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Melanie Rivera

Melanie Rivera

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

Hi Ellevate community! I am a management coach, consultant and trainer that has the pleasure of working 95% time coaching nonprofit executives as a Partner with the Management Center, and 5% of my time growing my own venture, Breaker28, focused on advancing equity and creating the conditions for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to thrive at work.

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

I am new to the Ellevate community, but have been so impressed with how open and supportive community members are. I'm excited to see what we make happen together in the coming months!

How would you define your professional mission?

My job is to coach/consult/train leaders to create the conditions for gender and race-diverse teams to thrive at work.

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?

Deep listening, a willingness to learn, subject matter expertise, self-awareness and emotional intelligence - and a deep appreciation for how tough it is to manage a team in today's rapidly changing context.

What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?

One of my life dreams was to become a Vice President before I was 30. I hit that goal and my family was thrilled (I'm a first-generation college grad, and we'd never had a VP in our family before)!

What are some career challenges on your radar?

Like everyone these days, I'm working to navigate personal and work commitments in the wake of COVID-19. I'm also thinking about how to contribute more to the world with thought-leadership, while deeply serving clients both at The Management Center and Breaker28.

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

I recently wrote a white paper on creating a culture of feedback on gender and race-diverse teams. It was a labor of love, and I'm super proud of it.

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

Prayer, hard work, willingness to learn and grow, and a handful of mentors and sponsors that took a chance on me and showed me the ropes.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing my clients internalize the skills we're developing and independently apply them. When I know working together has made a client/organization better, more effective, and more just, that lights me up like a Christmas tree!

What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?

I hope that as a result of my work thousands of organizations become places where everyone, and especially those with marginalized identities on their team, can thrive.

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

My job is a perfect fit for me because it requires me to be entrepreneurial, ever-learning, and deeply focused on the needs of others (both individual leaders and their organizations).

Who are your role models?

Two of my life role models are Martin Luther King and Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Both found their moment in history and seized the opportunity in order to make the world more just.

What is your morning ritual?

Right now, my morning ritual is in flux, but at a high-level, what I'm aiming for is prayer, reflection, family time and then getting ready for my day.

What is your favorite social media site? Why?

Right now, my favorite social media site is LinkedIn. I love the professional community being created there, and how useful it is for recruiters and professionals alike.

What would you say your personal superpower is?

What I've heard from others is that they love the way I say things: how I can say a difficult thing in a real way that builds trust and makes the lesson stick. That gift allows me to influence leaders, especially around tricky things like race and equity and leadership practices.

What does success look like to you?

Success means doing what I was put in the Earth to do; accomplishing my mission, and leaving a legacy in my family, my sector, and my community. Leaving things better than I found them in every area I've been given influence or responsibility.

Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

I don't aim for balance, I aim for fit. When my life is fitting together - personally, professionally, spiritually - I'm in a great place. In different seasons that fit/mix looks different. The key isn't assessing based on what you see as normative externally, it's being true to what in your heart you know is right for you and your life's mission. When that fit isn't happening, there's nothing like a good night's rest and some prayer time the following morning to let you know what needs to change.

What advice would you offer future leading ladies wishing to break into your industry?

Develop your own growth and development plan. When I was new in the nonprofit sector, I read 1-2 business books per week for 5 years. I still read at least 3 business books a month, usually by Audible. Take every opportunity to build skill and to practice what you're learning. And don't be afraid to ask for what you want - no manager or sponsor (no matter how awesome) cares about your title, promotion, or salary as much as you do!

What is the best career advice you ever received?

When speaking to leaders, talk in headlines. Don't mire them down with details, but have the facts/rationale ready to back up what you say.

What is one piece of advice you’d offer working moms?

Refuse to be intimidated by other people's expectations: you have the wisdom and brilliance to decide how to juggle your worlds, and still deliver what you need to at work. You can do this!

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.

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