An Interview with Executive Assistant Melanie Howard
Today's bitch came into my life via a weekly running group where we met on Friday mornings, ran three miles, and then ate breakfast together. This was probably six or seven years ago. Melanie and I became fast friends and started running together two-three times a week. I can't think of a race during that time that I didn't run with Melanie, sometimes in matching turkey hats and/or Santa outfits.
Melanie has a soft, sensitive, huge heart, which I love about her. She took on the task of trying to teach me how to make cocktails, which turned out to be futile, but was a master class in patience and dedication. That's who Melanie is. She's a born problem-solver, and I've missed that since she moved away. Meet today's bitch, Melanie Howard!
What is your job title and where do you work?
I’m Executive Assistant to the CEO, to the COO and to the VP of Finance at the Dumb Friends League in Denver, CO. The Dumb Friends League was founded in 1910, and named after a London, England, animal welfare group called “Our Dumb Friends League.” In those days, the term “dumb” was widely used to refer to animals because they lacked the power of human speech. Today, the Dumb Friends League is the largest community-based animal welfare organization in the Rocky Mountain region—providing a strong, compassionate and steadfast voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.
When did you first learn about this field of work?
So I guess everyone knows what a secretary does, or believes they know based on shows such as Mad Men. I learned what a present day Executive Assistant does from my close friend and predecessor at the YMCA of Middle Tennessee.
How did you know it was what you wanted to do?
I definitely didn’t set out to be an Executive Assistant. While at the Y, I was asked to be the EA to the CEO when his current EA left to open her own business. Once in the role, I realized I was good at it.
What was your path that lead you to the job you have now?
The short version is that after 15 years at the YMCA, I decided to move on. I became an Executive Assistant at a software company in Franklin, TN, which was a great job, but not a great fit. When Troy, my partner, was offered a position in Denver, we moved, and I started looking for a new job.
Luck opened the door at the Dumb Friends League to allow me to do a job that I’m very good at in an environment I believe in. My passion is rescuing animals and helping find them find homes. While I don’t work directly with the animals we serve, I am able to support those that do. In fiscal year 2016 alone, 19,218 pets and 108 equines were adopted, reunited or transferred.
Plus, being able to pet puppies and kittens on break isn’t so bad and is a great stress reliever.
Favorite piece of advice, business or otherwise?
I’m not great at advice, but I love quotes. A favorite from Marina Keegan is:
What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.
Also, don’t discount the EA. They are your gateway to the CEO and they know everything that’s going on in a given organization/situation.
Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work?
Oh my. There are too many to count. I tend to be a perfectionist, so what I see as failure may or may not truly be. At the most fundamental idea of a failure, what matters is what we do with it and how we recover. I’m still moving forward, so I’d say that’s a success.
Another quote is, “Success is not built on success. It's built on failure. It's built on frustration. Sometimes it’s built on catastrophe.” -Sumner Redstone
What would you do with 2 more hours a day?
I’d love to say work out more, but time isn’t my issue, motivation is...
What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your professional life?
I think having the trust of those around me is something I’m most proud of.
What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning?
Personal email or Instagram. I love seeing friends’ lives in photo format.
How do you decompress at the end of the work day?
Run, pet my dogs and/or watch TV.
What’s the hardest thing about your job that isn’t obvious?
I work with lots of personalities and navigating all of them on any given day can be a challenge. I guess that’s true for any position.
What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?
I’m not a gofer.
Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?
I’m a bit of a TV junkie. I hate to admit that, but it’s true. Favorites include pretty much anything out of BBC, Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries, OITNB, Grand Tour, Transparent and Fixer Upper. As for snacks, my current guilty pleasure is Cinnamon Bun Oreos.
All photos courtesy of Melanie Howard