Capitol Communicator is running a series featuring in-depth profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “Up Close and Personal” profile, we feature Melissa Foldvary. Photography for Capitol Communicator’s profile series is by Cade Martin. Wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup was by Patti D Nelson and Janice Kinigopoulos for THE Artist Agency.
Melissa, please provide us a short bio.
After stints in Charleston, Boston and Hungary, I settled down close to my hometown of Falls Church, VA, and currently live in Washington, D.C. I received a B.A. in Sociology from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Emerson College in Global Marketing Communications. I was lucky enough to gain experience in a wide spectrum of roles before landing at SHRM as the Manager of Marketing Communications. All with a marketing flavor, my career has offered me opportunities to expand my palette into digital marketing, branding and persona-based copywriting. When I’m not sharing the SHRM story to the HR universe I can be found at a cycling or barre class, wining and cheap dining with friends or ruminating over my next travel adventure.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
Not formally, but I make it a point to maintain a diverse professional network of friends and stay in touch with former colleagues on a regular basis. Being from the area, I’m lucky to have a pretty big contingent of people that have never moved away because of the job opportunities available in the D.C. area.
Also, I was a recruiter for a few years at the beginning of my career. As a result, my extended networks regularly approach me for help with their job searches – and I’m happy to give my input. From reframing their professional value proposition to refreshing their resume or providing talking points for salary negotiations, I love helping people in this way.
I also teach barre – no, not that bar – which is a blend of ballet, yoga and Pilates, to adults of all ages for Arlington County. Teaching an exercise class is a great way to force yourself to workout at least once a week.
What are the things you are most proud of?
There are three things that I’m most proud of. First, the fact that I quit my job smack in the middle of the recession to go back to school full time to get my Master’s. I knew that it was the right time for a marketer to focus on the dramatic shift to digital advertising happening in the profession. The timing was risky but I knew that if I didn’t do it then, that I never would. It was the best decision I ever made.
Second, I transferred from one Virginia university to another after my sophomore year and did a year-long independent study abroad in Szeged, Hungary. I made close friends from around the world and we still keep in touch today. Knowing that I could call someone in Finland, Belgium or Brazil if ever stuck during a layover is a pretty cool feeling.
Finally, I’ll never forget my emotional roller coaster while watching the first national broadcast of a commercial that I did the casting for. Celebrating career wins is something we never do enough of. I make it a point to pause for even a short break when success comes my way, and I mentor my team to do the same.
Who were your personal role models?
My former boss Ingeborg Bock took a genuine interest in all her staff and had a special way of helping us grow our strengths and teaching us efficient ways of working through processes that exist within associations. Eight years after leaving that job, we still get together regularly and I’m still close with other former team members.
More generally, I’m in awe of people that march to the beat of their own drum and succeed by following a non-traditional path. Entrepreneurs, artists and people who make 180-degree career pivots are a few that I’ve come across in my career journey and personal life. There’s nothing more inspiring than watching a person outsmart the system and figure out how to do what they love every day.
Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
A close entrepreneur friend once told me that I could do whatever I wanted. I know, totally cliché, but it stuck because he meant it. It’s the kind of non-conventional confidence that doesn’t always mesh inside the beltway and that’s why I like it.
Getting one’s creative juices flowing is something that almost everyone has struggled with, especially in the marketing profession. I try to harness any “no you can’t do that” responses to different and big ideas and use it to spark creativity.
What professional advice do you have for others?
Here are a few pieces of advice that have helped me evolve throughout my career:
- Believe in yourself
- Read everything
- Listen more than you opine
- Network, seek out and stay open to different perspectives, creative or otherwise
- Stay on top of industry trends and skills needed in the future and hire smart staff to apply them
What advice do you have on what’s appropriate attire for SHRM?
SHRM is a business casual organization which means we dress up for meetings and events but dress more comfortably and casually on a day to day basis. I like to blend cute and comfortable, with a little edge and zestiness as much as possible.
What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?
Music with a beat is my lifeblood. The Clash, Paul Simon, Rolling Stones, VHS Collection, Young the Giant, Mika, Martin Garrix, Katy Perry, White Buffalo. Oh, and ALL 90’s music ever created.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
St. Arnolds Mussel Bar.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
Two things: First, Angela Bower’s character from Who’s the Boss made me fall in love with advertising; and, second, as a former gymnast, I can’t go more than a week without being upside down. No, seriously.