By MaryLee Montalvo


In Episode 53 of the WomenHeard podcast, we caught up with Melody Lee, vice president of brand marketing at design brand Herman Miller (and chief communications officer for NYWICI!). She walks us through her career journey, touching on her love for high-stakes environments, how to get the most out of a mentor relationship, and the myth of work-life balance. Plus, you won’t want to miss her tips for conquering imposter syndrome! Read on for some key takeaways from the discussion.

“I never expected to be here as a little girl.”
Growing up, Melody never expected to be on any career path. Raised in Fort Worth, Texas, by immigrants from Taiwan who had converted to evangelical Christianity, she believed that a woman’s highest calling was to be a wife and mother. So when Melody graduated from college, she had no serious ambitions—but that all changed when she realized she really liked working. “I look back at my career and I’m still somewhat stunned by the fact that I’ve been in the working world for so long and had the degree of success that I have had,” she says, “because I never expected to be here to begin with.”

“I really like to make myself as uncomfortable as possible.”
From crisis work to marketing prestige products, Melody’s career has taken a nonlinear path that encouraged plenty of career growth. She’s worked with both in-house agencies and iconic brands such as Cadillac and Laura Mercier. The constant stream of new challenges has helped build her skills, she says, adding, “That often means putting myself in the position where I am completely bewildered by the world that I’m sitting in.”

“Some weeks are complete and utter chaos.”
Trying to “do it all”? You better accept that sometimes things are going to be hectic, Melody says. “There’s just going to be weeks where you’re just not your best at your job, and there’s just going to be weeks that you’re not at your best as a mother, and there are weeks where you’re not going to be your best at all the organizations that you volunteer with. And that’s okay. . . . Something has to be traded off in each of these equations.” Rest assured though, she adds, that if something is truly important to you, you’ll make the time for it—even if it’s brief.

“It’s fun to watch people fly.”
Melody loves playing the mentor role, both through corporate mentorship programs and with women who work for her. She learned from her own mentors that there’s no greater pleasure than seeing someone become successful and fly higher than you. That’s why she urges women to say yes to people who ask for their advice. “It’s really exciting to see where these people go,” she says.

“Say what you don’t know.”
We’ve all experienced imposter syndrome. Melody believes that in many ways, it can be more pronounced for women. In her career, she’s found the only way to overcome it is to be honest about what you don’t know and to ask the questions you don’t know the answers to.

She’s also found that coming into a new workplace with “guns a’blazing,” telling everyone what’s wrong is not the best approach. “There are so many reasons why things work a certain way or why decisions were made. Coming in to blow it all up with condescension or arrogance is never going to suit you,” she says, adding that you’ll probably get better results by saying, “Help me understand this so I can help you.”

Thanks to Melody Lee for sharing her time with us! Join us for more episodes of the NYWICI WomenHeard podcast here.


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