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Melanie Hicks

Melanie Hicks

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

Hello Lovely Ellevate Ladies! My name is Melanie Hicks, Founder of InPursuit, a coaching and consulting firm helping people link their careers with their purpose. I have nearly two decades of experience in the education, nonprofit and social enterprise space. Over the course of my career, I have worked with over 100 clients nationwide in the areas of professional growth, career change, strategic planning, employee engagement and organizational culture. Using my custom 3E Method of Change© along with my unique style of coaching or group facilitation, I create collaborative future strategies that bring actions congruent with values and purpose. I am the author of the upcoming book Incongruent; My misaligned life and the trek to becoming congruent. Writing me first book at 10 years old, she has now been published in numerous magazines and websites including, Humanity Wine Co., The District, Doctor’s Life, Journal for Research Administration and Moc Ideja, a grassroots policy manual for lawmakers in Bosnia funded by the US Department of State.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

I am very new to Ellevate but in just the few roundtables I have been a part of, I could feel the energy of connection. The women were encouraging and inspiring. I knew instantly that this was an organization I needed to be a part of.

How would you define your professional mission?

My mission is to help others find who they are designed to be. I believe in a world where we take the small steps to become the people we were designed to be. I believe in radical authenticity, fearless transparency and the profound power of the unique human experience. We only need two things in life -- a flashlight and a mirror. A flashlight to see the way to your ideal future and a mirror to reflect back and remind you of who you already are.

What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?

One of my most cherished career experiences was the years I taught a Social Entrepreneurship course at the University of Tampa. These inspirational, ambitious, innovated and endlessly talented students taught me as much as I taught them. I utilized my local network to invite many guest speakers into the classroom to accentuate our “book” knowledge with real world experiences. The students were enthralled in the inner workings of entrepreneurship coupled with doing good in the world. It opened their eyes to this duality that did not have to be mutually exclusive.

Every semester, so many students sent me emails after the course expressing gratitude and impact: “Thank you so much for this class. It has given me a new perspective on entrepreneurship.”

“I always believed in business ethics, but with your class I have a clearer view on how to implement theory to practice in my family business.”

“I appreciate how enthusiastic you are for this subject and how engaged you are in our learning”

“You opened up a whole new world of social entrepreneurship for me this semester.”

To this day, I still hear from many of them on the ways they are using their chosen career path to give back to the world.

This experience taught me one of the most valuable lessons about education – relevance equals inspiration. If we can find ways to make the learning personal to the students, they will internalize it in their own way and it will make a deeper impact.

What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?

After years on my own journey of meaning, I developed the 3E Method of Change as an exploration of living a dharma-adjacent© life. I long to help the everyday person who has a solid life but something still feels just a little “off”. For the thousands who, on paper, hold perfect, even enviable lives. Those who seem to be the epitome of the American dream. Those that have checked all the boxes society says are appropriate, come from stable upbringings, have robust careers, financial stability or even wealth. Those who enjoy loving family and/or close friends and have had noteworthy experiences that others can only dream about such as travel and education. And still...something is missing. Something that keeps them up at night. Deep inside they know their lives are not perfectly aligned with their true purpose but are afraid to admit it. They feel a sense of unworthiness and imposter syndrome for even expressing discontent because comparatively we are blessed. Afraid to make changes lest they lose the enviable life they currently occupy. They settle for mediocre because it is comfortable. They walk a path laid out by others instead of bravely forging their own. They don't need a revolution; they don't need redemption. They simply need a little push. They need to know that they ARE worthy of being who they were truly designed to be even if who they are is fortuitous. I work is for all those who want to be who they were designed to be. I want my epitaph to read she empowered others.

What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?

I checked ALL the boxes. I did everything I was supposed to do. Climbed the corporate ladder, became a top sales leader, built financial wealth, got published, did philanthropic work, ran half marathons. But something always felt off. It was as if I was chasing something without really knowing what that something was.

And then it hit me, my lightbulb moment. Every career path I had chosen was just slightly adjacent to the path I really wanted to be on. I had designed a life that was close to my purpose but somehow safer, more secure. Like a ship tethered to the shore. I was living a life that was dharma adjacent; incongruent with my true self. I was allowing obligations, societal expectations and my own self-doubt and fear to drive my decisions – instead of my own intuition.

