Member Spotlight: Melissa Hwang - Lean in Canada

Melissa Hwang has been in the tech industry for several years and is currently working at Facebook Canada. Melissa has also developed a personal brand as an influencer through social media. You can find her on various social platforms through her handle @melhwang.


What Does ‘Leaning In’ Mean To You?

Leaning In means so much to me. I’m a huge Sheryl ‘fangirl’, but I’m an even more passionate ‘fangirl’ of the movement we’re all so lucky to be a part of. To me, leaning in is about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s about challenging yourself, supporting yourself, and my favourite, getting yourself to sit at the table.


What kind of self-improvement goals do you tend to set for yourself to keep you passionate about your work, and how do you set them?

Goals are so important. They are the roadmap to ever-changing careers and offer organization in what often feels like an overwhelming plethora of ways to live your life.

I set yearly goals for myself, alongside 5-year plans. At the beginning of the year, I set out what I want to accomplish that year (whether it’s a new role, a personal goal, or a spiritual goal). Quarterly, I live by plans, not so much goals. I’ll look at my yearly goals and decide what my action plans are to achieve them and make those my mission for the quarter.

Keep yourself accountable; but the best way, I’ve found, to stay passionate, isn’t about beating yourself down for not accomplishing something. It’s about accepting yourself as a dynamic being. Things will change in the year. You’ll go back and revise your goals you set out to accomplish. And that’s ok. Accepting that is key.


Have you ever set a goal or objective for yourself that, for whatever reason, you later decided was not the right fit for you? How did you come to that realization?

Frequently. Yet somehow, everything ends up working out.

My entire career in tech and advertising is the result of a missed goal – what I like to call ‘pivoting points’ in your life. That is, when you set a goal, realize it’s not the right fit, and need to pivot. For the first half of my life, I was deadset on becoming a lawyer. When I graduated and decided not to go to law school, I was mortified at the idea of no longer having a direction. I realized that I loved aspects of the legal profession, but I didn’t want to do legal work day in and day out.


It’s widely known that women can be a rarity in the tech industry. Have you had to overcome any gender-related obstacles?

I am so grateful to work at a company that embraces and addresses this issue with passion. This wasn’t always the case in my previous tech roles though. The ad tech industry is predominantly male skewed. I was once the only female in an office of 20 men. It wasn’t an active effort to make it so, but the culture became a male culture. Suddenly I found myself trying to learn about how my male colleagues talked about sports, women, and even at one point, how to chest bump, just so I would be “one of the boys”.

You realize that our rare distinction as females in the tech space is actually an asset not a threat. As females, we have different perspectives that can really benefit an organization and its projects. Embodying this philosophy and approaching my hard conversations with this in mind has helped me carve my own path in the tech industry as a woman.


Tell us about the best ‘mentorship moment’ so far in your career.

Mentors. Where would we be without them? I’ve had several throughout my career so far, and each one of them was incredibly helpful at that moment in my career. A wise woman once said that you don’t find mentors, they find you. I definitely believe that, but would add that you’ve got to make yourself “findable”.

My best mentorship moment so far in my career has definitely been by one of my peers I grew up with. We grew up together but his career has been a skyrocket. While I watched alongside, at times awe-struck at all he’s been able to accomplish, he turned to me and said, “Money-Mel, you can do this too. What can I do to help?” Since that moment, he’s been the catalyst for almost every role I’ve had to date.

So sometimes your best mentors find you because they see a spark in you. Your job is to ignite that spark and make sure that it burns bright for everyone to see.


Are there any interesting hobbies or quirky habits you’d like us to know about you?

I love connecting with people, as much as I love connecting people through technology. I’ve blogged as a hobby since I was 14. It’s something I don’t foresee myself stopping. Something about being able to reach and connect with so many people, on such a scale, gives you a sense of responsibility to others. It’s this sense of responsibility that I am so proud to carry with me, not only as a blogger, but within my career as well. This responsibility to each other is also what makes us human. Robots may not be so far away, but maintaining this humanistic responsibility for each other is critical for the future of our world.

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