Leadership Profile Interview with Melissa Venable:
Melissa Venable, a board member for the Beaufort Digital Corridor, works for Higher Education at Red Ventures as an online education advisor. As an instructional designer she has experience in industry and higher education. She is an adjunct faculty member and online course designer at Saint Leo University, and a certified career coach with a background in career development services. Melissa is also an associate editor for eLearn Magazine. She earned a PhD in Instructional Technology at the University of South Florida with research interests in distance education and support services for online students. She also holds master's degrees from Central Michigan University and the University of Oklahoma, and a bachelor's degree from Wake Forest University. In 2010 Melissa established a company of her own, Design Doc LLC, to connect with freelance and consulting projects related to online instructional design and career development.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a lot of small towns all over the Carolinas. My father worked in retail, which required us to move a lot.
How did you come to be in Beaufort?
After living in Tampa, Hawaii, and Miami, I wanted to find someplace out of the fray – to have a lifestyle away from the big city and traffic. I could live anywhere since I was working remotely though I needed to be somewhat near an airport for business travel. My sister lives in the Charleston area, so I began looking in this area. I love the outdoor activities, the weather, and the people. Beaufort has been a good fit.
**What was your first job out of college and what did you learn from it? **
My first job out of college was in Washington DC where I worked for the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital, a non-profit where I coordinated regional educational programs. Next, I worked for the American Red Cross in Arlington, Virginia. Working for a non-profit distills the mission that guides your work and almost always has limited resources. In the non-profit world, there are not always ideal conditions, but you figure out a way to get the job done. People are relying on you. This mind set has helped me in every job since then. I always look first to what resources I do have available.
What does your company do?
Red Ventures is a performance marketing company that works to help people discover their options and make informed and confident decisions in a variety of consumer categories, including higher education. This is accomplished by providing information and resources including interactive tools, blogs, multi-media, and research reports to support the decision-making process.
How would you describe your company's culture?
Red Ventures is fast paced organization with a list of principles that we live and work by. For example, one of these tenets is "Everything is written in pencil". The idea is that we are adaptable as an organization, encouraging team members to contribute fresh perspectives and challenge assumptions. Another is "Leaving the woodpile higher than you found it." Red Ventures contributes to its local communities through a variety of programs that pay it forward. There are multiple programs, for example, focused on mentorship and skills training to support underrepresented populations.
From your total work experience, what makes a good boss? What makes for a bad boss?
Right now, I work on a team of ten people with a team leader at the helm. I think in general a good boss understands the importance of clear direction and effective collaboration and knows how to provide the right support. Good bosses also facilitate a positive culture that results in motivated team members. I am fortunate to have that with the team I am on now. It's a great group of people collaborating from multiple time zones. I think a bad boss would be someone who micromanages, doesn't know how to prioritize the work and resources, and doesn't provide the support needed to get the job done.
Do you have a daily routine?
I am a very structured person. I get up around 6 and start my day with a cup of green tea while I check the news and my email. Then I try to take a little time to read for pleasure, to get away from the news cycle for a bit. I am at my desk usually by 7:30 where I work for a few hours before I take a break to workout. Then I am back at my desk for the day. My husband and I both work from home in separate offices. Around 5 o'clock each day we check in with each other and decide when to call a halt to the day. It is an official end of the workday. Then we have a glass of wine and plan for dinner.
What is your biggest pet peeve amongst colleagues?
Not feeling comfortable saying "I don't know." We don't always know all of the answers. Responding with an honest "I don't know the answer" can lead to good discussion, discovery of new perspectives, and opportunities for team members to contribute in different ways.
What advice would you give to new graduates?
Staying current, especially in the technology industry, is always going to be an issue. It is important to find resources you can rely on to monitor the trends. The nature of technology means we all have to keep up with the changes. It is important to monitor hiring fluctuations as well as the skills required to work or advance in the industry. It is also essential to get practical experience.
How do you juggle your responsibilities?
Careful scheduling! I parcel out my day according to what time of day I am most effective for which activity. For example, there are certain times of the day when I write best, so I schedule writing then. Since I work with a team primarily based in Seattle, the time difference is also a scheduling consideration. Good communication habits and tools also help. My team does a great job of keeping everyone informed of our individual progress.
What person has been the biggest influence on your life?
For me, my biggest professional influence has been my peer network. I have a solid group of colleagues that I went through graduate school with and worked with in some of my first jobs in higher education. Even though we now work in different parts of the industry, we still find ways to work together, presenting at conferences and consulting on current projects. We have monthly check-ins to be a sounding board for each other and just catch up with our lives in general. This kind of support has been invaluable over the years.
What inspires you?
Being able to see the results of an accomplishment. What I really appreciate is getting feedback that validates work I have done.
Mac or PC?
I am Apple all the way!
What is a book you always recommend?
_The Mayo Clinic's Guide to Stress Free Living _by Dr. Amit Sood, MD. Dr. Sood combines neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy to outline five principles that can help you develop resilience. It is a user friendly, easy to read book where you feel like the author is in it with you. The principles address the concept of intent, helping you focus on what is important. The tips and strategies are applicable at work and in other aspects of everyday life.
What outside of work keeps you busy?
I like to run. Especially during the pandemic, running has been my outlet. I've been following a structured program since May to increase my distance and work on my pace. My husband and I used to travel a lot for work and pleasure. Now my daily run is my travel.