Melissa has worked in the tech industry for over 20 years in roles ranging from Junior Software Engineer to her current role as the Chief Customer Experience Officer at addapptation. She holds a Bachelor’s in Computer Science from the University of New Hampshire, an executive certification in Management and Leadership from MIT and a SAFe Program Consultant (SPC4) certification. Always driven by her passion to have a positive impact on the decline of women in STEM education and careers, she has volunteered with organizations around the world including ChickTech, Everwise, WITI, NH Tech Alliance, Microsoft DigiGirlz, wiseHer and AnitaB.org. This passion led her to co-found Diversify Thinking, an initiative focused on moving inclusion from conversation to action. Melissa organizes mentoring programs and creates opportunities for collaboration among diverse thinkers through their Rise & Diversify Event Series.
Q: What inspired you to found Diversify Thinking and what were the main challenges you faced?
My inspiration came from years of participating in conversations and seeing minimal to no actual change. We were building amazing communities of support for women in technology that were underrepresented and underserved, but nothing changed what we were experiencing. The main challenge founding Diversify Thinking was how to engage with people outside of our community of women to bring the decision makers to the table and how to educate them so they understood they needed to be part of the solution. Our goal is to raise the level of action to meet the level of conversation around equity for women and all.
Q: Did you start the venture alone?
No - it takes a village after all. Candice Benson and I co-founded Diversify Thinking as we had collaborated for years in the space of building supportive communities dedicated to elevating women both locally and nationally.
In your opinion, what are some key opportunities in the Diversity & Inclusion space going forward?
There are many but notably is more focus on creating systemic change and pathways for those that are underrepresented so they can be promoted into leadership roles.
Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
Our business model to date has been entirely sponsorship driven and we are working on a different approach to growing revenue at the moment. Exciting things on the horizon!
Q: Do you think luck played a role in the success of your company?
No, this was a great example of where passion meets purpose and you are solving a real need for real people.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
We are working on programs to help startups build a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion from day 1. We know it only gets more challenging to shift that tide if the focus and investment is not part of the founding team so we want to be there to avoid the diversity debt they will inevitably incur.
Q: If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Target a single problem aligned with our vision that is still mission driven but has a clearer definition of success. Know who your customers are, know what their desired outcomes are and know where to find them.
Q: Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
My mom - she always showed me what strength looked like and that you should draw it from within yourself.
Q: What are your favorite books?
Start with Why - Simon Sinek, Year of Yes - Shonda Rhimes.
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
Know your Why - this has to be the one thing you don't "pivot". Authenticity and integrity can sometimes be hard to stay true to, but you will attract people to your team, your board and your market by staying true to yourself throughout the process.