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Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

This Executive Assistant Wanted a New Career in Marketing—Here’s How She Made It Happen

Melissa Gillum, a growth marketing specialist at Hero.
Melissa Gillum, a growth marketing specialist at Hero.
| Courtesy of Melissa Gillum

When Melissa Gillum interviewed for an administrative role at the health startup Hero, she was honest about her career goals: to work in marketing. Within a year of joining, the company helped her achieve it.

“Everyone in senior leadership was supportive, including our CEO, who regularly reminded his team to help look for opportunities for me to make a career transition,” says Gillum, who is now a growth marketing specialist at the healthcare startup. “I had some previous marketing experience, so this made a lot of sense and was an incredibly exciting opportunity.”

Here, Gillum talks about why her quality of life has improved since she joined Hero, her advice to anyone who wants to make a career change, and what music is in her workday playlist.

What led to your first job at Hero? How did you know the company would be a good fit?

Before I joined Hero, I worked in various types of administration for many years. My most recent experience was working as an executive assistant for McKinsey & Company.

When deciding whether to join Hero, I looked at different factors, such as work environment and caliber of the colleagues. My initial interactions with members of the leadership team at Hero were consistently positive and informative, and I believed I would have the proper support to do my job.

What do you like most about working in marketing, and what are you responsible for as a growth marketing specialist?

Marketing is a combination of creative work, data-driven insights, and strategy. I am someone who needs challenge and stimulation, and I definitely have found this within growth marketing.

In my role, I manage paid media. More specifically, I manage our paid advertising strategy and spend within Meta/Facebook. Moving forward, I am excited to be branching out into some additional channels beyond Facebook and developing new winning strategies within those additional channels.

What makes Hero an exciting place to work?

My colleagues are what make Hero the company that it is. This team thrives and collaborates exceptionally well in a fully remote environment. We trust each other, we find reasons to laugh together, and we get things done.

How did your administrative experience prepare you to work in marketing?

Office management and executive assistance require a high level of responsiveness and an ability to quickly shift priorities and work streams based on the needs of the moment. Marketing requires that same speed and agility to stay ahead of the trends and control the costs.

How do you practice work-life balance? Are there any related benefits or perks that you take advantage of at Hero?

Hero is a remote-first company so I can work when, where, and how is best for me. This flexibility creates opportunities for greater work-life balance, and I have seen significant improvement in my quality of life since becoming a fully remote employee.

For example, before the pandemic, I hadn’t actively exercised in years. Since joining Hero and gaining more control over my day, I visit the gym three to four times per week.

What advice do you have for others who are thinking about pivoting their careers the way you did?

If you want opportunities, you must ask for them. Be consistent, be honest, be a high performer, and regularly advocate for yourself. The other thing to remember—and this was the hard part for me—is that you are moving from an area of high competence to an area where you will have a huge learning curve. Be prepared to come into your new role with curiosity and remember that you will eventually gain competence over time just by staying engaged and doing the work.

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

I just finished the first season of HBO’s House of the Dragon, and now I’m reading the book it’s based on—Fire & Blood by George R.R. Martin—as well as Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown.

I'm a fan of electronic music, and the vast majority of my workday productivity playlists come from the81project on Soundcloud.