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Melissa Lawrence

Melissa Lawrence

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

My name is Melissa Lawrence, I'm a Career Coach for STEM professionals, host the Navigating Your Career podcast, and have a long history of developing and advancing others in the pharma/biotech industry. I'm passionate about advancing women in the workplace and advocacy of marginalized groups. It's what my life's work has been about. I'm also a mom, wife, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, avid kitchen dancer, and wannabe contestant on Star Search (aka American Idol of the 80s). When I'm not dreaming of badly singing and dancing, I'm coaching people 1-1 and in groups in my program: The Career Passion Project.

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

Elevate is a fun place to get to know others in formal or informal ways. I love the coffee connections for an informal way to get your feet wet in networking. My favorite memory is when I was a mentor in the women working in male dominated industries mentoring meet-up. It was such a great forum, speed-networking in breakout groups, to help people solve a tangible problem in just 15 minutes.

How would you define your professional mission?

I plan to positively impact society by helping others see their potential, overcome the beliefs that keep them stuck, and achieve everything they want for their career and life. This leaves happier humans and more emotionally and psychologically healthy society. I also feel passionately about advancing women in STEM fields. Women are under-represented and it is a male-dominated industry. When I worked in pharma/biotech, I had a key role in helping women advance in their careers and help bring under-graduate women into STEM. I work with people of all genders and identities as my larger purpose is really to help those under-represented, those not living their fullest, to experience their potential and overcome any limitations preventing them from having their best life.

What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?

When I worked with corporate, it was influencing leadership to create a leadership role focused on the development and engagement of our people leveraging my master degree in Organizational Psychology. Now, it is starting my career coaching business. I learned to go all-in on me and my dreams and it was the best decision I’ve made.

What are some career challenges on your radar?

As our society has progressed to discussing people experiences, inclusion, and equity, our companies are trying to keep up. I think our human desire to love our job and be ourselves at work and want more than a paycheck is out pacing the company’s ability to provide these resources for employees.

What project have you worked on that you’re most proud of? Why?

This is a tough question! Overall I am most proud of the work I’m doing in my business and the results my clients are getting. It has really pushed me to grow and practice what I teach my clients on a grander level. In the corporate setting it would be leading a network of women resource group over a course of 12 months and seeing 90% of them achieve career and goal advancement in that time.

We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?

I started my career consulting with the State of Wisconsin in child welfare. I thought I wanted to be a social worker. I realized my empath heart couldn't take it and instead went the management route. I didn’t go to college right after high school, but at the insistence of a mentor, I earned an Associates degree while working with the government. I then realized I had a passion for understanding how the brain works and how learning can help people excel. I made a pivot to learning and development and moved into the pharma/biotech industry in 2009. While there, I was an Instructional Designer and earned my Bachelors degree in Communications going to night school. A new opportunity brought me to Maryland to combine my management and learning experience in a new leadership role. I moved to a couple other biotech companies before landing in big pharma where I rose to lead Talent & Development for a site and earned my Masters in Organizational Psychology. With each pivot I followed my passion. I continued to seek opportunities to learn and stretch myself. When I started performance and career coaching about 5 years ago I knew it was my passion. In 2020 I left my corporate leadership role and went fulltime in my practice.

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

I’ve always felt a calling to serve and help others. I think everything I’ve done has led me to owning my own business and helping others advance in their career by getting to know themselves in a way they never have. When I coached in pharma I had to have a bias to the best interests of the company and in my practice, I get to truly advocate for the person without that bias. Being able to pave my own path and help others do the same is the perfect fit for my skills, experience, and passion.

What is your favorite social media site? Why?

LinkedIn! I’ve been on LinkedIn for over a decade and it is such a great platform to network and focus on your career growth. If we aren’t connected, reach out and connect. Say hi when you do.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

I’m going to offer two. One I received a long time ago is “you can’t turn down a job you haven’t been offered”. I would spin in mind drama over the “what ifs” when I wanted to make a change. This advice was what I needed to get me into action and going after what I want, not worrying about it until I actually had a decision to make. It’s common to not go after what you want because there is fear if you get it, how you’ll handle it, your family’s impact. But if you just go after what you want, if you get the offer, you can make a decision and you’ll be able to make it work if you want it.

The other is advice I offer which is “just say yes” when something scares you. If you’re given the opportunity to present to leadership, take on a new project, whatever it is, and you’re thought is “oh, I don’t know if I want to do that” I guarantee you’ll get growth from it and be better off for doing it. If you can’t remember the last time you did something outside your comfort zone, you’re not growing to your potential.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.