Melissa Obleada ’14 is our first spotlight in our new series PRIDE of Emerson!
Melissa Obleada is from the Class of 2014. They received their degree in Marketing Communication. This New Jerseyan works at HubSpot!
Their current position is User Researcher. Previously they worked as the Diversity & Inclusion Program Manager at HubSpot as well. They have seen the impact that their LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC programs had on their colleagues, even after changing roles.
Melissa is a proud graduate of Emerson College and had the privilege of giving the Lavender Commencement keynote address to LGBTQ+ members of the class of 2019. They have given various other speaking and writing experiences, from panels to essays to podcasts, and they made a spot here on our website, Careerbuzz.
Thank you to Melissa for helping us kick off our PRIDE of Emerson series!
The following text down is a transcript of the video above.
Hi, everyone. My name is Melissa Obleada. I’m from the class of 2014 and I graduated in December 2013. My pronouns are she/they. I studied marketing communication and I’m currently a user researcher at a company called HubSpot, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At Emerson, I was involved in a bunch of different organizations. If they had a marketing team, I was probably on it. But I’m most proud of participating in the Emerson Channel, being the editor in chief of Black Swan during my time at the Kasteel, and also being a zibling of Zeta Phi Eta.
What drew you to Emerson College?
I graduated high school in 2010 and honestly, I was looking for a school that was really queer-friendly I had a really big Princeton Review book of all the top schools in America or something like that, and I bookmarked so many of them, but I like double bookmark all the ones that were LGBT friendly. And I also knew that I wanted to be in a city. I also knew that I wanted to be in like a small to medium-sized school and Emerson checked all those boxes for me. I also love that the marketing program focused on marketing communication and not just marketing from the perspective of like a specialization in a business degree. I liked that we were thinking a lot about creative and not so much finance or ROI and things like that –which are important– but I think that those are things that you can learn on the job, and I really love that Emerson encouraged us to think about the creative, human side of marketing and advertising.
How was the transition process from working in a DEI role to UX Research?
I’m still very much in the middle of transitioning from working in diversity, equity and inclusion over to becoming a user researcher. But I think that at the core of both of these jobs is empathy. I also think that’s a big thing that came into play when I was studying marketing at Emerson. We have to understand people. We have to understand what they want, what they need, what they’re scared of, what motivates them, what deters them. So much of user research is learning through doing. Same thing with diversity and equity and inclusion. Same thing with marketing because concepts and theories are incredibly important. But the most important thing at the end of the day is getting that experience under your belt.
You are an advocate for diversity, equity, & inclusion, any advice you want to share with Emersonians about creating a space where they belong, inside and outside their organization?
A bit of advice I have for Emersonians, whether current students or alumni who are interested in creating more inclusive spaces, whether it’s personally or professionally or like extracurricular or whatever that means for you is to talk to people. You have great ideas but I don’t want you to only think about your definition of inclusion in a vacuum with just yourself. Find people who are like you, but also people who are different than you and ask them what they want, what they need, what’s working for them, what isn’t working for them. That’s my first piece of advice is to definitely just talk to people. And then my second piece of advice is that Google is your friend. There are many people like me and others who have done the work and are willing to talk to you. There are also organizations that have been doing this work for decades. One of my favorites is catalyst.org. They’re predominantly focused on gender inclusion in the workplace, but they have a lot of resources for how to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion at work that can also be applied to at school, at your volunteer job, all the places.
What has been your proudest/fulfilling professional highlight?
I think that my professional highlight in my decade-ish working after Emerson is probably starting my company’s LGBTQ Employee Resource Group and also co-founding our BIPOC Employee Resource Group. The work that I did, I feel, really laid the foundation for my company’s current diversity equity, and inclusion strategy, and it’s something that people often tell me once they start at HubSpot, like “I saw your work on the website and like this LGBTQ program or this BIPOC program, this women’s program is a big part of why I wanted to join this company,” and that makes me super proud because just like Emerson is a place to invest a couple of years of your life and you want to be really discerning about where you spend that time, the same thing goes for where you can work. So I really appreciate that the work that I’ve done in the diversity and equity space has positively impacted and influenced people’s decision to join us as colleagues
What advice will you give your younger self, personal & professionally?
Some professional advice I would give to my younger self is that it’s okay to not have an end goal. It’s okay to not have like that one job that you want to do because so many people at Emerson are hyper-focused on getting into this specific industry in this specific role. And I never felt that, and I always felt a little bit insecure about that. But I found that it’s okay! Like, I’ve grown so much in my career and it hasn’t been a linear journey. Like, I’m not necessarily climbing up the rungs of the ladder. It’s a bit more of a zig zag, but I’ve learned so much. I’ve met so many awesome people. I’ve gotten to impact the day to day of other people positively. I’ve gotten to reconnect with Emerson through the work that I’ve done, and I think that’s something that I really value. It’s not always a linear journey. Sometimes it’s a zig zag and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. And the personal advice I would give to myself is something very similar to what I said at the Lanvender commencement speech I gave a couple of years ago at Emerson. It’s that my queernes is what makes me special. Say that to yourself. My queerness is what makes me special. It gives us a unique perspective on life. I think that’s it. That’s all that can be said about that. Have a Happy Pride month. You are awesome. See you on the flippity flop. Don’t include that part. Don’t include that part. I’m so sorry.