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Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Raise Your Hand at Work

Melanie Kuchinski Rodriguez, as associate at BlackRock
Melanie Kuchinski Rodriguez, as associate at BlackRock.
| Courtesy of BlackRock

Before her career in finance began, Melanie Kuchinski Rodriguez started out in creative fields, first working at a theater in downtown Manhattan and then at a small graphic design studio. It wasn’t until she was hired at BlackRock that she truly felt she had found a company where she could thrive—and she’s done just that for more than 16 years.

“They took a chance and hired someone who had never worked in finance before,” says Kuchinski Rodriguez, who began her tenure as an administrative assistant on what was then called the wealth management team.

After her manager left the firm, “my perspective shifted as the structure of the team changed with his departure,” she says. “I could see new possibilities and opportunities for myself. My new manager created an expanded role for me that allowed me to lean into the skills I had developed over the years.”

Today, Kuchinski Rodriguez is an associate who works on business strategy, event management, and budgeting within the Family Office, Healthcare, Foundations and Endowments team.

Here, she talks about BlackRock’s culture of collaboration, the most challenging part of her job, and how raising her hand has impacted her career.

You’ve been at BlackRock for more than 16 years. How did you know the company would be a good fit initially, and what has kept you there?

It really comes down to the people at BlackRock and the culture the firm promotes. We have five guiding principles that really do make a difference. One of those principles is “We are One BlackRock,” which encapsulates why I felt connected to my colleagues and the firm as a whole from the start.

The culture of collaboration is strong, and I always felt like my contributions mattered and that I have value. As an administrative professional, you can sometimes feel like you’re at the bottom of the food chain, but my team never made me feel that way. The firm has done an excellent job in hiring people who continue to promote this culture of collaboration and inclusivity.

You worked as a project manager before joining BlackRock. How does this experience help you succeed in your current role?

I have been able to use the skills I developed as a project manager in everything from budgeting to prioritizing tasks to plotting out a project, be it a client event or funding campaign. Multitasking has always been a strong skill of mine, and I juggle many projects and deadlines successfully.

What is the most fulfilling part of your job? And the most challenging?

In my current role, it is extremely fulfilling to conceptualize an event, execute it well, and have a positive outcome, which hopefully leads to commercial opportunities.

The most challenging aspect is the learning curve. As an administrative professional, I didn’t pay close attention to the markets and our clients’ financial goals, but now I need to understand the driving factors behind the choices our clients make so I can help my team succeed.

How has BlackRock championed and encouraged your growth at the company?

My managers have always been very supportive of me raising my hand to take on new challenges. BlackRock also has a wonderful educational platform called BlackRock Academies, where you can learn about a host of topics from high-level market content to improving your presentation skills. Since I don’t have a strong background in finance, the courses have been so helpful in broadening my industry knowledge.

Tell us about your work with the employee-led network Families & Allies at BlackRock (FAB). What inspired you to get involved?

FAB was an offshoot of another employee network called the Women’s Initiative & Allies Network (WIN). It was just getting off the ground when I returned from my second maternity leave and I found their programming and support so helpful, I raised my hand to join one of their committees and basically never left!

I’m now the global chair of the network and I have seen first-hand the positive impact it has on my colleagues as they balance their work and family obligations. We run family engagement activities, educational events, small networking opportunities, and 1:1 mentorships. I love making a difference with my colleagues on a personal level.

As the co-chair of BlackRock Gives New York, you’re also involved in philanthropy and have even won a volunteer award. What role does philanthropy play in the company culture?

Philanthropy is firmly embedded in the firm’s culture. BlackRock has a saying, “You can do good while doing well,” which essentially means that we can be successful, but we need to give back to our communities.

I’ve been a part of our employee network BlackRock Gives since its inception. It all started with raising my hand to help organize a blood drive. (Are you sensing a theme with me raising my hand?) Getting involved with BlackRock Gives has allowed me to organize numerous volunteering and fundraising opportunities and led me to win “The Heart of BlackRock” award in 2018. My department’s “Giving Back” award was even named after me for a time.

We recently wrapped up a global campaign called BlackRock Gives Back, where each office location came together to volunteer throughout the months of June and July to hit a goal of 20,000 volunteer hours. This year we had more than 3,000 employees participate, and July set the record for the greatest number of monthly volunteer hours in BlackRock history!

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I’ve received was along the lines of, “You earned a seat at this table, and you deserve to be here.” This was especially meaningful to me as an administrative professional. It reinforced the idea that just because I’m not a managing director, it doesn’t make my voice any less powerful. I have a place at the firm, and I should not shy away from making an impact.

What are you currently reading, watching, and/or listening to?

I am woefully behind the times and don’t listen to podcasts, but I am finally watching the third season of Ted Lasso. I started watching the show during the pandemic and it was the salve I needed during that crazy time. The most recent book I read was for my department’s book club, called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. A fascinating read!