Melanie Wallner didn’t let the first “no” discourage her. When she met her now-bosses at a New York University event, they said they weren’t hiring. But Melanie kept talking and by the end of the event, they agreed to meet her for an interview.
Now Melanie is the director of public relations for DateMySchool, a website founded to help college students meet other students from different departments within the same school or at other universities. Because it’s a startup, Melanie has the opportunity to try her hand at everything from press relationships and pitches to copywriting, customer service and more. And while she admits to being a “4 a.m.-Blackberry-checking-type-of-woman,” she’s able to make room for her playwriting passion.
How did you discover your current job?
My mom sent me The New York Times article on DateMySchool and said, “Melanie, this sounds interesting. Maybe you should try this to find a straight guy and get a job.”
What is your typical day like, and what types of things do you do in your job?
Working for a startup is equally exciting and nerve-wracking because there’s isn’t a typical day. While I manage our press relationships, pitch stories, conduct interviews, plan events and maintain internal documents, I also write our copy, lead campus market initiatives, hire ambassadors, analyze data, provide customer service to our users and always try to convince my friends, who are skeptical of online dating, to join DateMySchool. (I’m proud to say that they’ve all come around and even admitted that, yes, they’re addicted.)
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Working with a team and on a platform that I respect and love.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
Unanswered emails. I’m one of those work-obsessed gals who sleeps next to her Blackberry and responds to emails at 4 a.m.
What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?
I wouldn’t call it a sacrifice, but I’m gaining a different professional foundation than my fellow fresh-out-of-college-friends, who are working in training programs or as assistants.
Working for a startup requires dedicated self-motivation. While I feel incredibly supported by my team, ultimately, DateMySchool trusts me to take charge, go with my gut and kick ass on my turf.
What is one lesson you’ve learned in your job that sticks with you?
Patience. I’m an Aries – and such an Aries – so it’s often challenging to embrace this lesson, but thinking deeply and strategizing before jumping the gun on opportunities has helped me both professionally and personally.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
Rachel Sklar says, “Investors tend to fund guys,” which may be why we’re more aware of the men founding tech startups than the women. But seriously, ladies, don’t let that stop you. If you have a startup that you’re super energized about, go for it and Change The Ratio.
Who are your role models?
Rachel Sklar, duh. She was my first boss ever! I interned for her when I wrote for The Huffington Post in high school and she’s a rockstar: not only an amazing writer with a laugh-out-loud sense of humor, but an outstanding role model for women.
And, of course, my mom. If I could be half as insightful, street-smart and emotionally generous as she is, I’d be content.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Honesty is the best policy. Be an independent thinker. And always listen to the other side of a story.
What advice do you have for women who want to be in your industry?
Be persistent and don’t let “no” discourage you. The first time I met my co-founders at an NYU event, they told me they weren’t hiring. By the end of the event, they agreed to meet me for an interview at Columbia.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Still working for DateMySchool, I hope! If not, then it’d be my dream to have a play produced at The Second Stage Theater.
What are three things you love aside from your job?
Writing plays. I’ve been produced in festivals off Broadway and am working on my first full length play, “Profiles,” about two Columbia and NYU grads who meet through this awesome, new online dating site for students (cough, cough).
Saying things like, “Me llamo Melanie” in an Argentine accent. (I tend to use DateMySchool’s filtering functions to search for Latin American/Spanish guys who can help me practice their language offline.)
In college, I studied “The Power of Sexuality from Motown to the Millennium,” so I’m always fascinated in reading about old and new sexual theories.