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HERstory: Melissa Nazar

Senior Director, Corporate Marketing & Brand, Quickbase

Melissa Nazar is Quickbase’s senior director of corporate marketing and brand, where she is helping expand the company’s brand footprint through awareness programs, content marketing, and public relations.

She has 13+ years experience creating and managing content, developing comprehensive content marketing and thought leadership strategies, fueling and planning demand generation campaigns, creating public relations programs, and more.

Melissa is graduate of Bentley University and earned her M.A. in Organizational Communication from SUNY Albany. When she is not arguing with her colleagues about grammar, she spends her time managing her newly famous pup’s social media (IG: YouMakeMeWannnaScout), snowboarding, and watching embarrassing television shows.

How did you break into leadership?

I don’t think there’s one path into leadership. Nor do I think there was a particular moment where I thought, ‘Here I am, a leader!’ It was an unconscious evolution for me, where I went from an outspoken individual contributor to someone my peers relied on for insights and support.

I did know early in my career that I wanted to try my hand at people management, so I actively sought opportunities to mentor other team members, manage interns, etc. I was effectively managing without the manager title whenever I could. Those experiences gave me enough credibility to take on a role as a manager of a small content team years ago.

What unique obstacles or challenges have you faced as a woman in a tech leadership role?

Frankly, there’s just not a lot of us. So, finding role models and mentors in organizations can be challenging. I think this makes it harder for young women to see themselves moving into the top levels of leadership.

I also have been called out for some of the things I’ve seen other interviewees mention in these stories: being too stubborn, too assertive, too inflexible. Being a woman in tech can be challenging in that we need to find a way to be heard without being viewed as pushy.

How do you secure a promotion?

Asking for a promotion or raise is something I had a tough time with earlier in my career. While it’s not only a struggle for women, I’ve definitely seen it as a more common issue among my female colleagues and team members.

A few things I’d recommend:

  1. Find a mentor who can honestly speak to your work, what you’re capable of, and also what you need to work on. Starting with someone who can help you take an honest look in the mirror gives you a solid foundation.
  2. Document your wins and where you’ve driven tangible results. It’s hard to argue with hard evidence.
  3. Script yourself before you make your asks. And I mean quite literally write down what you want to say and practice it out loud. This is my go-to move for presentations, important meetings, hard conversations, etc.
  4. Approach your boss like a partner vs. an adversary. Your boss is more than likely on your side, so go into the conversations open, honest, and willing to discuss all sides of what you’re looking for and why.

If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

I would have been less afraid of change. My default to new, sometimes scary challenges has often been to say no or try and find ways out of it. It’s taken me a while (and I’m still actively working on it every day), but typically change, even when it’s scary, represents new opportunity and a chance to grow. It’s hard to see that when presented with something intimidating, but taking the time to internalize and process before reacting is something I wish I learned to do earlier.

What’s been the highlight of your career thus far?

Watching my employees learn and grow. Seeing folks I’ve brought into organizations mature, excel, and move into bigger and better roles is far and away the part of my career that has been the most rewarding.

What’s your advice for up-and-coming marketers?

My unsolicited career advice: Never burn a bridge. That saying of ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’ has a lot of truth, especially when you’re in a tightly knit industry. You never know when you’ll work with someone again. It’s happened to me time and time again where an old connection vouching for me was the reason for an amazing new opportunity.

Also, don’t be afraid to bring your full self to work. Early in my career, I gave up on the advice career services gave me of separating work and home versions of myself completely. While there’s importance in always being professional and finding that balance, I’ve found I do my best work when I’m truly authentic to who I am at work—even if that means being a little bit goofy sometimes.

And always, always have a go-to pump-up song. Whether it’s before a big presentation or an interview, having that song as a cue will always get you in the right mood. (Spoiler: Mine is “All I Do is Win” by DJ Khaled.)

Thanks to Jes Kirkwood who conducted this interview in July 2020.

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