create training in Ukrainian for our Ukrainian employees. I met my husband, Kody, in 2014 and we moved together to Fargo shortly after. We live in north Fargo with our one-year-old daughter, Amelie, and our cat, Bean.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

Both of my parents have been very influential in my life. My father has a strong work ethic that he instilled in me. He taught me how to be independent and find creative solutions to problems. My mother has always emphasized the importance of education for women, and this greatly affected my own education and career choices.

What drives you?

I am driven by creating a better future Professionally, this involves helping employees train for their roles and advance in their careers, as well as focusing on my own career outcomes. Personally, this involves finding a balance between enjoying the present and planning for the future. I’m also driven by a desire to learn and experience new things. This is most apparent in my love of traveling to see new things, reading to learn new ideas, and learning languages to speak with new people.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

I would like to see businesses hire people who speak different languages into customer-facing roles, and highlight this so that community members who speak different languages are aware!

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

Last year, I attended the Game Changer Leadership Program, which was a catalyst for my application to the 35 Under 35 Program. The Game Changer Program focuses on viewing your experiences through a positive lens and focusing on the outcomes you want. The most impactful steps I learned were to manifest my outcomes and to believe that positive thinking will lead to positive results.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

An important life lesson I have learned is that you can do things even if you are afraid of them. I spent years holding myself back because I believed that if I was nervous about something, I shouldn’t do that thing. Now when I want to do something, I accept that I will be nervous and I do it anyhow.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I love playing trivia at all the different trivia spots around Fargo. I also love the different art classes that are offered at the Plains Art Museum and Unglued! During the summer, one of my favorite activities is attending the Red River Market. I especially love the Momos n More food booth—I have been known to go back for a second order of vegan momos after eating my first order.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

For the past few years, I have focused on changing career paths to the job I am in now. I am still learning about where I see myself going in this organization. I know I would like to move into a position where I can use my organizational, leadership, and strategic thinking skills to manage processes and people to make a bigger impact.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program?

I am hoping to become more involved in our community and to develop confidence in my leadership abilities. In the short amount of time our group has been together, we have supported one another in both our professional and personal lives, and I look forward to forming lasting relationships with the women in this program.

What are your passions outside of work?

Outside of work, I spend my time reading and adding to the pile of books I want to read. I love doing hot yoga—Indigo Bloom is my favorite yoga studio in Fargo! I’m always researching possible vacation destinations and planning my next trip.

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.