As part of Real-time Perspectives’ ongoing blog series focusing on millennials, we sat down with Grand Rapidian Melissa Malburg, 33, senior interior designer at Progressive AE.
RTP: What do you spend your days at work “doing”?
Melissa: Well, I’m an interior designer and one thing I like about my job is every day is a different day. There’s no typical day in my work life. I spend a lot of time working with clients directly and understanding their goals, what makes them unique, trying to see how we can make their environment enhance that. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of workplace design with productivity, satisfaction, engagement, how to reach business goals – can we help them do that with the way their work environment is set up?
RTP: In a nutshell, how did you initially connect with Barbara?
Melissa: I actually first connected with Barbara through the Rising Women Leaders program – she was one of the coaches who facilitated the program, led sessions, did coaching for the group. And I loved her and her process, the way her mind worked and how she was able to grab at nuggets and dig really deep into things and help you get right to the heart of whatever happened to be going on. That was my first experience. Then there was an opportunity this past year for alumni to pilot a small-group coaching format with her so I jumped on that as well. It was a great opportunity to continue the dialogue and added growth and learning.
RTP: I wonder if you could describe a little bit what it’s like to work with Barbara.
Melissa: My assumption would have been that it was intimidating or that you had to have it all together and understand where you’re going for her to help you get there. But she’s the opposite of intimidating; she’s so approachable and loves people, loves talking to people. Working with her was really easy in a good way but also challenging – having somebody poke and prod and help you uncover things that are getting in your way doesn’t always sound pleasant, but she makes it pleasant. It’s good growth that you’re going through.
RTP: What’s changed for you since you’ve experienced Barbara’s coaching?
Melissa: I think when I first started connecting with Barbara, I was definitely at a turning point in my career – what’s next, where do I fit, where do I add value. She helped me get a framework for how I approach my work to understand the value that I bring to the table and be able to champion that and help others understand. I almost learned to be an advocate for myself. One of my passions is being an advocate for other people, so if I can do that for myself I can do it more strongly for others. She’s helped me understand how to do that much more clearly.
RTP: You’re a member of Gen Y. What do you think your generation is doing particularly well, professionally?
Melissa: I think we’re really good at questioning. We’re not disrespectful, but we like to see the big picture, see how we fit in, be able to question things people have always done, and see if there’s a way to do it better. A lot of innovation is coming out of our generation. We’re not throwing out the baby with the bathwater, but it’s a passion for being able to add value. I see that as a huge benefit of the way our generation tends to question and be really curious.
RTP: What advice would you give to other millennials looking to move ahead in their careers?
Melissa: I think personally never to sell yourself short. If you’re the youngest person in the room you still have a lot to contribute and it’s a valuable point of view. Engage, show you’re eager, participate, help, show your leadership that you’re invested and engaged in the opportunity.