This August, we honor the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
Women’s Equality Day on August 26 commemorates the 19th amendment and the women’s suffrage movement, the fight to win the right to vote for women. With the 2020 general election right around the corner, it’s never been more important to highlight the voices of incredible women! We’re celebrating by highlighting women in power at ACE Cash Express.
For this post we sat with Melanie, our Chief Marketing Officer. She shared her thoughts on what it means to be a leader, how patience and hard work lead to impressive results, and the unique advantages women have in the workplace.
Q: You have 14 years of tenure here. Can you talk about your journey and how you got to this level?
Melanie: I first heard about this position from a friend when I was fresh out of college. I had a couple of odd jobs just to pay bills, but the position here at the time didn’t seem to be what I was looking for. It was a role writing training manuals for the field teams. In my interview, I actually talked about one of my strengths being that I liked to do “mechanical” things, like taking things apart and putting them back together. By some strange twist, I got an offer the same day. Haven’t had to highlight my mechanical skills in an interview since.
When I started, marketing and product were one group that was much smaller than we are now. I was writing these 40-page documents that taught associates how to process a loan, how to sell a loan, things like that. I started taking on more marketing responsibilities as the business became more diversified, never turned down work, and I’ve been fortunate to be recognized over the years.
I never imagined I would still be here all these years later, but the business has diversified a lot since I started. Marketing is changing, and the way we engage with customers is changing, too. It’s a very dynamic environment here at Populus, where you never know what you’re coming into in the morning, which is exciting and has kept me coming back.
Q: Thinking back over your journey, is there a story or a moment that’s impacted you that you could share with us?
Melanie: Yeah, so back when I was a Manager level, I was responsible for operating the day-to-day business of the title loan marketing group, which was experiencing a lot of growth. The company decided we needed a Director level person to come in and really run that business. I had been doing the work, but I don’t think I was seen as “ready”. We conducted a search and didn’t end up finding the right fit, so that person was never hired and in time I was promoted instead.
I think a lot of times we can get bruised when we’re overlooked for opportunities, especially when we’re showing up every day doing the work. But I love to use this example because it just shows that sometimes, especially in our environment where things can change really quickly, if you keep your head down, stay persistent, stay working and keep fighting the good fight, it might be your turn next.
Q: That’s a great example of demonstrating persistence, which is a leadership quality. To you, what does it mean to be a leader?
Melanie: I think there’s a difference between being a manager of people and being a leader. Myself, I never really wanted to manage people – I always thought of myself as a bit of a one woman show. I didn’t necessarily want the responsibility of having other people rely on me. But eventually I realized that by hiring some key people, I could get a lot more done and lead the organization to make it better overall.
Leadership, to me, means setting a good example, trying to stay positive about things, and trying to be as transparent as possible with the people who work with me. People need information and to see me as a human being to be able to, and to want to, do their jobs well. Transparency is a critical part of leadership to me.
I also see leadership across the organization. We have people who don’t have official direct reports, but they’re leading across the group, pulling people together and driving them in one direction. Being able to lead as an individual contributor is something I look for in our up-and-coming talent and I want to recognize and build on those people.
Q: What does being a female leader mean to you? Is there any difference you can see from a woman’s perspective?
Melanie: When I first started, I don’t believe we had any women on the executive team, and now we make up half of the team, which gives us great balance. I, fortunately, have never been in a position here where I felt like my gender mattered. We truly operate under a meritocracy and reward hard work, which is awesome.
I never imagined I would get to the point where I am, but it’s become more important as I have advanced that I represent myself well for the women who come after me and use whatever influence I have to make this company better for everyone working here. It doesn’t mean I’m a perfect lady all the time, I like to joke around and I have bad days, but I think being real makes me way cooler.
Q: What advice would you give a young woman with aspirations to get where you are?
Melanie: I would tell her that her gender is not something that will hold her back, but it will actually give her an edge. I feel like our gender norms are very much superpowers. Women that I’ve had encounters with, both in my professional life and my personal life, have great skills as peacemakers and relationship-builders. Those are natural leadership skills that I think we, as females, learn from a very early age. In the business world, you have to be a great communicator and be able to help people understand your point of view. (Both of which are also great negotiation skills.) You don’t even realize that you’re doing it, it’s just something you’ve honed since birth. Those skills, so innate to women, can be so impactful on your journey.
Q: Who is one woman who has influenced you the most?
Melanie: This one’s hard, because I don’t think I have a single person. I always admire people who have a strong sense of social responsibility, those who put themselves in a position in the business world where they can really leverage that. I hope to achieve that someday. On a micro level, I love people who are very positive. I don’t consider myself to be a cynic, I’m more of a realist, but people who can find the bright side inspire me because they can find the joy in anything and that always gives me energy.
Q: In light of the election this year, what would you like to say about voting and why it’s important?
Melanie: Voting is so special to me. I was a big history and political science nerd growing up, so I get teary-eyed every time I vote. I’m not a fan of the “game” of politics, but it doesn’t change the importance of electing representatives who will work for the issues that matter to me. It seems like every election cycle becomes more important than the last, 2020 will be no exception. Seeing record turnout, 100 years after women’s suffrage, would be really powerful. I know I’ll be wearing white on November 3rd.
Look out for more Women in Power stories throughout the month of August!
Want to catch up on more true stories? Here’s a few we think you’ll love: