Meet Our Alumni
Cathy Melnikow, SB '2010
So what have you been up to since graduating from MIT?
I've had quite the adventure since graduation, working at 4 very different companies with company sizes of 200,000 (Philips Healthcare), 2,000 (HubSpot), 200 (F.biz) and 20 people (Airfox). I lived abroad in Brazil for 2 years, and Boston the rest of the time, excluding taking 2 fabulous breaks from work between these jobs. My roles started with a focus in project management, then shifted to marketing analytics, consulting and now am a founding member of the growing marketing team at a startup.
What has been the most exciting/challenging part of working at Airfox?
I now know what exactly it means to "wear many hats" at a startup, and I think that's both one of the most exciting (and frustrating) parts of working at Airfox. When a company is brand new, nothing has been done or thought of before; from cleaning the office, to PTO, approval processes, or product testing, it is all being done for the first time; so you have a great opportunity to figure out good processes and tools for making these happen in the best way possible. I have gotten the opportunity to work with business development, creating product plans, partaking in various financial and legal work, while also meeting directly with our customers and senior management of our partners.
How do you keep a healthy work-life balance? Is there such a thing?
My best methods for doing this are: biking to work (60 minutes of gentle exercise every day), making plans and keeping them (whether its volleyball practice, PT appointments, or my bi-weekly lunches that I schedule with friends), going on vacation, and really turning off the work. I think it's important to keep in mind that your company will survive if/when you leave.
Was there a class, person, or a particular experience that may have helped prepare you for the work you're engaged in? The most influential people I’ve had with regards to my career are: 1) The director at my first job - I showed interest in something outside of my job function, and he allowed me to do more of it, get some real responsibility, learn and grow. He also reminded me that it’s important to “get some life” — that work isn’t everything, 2) Roberto Grosman, a Sloan alum that I found on the MIT Alumni Association's Infinite Connection. He offered me a job (and visa) at his company in Brazil, without knowing the native language or having any direct work experience. He gave me a chance, and it changed so much of my life today, and 3) Phatty Arbuckle - a Sloan grad that I met through MIT volleyball team, who is now a friend and mentor. Together we’ve entered into the startup world, and it’s been such a calming opportunity to have monthly check-ins with somebody I trust, to talk about the ups and downs of the job, best practices, and to remind each other to take breaks.
What was the "coolest" thing you got to do as a student at MIT? Choose your favorite! The UA events committee was pretty cool: I recruited people to do security for the big show, so 15 friends and I got spacious front-row seats to the concert and then hung out with the band backstage the rest of the night. I was also chair of a student club; we were given $15,000+ to create and organize an event to raise awareness surrounding various aspects of athletics at MIT. Lastly, through participating in MISTI Italy I got to live in Italy for IAP with a friend of mine while teaching high schoolers math and learning about Italian culture.
Reflecting back on your time as a student and/or entering the field, did you have any internships? How would you recommend that interns or new hires stand out at your company?
Be reliable. Ask questions.
Do what you say you’re going to do. It doesn’t matter how much you know, the moment that managers second guess that you’ll do what you said you’d do, they may not want to spend their time teaching or supporting you.
If you were to give a piece of advice to Course 15 students, what would it be?
Don't be afraid to fail at something -- it's usually you that judges yourself the hardest. I remember when I was moving to Brazil, a great friend of mine in Boston summed it up quite well when he said, "Well, if you don't like it, just move back! We'd love to have you back here."