Meet Melissa! - Stamford Moms

How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
I have two daughters: 2 years old (26 months) and 3 months.

What do you love about living in Stamford?
I love they city /suburb hybrid. There is a nice balance of easy access to great restaurants, parks and activities as well as the quaintness of suburban life. I love all the family friendly places and events offered all year – from story time, educational plays, puppet shows to hiking trails and farm animal fun, the list goes on. While I really miss the pop up events that took place before the pandemic, there is still lots to do outdoor (beaches / parks etc.). My husband and I moved here a few months before my first daughter was born and through all these activities and spaces we found a really nice community and easy ways to make new friends. Overall, it is a privilege to conveniently have such great variety right here in town.

What’s your favorite restaurant and/or place to shop in Stamford?
Hmm, there are so many to choose from! Some of our favorite restaurants are Zaza and Fish. In general we love going down to Bedford Street because there are so many options there, plus it’s a short walk. During the winter the area is beautifully decorated with holiday lights for a nice ambiance for adults and kids alike. On summer Fridays, you get the benefit of some great SOCA music from the outdoor Zumba classes at the Ferguson Library, which my daughter absolutely loved!

Tell us about your career.
I work in Technology Consulting leading cross functional teams delivering product design and development to clients. Specifically, leveraging Design Thinking, quantitative and qualitative primary and secondary research, I provide clients with customer centered strategic solutions to develop technical products and services for software, online, mobile and in store experiences across several industries internationally. To bridge gaps across my teams, I present distinct perspectives underscoring the value of quantitative and qualitative insights, to best understand and design for users. I then make sure these perspectives are embedded throughout the development cycle, appropriately balancing user needs, the client’s financial goals, technical feasibility and long term innovation.

 What made you decide on a career in the STEM field?
Technology was really something that I fell into. I happened to work for a consulting organization that advised technology companies. I loved creating research strategies to address customer needs or opportunities and then conducting the field work to uncover the insights. I find it fascinating to use data points from quantitative and qualitative research to holistically shows how humans interact with technology. As a woman primarily working with men, I recognize blind spots with capturing representative audiences for our research and considering the positive and negative ways a product may evolve over time. Additionally, I love that I can serve as an example and break stereotypes by showing my colleagues how I can excel while managing multiple responsibilities. Thus, given that technology is all around us, it is important to have diverse perspectives involved in its development – and I love presenting a different point of view!

How do you hope to increase the presence of women and people of color in STEM fields?
I really try to lead by example. I am all about mentoring young women in a variety of ways. I work with organizations to mentor high school and college age women. Additionally, I have led recruiting initiatives and participated in partner debriefing sessions to make sure candidates were fairly considered. Having a seat at the table really helps challenge unconscious biases with hiring. I have also lead training and development courses to make sure women, minorities and anyone I have recruited, were adequately prepared for the work and knew they had a resource for help. Before the pandemic I taught a graduate course on technical product development. I also work with my alma mater, Cornell University leading career panel discussions for Women in Technology and technical product development workshops. I also speak at conferences with national and global audiences, which I love. Balancing all these activities and motherhood is not easy, but I serve as an example of what you can be capable of if you just try.

 What is your message to young girls interested in a career in the STEM field?
Stay focused, remain confident and NEVER let anyone second guess your skills! I have dealt with a lot of microaggressions throughout my career and while frustrating, in some ways they fueled my motivation to prove the naysayers wrong. Honestly, your presence alone will make it easier for those coming into the field because as more women enter these types for roles, the less of an anomaly it is. So while it can be a lot of pressure at times and / or seem like there is a lot working against you, stick with it for the greater good!

 How do you juggle work and mommyhood?
This is always going to be a challenge but a few things have really helped me to *try* to balance it all. I stress “trying” because it’s always an evolving effort, which I think is important for mothers to understand to help set expectations.

  • Keep Lists & Prioritize: I was always a very organized person, but now I am more realistic about time limits, especially because nursing makes you feel like you’re on a timer. In order for me not to get overwhelmed, I keep a simple running list of things that I need to get done and categorize it. Knowing, I will not be able to address everything immediately or in one sitting, it’s helpful so that I don’t forget. Additionally, it’s a nice feeling to cross something off and feel a tiny victory.
  • Be Flexible: Throughout the pandemic, my husband and I were balancing working full time and caring for our toddler, all while I was pregnant, it was no walk in the park! We basically worked in shifts to make sure we could spend dedicated time throughout the day with our daughter as well as encourage some independent play. We are lucky that our jobs allowed for this flexibility so we took advantage of it. Each day timing shifted depending on our meetings, but we did try to keep meals, naptime and such roughly the same so our daughter could maintain some type of routine, normalcy and feel loved. As crazy and exhausting as all that was, I do believe it made me work harder and more efficiently because there was no time to waste!
  • Now with my second, I keep reminding myself to be flexible and understand that each day may look a little different and that is ok.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from another mom?
Accept the “chaos” and put things in perspective. I’m very neat, so it is difficult for me at times to ignore a mess. However, I have to look at it from the point of view of tradeoffs. Essentially, time spent organizing a closet, folding laundry or cleaning up toys etc. could be spent with the kids, playing with them, teaching them and just making sure they feel loved. So if I can get bigger activities broken down into smaller chunks, that helps. That’s not to say that my house is in complete disarray, but things are a bit messier than I would ideally prefer, but that is ok so long as everyone is healthy and happy

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