From that moment, I began the process of becoming congruent. Taking one step at a time to deconstruct and redesign my career and my life. It wasn’t a short or easy path but five years later, here I am. Doing what I have longed to do since giving my first speech at 7 years old and writing my first book at 10.

Who are your role models?

Dr. Jill Biden Dr. Biden is an iconic figure and inspiration to me. She fully understands the field of education including its challenges and obstacles. She has dedicated time and effort to work for education opportunities for women and girls and believes in Community Colleges as gateways to education for all.

Sallie Krawcheck A pioneer and giant in the finance world, Sallie Krawcheck’s real legacy is shattering glass ceilings not just for herself but for generations after her. Her work in elevating women through her words, actions, and advocacy. I am in awe of her courage and perseverance.

Both of these women serve as aspirational figures for me every single day. I would love to add value to the work they are doing for the world.

What is your morning ritual?

My morning routine has three distinct and vital components…coffee, yoga/meditation & ballet.

A few years ago my husband and I became obsessed with a tiny roastery in Eufaula, Alabama where my parents have a vacation lake home, Largemouth Coffee Company. We grind their bourbon pecan torte coffee fresh each morning and the aroma is heavenly.

Following my morning brew, I head to the mat for a yoga and meditation practice that changes daily based on what my body needs. This is a practice I started over 15 years ago, slowly at first but now vital to my sanity. It is my stress relief, my creativity boost, and my connection with God and my own inner voice.

Finally, I finish off most mornings with a ballet routine. I was a classically trained dancer from ages 4 – 22. During a particularly taxing corporate career chapter I was deeply depressed, full of anxiety and barely sleeping through the night. I knew I needed things to change. Financially, I wasn’t able to up and quit my job immediately so I needed a temporary way to bring a little more joy into my life before sitting down to the 14 – 16 hour day ahead. I remembered how much I loved to dance and how much I missed it as an adult. So one night, as I lay sleepless, I spontaneously ordered a pair of red pointe shoes. Having not donned a pair of these in nearly 20 years, my first day was pretty shaky. But over time, my ankles got stronger, my muscle memory returned and my gracefulness improved. Even more important, a renewed sense of joy emerged. Those red pointe shoes couldn’t fix the challenges with my work but they could bring a better version of myself to the table. And that made a huge difference.

What would you say your personal superpower is?

My personal superpower is intuitive empathy. Despite being a master of ignoring it, my gut is never wrong. And the older I get, the more I work to tune into that sense of intuition in all that I do. I also believe strongly in the power of empathy. What is missing in so much of our fast-paced, individualized, highly polarized, social media world is enough deep empathy. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. To be a great educator, coach, friend or colleague you must have empathy for the human experience of each and every one you serve. That does not mean turning a blind eye to hurtful behavior. But it does mean taking the time to look beyond the action for the root cause. And to authentically and genuinely love others for who they are.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

“You can’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm.” - Fred Seamon

There is a distinct shift in the energy of the room when Fred Seamon walks in. It is unclear if it is his mile-wide smile or the warmth in which he greets everyone he meets like an old friend. Either way, Fred is a legend to anyone who has the pleasure of knowing him.

He began his career in late 1960s in the juvenile court system and over 50 years later he is still fighting for equality and diversity. While on the graduate faculty at Florida State University (FSU) and at the Pepper Institute on Aging he conducted several major research studies related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in public employment and social and economic disparities among minority elderly populations. His experience includes providing diversity training to law enforcement personnel via the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Senior Leadership Program, the Florida Department of Highway Safety Management Fellows Program and the Department of Insurance Executive Institute. He was recently an invited participant in the White House Conference Call for African American Stakeholders on COVID-19 and the CARES Act, April 2020.

However, all of these accomplishments pale in comparison to the living, breathing example of leadership he is as a man. He is the first to say yes to any opportunity that will add value to those he cares for, be that his family, company, community or church. He will never ask of you what he will not do himself. He is the cheerful rally to a team that is down. He is the insightful influencer in times of controversy. And he is a voice of reason during times of distress.

Upon seeking his steady council for a decision weighing heavy on my heart, he was all too willing to put aside his busy schedule to listen, comfort and reflect. The lessons he shared were powerful reminders. Be confident in the value you add. Set and keep limits on what you can healthily give of yourself. Be willing to walk away from what doesn’t serve you. There is always another door to open.

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