There is no one career path.

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Melissa Waters, Upwork’s Chief Marketing Officer, oversees all aspects of marketing and communications for the global work market. Her award-winning career helped many innovators realize their goals.

How did it all start?

My career has been centered around customer empathy. This is true whether I’m in nonprofit management, consumer packaged goods marketing, or tech marketing. The way I got started was by being tapped on the shoulder to get roles and then getting promoted into the positions I want. From that experience and the lessons I have learned along my journey, my advice is that there is no one way. You might think that a circuitous career path is bad for you. Instead, think about how each chapter in your career can teach and give you new insights that can be used for future chapters.

Top tip to a STEM career

For those who are interested in a career in tech, my advice is to not forget that technology roles do not have to be traditional STEM roles. There is an opportunity for the tech industry, to ensure that more women, people of color, and non-binary individuals identify with STEM roles. While we encourage people to pursue technical careers, it is not necessary for everyone to see themselves in high-tech roles. However, those who see themselves contributing to the tech industry as a whole, even if they don’t want to become highly technical, should remember that there are many other roles within the tech sector.

They are often lumped together in STEM, but it is important to remember that there are also marketers, designers, writers, comms leaders, and business analysts. There are many roles within it. My hope is that people can see themselves in the sector, and that they can see ways they can contribute to the sector. Technology needs all of our talent.

Your best advice for your career as a STEM professional

I will never forget the moment I was placed in a difficult situation and given the opportunity to assume a larger and more challenging role than I had ever imagined. And I called my mentor and boss, and I said that I was at the moment and not sure if it was possible. I have to sign up for this huge thing. And he said to him, “I know enough about you to know that your trying to figure how to be perfect at this moment.” He replied, “This isn’t a moment to be perfect, but it is one that requires bravery.” I used that advice to help me reframe the situation. It has been a constant reminder.

Finding culture and community from employers in {STEM}

My belief is that if my boss and my colleagues are helping me to thrive, I will be able to take up space and do my best. This is a good filter. It’s also a good way to look at it. Do I feel safe here? Do I feel at home? Do I feel like I can do the best I can?

It’s a great way to check if I’m being honest with myself and if the environment I’m in is right for me. Young people need to remember that you are in your early years looking for work. It’s not only what you do, but also how you interact with others.

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