Heather (Glidden) Passe ’93 has always been up for a challenge.
That’s reflected in the various stops she’s made along her career path – a path that has led her to her present role as the Head of Global Marketing for C.H. Robinson, an Eden Prairie-based logistics platform corporation.
“I like to be a builder versus a person who comes in and just runs the machine and tinkers around the edges a little,” Passe said. “Throughout my career I’ve sought out opportunities where I could come in and be a change agent who helps build value. I want to help an organization drive more revenue and do it in a way where people are able to learn and grow their skillsets so that the company is better off than it was before.”
Passe graduated from the College of Saint Benedict with a degree in management, then received her master’s degree from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. She started her career with Northwest Airlines (which merged with Delta in 2008) in a strategy and analytical role.
But as the proliferation of the Internet drove new opportunities for marketing in the late 1990s and early 2000s, she shifted gears and settled into that world.
“I was lucky to have worked with an executive who gave me different specialty projects to take on,” she said. “A number of them involved using an analytical mindset and a creative communication mindset. Then an opening came up running marketing for the airline and they thought it would be a good fit for me.
“Candidly, at the time, I thought that was crazy. I’d spent so much time on the hardcore analytical, strategical side of the universe. But it turned out to be a great opportunity. At the time, marketing was becoming so much more analytical because there were many more measurable aspects thanks to digital. And Northwest was really at the forefront of using that data to drive relationships with customers. So it ended up being the perfect opportunity for me to get in on the ground floor.”
Passe remained with Northwest until the end of 2008. She then worked as Vice President of Marketing, Loyalty and E-Commerce for Carlson Hotels Worldwide for almost four years and as the Chief Marketing Officer for Regis Corporation for almost five.
She started in her current role at C.H. Robinson in October of 2017.
At each step along the way in her career, the Minnetonka High School graduate says she’s drawn on lessons she learned while at CSB.
“That love of learning, an intellectual curiosity and the ability to get the right people in a room to figure something out and not worrying where they came from or what their discipline is,” she said. “Those are all things I learned at Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s. “The ability to work collaboratively and be part of a community.
“The professors I worked with there had open doors. You could go in and talk to them about anything. It was clear they had a genuine care for their students that extended beyond class or the next assignment. But beyond the academics and all the great opportunities I had to get involved and learn on campus, there’s the fact that some of the people who are still my very best friends in the world - the people I lean on when times are great and when times are tough - are the roommates I had at St. Ben’s.”
Beyond her professional work, Passe has also found ways to give back to the community, including by serving on the Board of Directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities from 2016 to 2019 – drawing she said on the Benedictine values that were a part of her CSB+SJU education.
“I believe if you’re fortunate enough to have had some success along the way, it’s your responsibility to also find a way to give back,” she said. “You want to try and pay it forward.”
Passe met her husband Craig, a 1993 graduate of SJU, during their senior year of college. The couple now have two daughters – ages 17 and 14 – and reside in Minneapolis.
“I always tell people to be open to whatever path life takes you on,” she said. “Very few people follow a super-linear path all the way through their career.
“When I was at Saint Ben’s, I didn’t have the specifics about where I was going to end up and how I was going to get there. It was a matter of adapting and adjusting to the situations and environments I’ve found myself in. The key is to identify your core values and the things you’re passionate about. Then find out what the world needs in that space and pursue it.”