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Meet Trailblazer Melanie Chandruang

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melanie Chandruang.

Melanie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Oh man! How far back do I go?! I guess I’ll start by saying that I never had a strong direction of where I wanted my career to go. I got my B.S. in Family and Child sciences and then like so many others, I changed course once I got into the working world.

When I first came to San Diego 11 years ago, there was a fork in the road for my career when I had to decide between two job offers. One path was working at Rady Children’s Hospital Ophthalmology department, and the other was as an administrative assistant at a software startup. The doctor that interviewed me at Rady’s was straightforward and said there wouldn’t be much opportunity for career growth. This was the complete opposite of the startup that said there would be tons of opportunity for growth and even though I was starting as an admin assistant if I worked hard, I could grow in any direction within the company. I took the software startup job.

I ended up thriving in operations, which consisted of the finances, human resources, business administration, and management of employees/culture. I was also able to learn about the agency model since the sister company was a software development firm, and they shared operations people.

Fast forward a few years later; I was an Operations Manager working for a 40 person web design agency. This gave me the ability to further hone my craft in operations, and it’s when I truly fell in love with my career. I loved being able to have tons of information and variables thrown at me, and I would then prioritize and manage projects that tackled the highest impact initiatives.

In the fall of 2017, the design agency was acquired, and again I found myself at a fork in the road. The President of the design agency, who’s also a friend, planted the seed that maybe I should go off on my own and start my own operations consultancy. It was an idea I had toyed with before, but that conversation gave me the boost of confidence I needed to move forward.

I took his advice and have been partnering with various tech startups and agencies, helping them with their operations via WeConsult.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
No, it hasn’t been a smooth road at all, but all the rough patches have taught me so much, and it’s made me better at my craft. Companies work with me because of those experiences. I can navigate my way through challenges versus throwing my hands up in the air and running from the problem.

Many of my struggles I’ve experienced are around mismanagement of people and the impact it has on culture. That’s why I’m so passionate about creating a culture where people and the company thrive. One that promotes each team member’s growth, both personally and professionally. This also creates countless positive impacts for the company, including their bottom line, so it’s a win-win for everyone. I’ve come to realize that company culture isn’t what kind of beer is on tap, it’s how the team members interact with each other, especially when the going gets tough.

Earlier in my career, I also experienced the loss of a parent when I was completely obsessed and stressed out with work. It took that life event plus a year afterward to realize that work is not what makes me, me. I’ve now incorporated way more balance into my life, and it’s made me so much happier. My advice to others is to work hard in pursuing your career but work equally hard at having fun and creating meaningful relationships.

We’d love to hear more about WeConsult.
I partner with startups and agencies and act as a fractional Operations Manager for their companies. Operations can encompass so many different responsibilities, so I can end up working on many different initiatives/sectors of the business. My sweet spot is still around setting up infrastructure around the financials, recruiting/people management, establishing and documenting process, and making sure the company and employees are set up to do their best work. For early startups, maybe it’s making sure they’re completely legitimized to run as a business and for those further along it’s creating efficiencies wherever will have the most impact.

The common denominator of the companies I work with is that the founders did not set out to run a company, they just wanted to work on cool projects and use their craft to its fullest extent. They’re usually extremely gifted in a technical skill and have awesome ideas for projects, but their first passion isn’t actually establishing and running a company. That’s where I come in. I make sure things are running smoothly and are set up in order to scale. This allows the founders to better utilize their time.

I believe one of my special skills is that I can blend into existing work environments and can integrate with existing teams with ease. This allows me to help leadership see their blind spots by surfacing issues that employees might not be comfortable addressing on their own. I then help create an action plan that takes into account the employee as well as the company. The added bonus is I don’t take off after the action plan has been created and leave a mountain of work. I stick around to implement the most impactful initiatives and make sure things are running smoothly.

What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a young woman just starting her career?My advice for women just starting their journey is to start doing things you enjoy. Don’t worry about the title or the salary (although hopefully, the salary is enough to sustain yourself). If you work hard and are passionate about what you do, those things will eventually be in your control, and you can start to write your own career story.

Also, don’t let fear limit your growth in the workplace, embrace the fear and push forward! Don’t be afraid that you aren’t the smartest person in the room because that’s not what it’s about. Don’t be afraid to speak up just because it might be hard news to deliver or you think the person can’t handle the feedback/insight. My greatest career moments are when I’ve been able to push past fear and have open and honest conversations with people. It’s not a position that many people want to put themselves in but I consider it my superpower, and it’s become my true calling.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Claude Piche

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