Melissa James ‘10 maps out pathways to career success in recently published book
Melissa James ’10, president and CEO of The Tech Connection and member of the SBS Dean’s Advisory Board, has published her first book. Titled ‘When Are You Going to Get a Real Career: A Guide to Designing a Career You Would Be Proud Of!’, the book is described as “a solid road map for the millennial starting out in their career and for the experienced executive re-crafting their next move”.
As the daughter of two West-Indian immigrants and the first in her family to go to college, Melissa James was keenly aware of the importance of having a “real” job. For her family, this meant becoming a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or nurse. None of these appealed to James, so she forged her own pathway to success.
James graduated from UMass with a bachelor’s in journalism and a minor in legal studies. Her career path since then has been exciting and, many would say, unexpected. After graduation, she worked as a legal assistant, but quickly moved into the tech industry. James landed a job as a technical recruiter at Google and realized early on in her career that tech companies severely lacked diversity. She sought to change that by forming her own recruitment company, The Tech Connection, to help diversify the field. In a few short years, she went from potential journalist to tech entrepreneur.
This atypical career path struck a chord with others struggling to find their calling. People went to James requesting coaching sessions to help them find their passion, update their resumes, prepare for interviews, and get advice from someone who had managed to pave her own way. “From those conversations, I learned that people really felt anxious about their careers,” says James. “I think we all ask ourselves at some point "do I have a real career?" but we never really dive into finding the answer. So, I wanted to create a book that would help dig in and develop a career that they would be proud of.”
‘When Are You Going to Get a Real Career’ also includes shared stories and experiences from a number of people who took a windy road. It illustrates how we all have different starting points, and that’s ok. “It's not about how you start, it’s about the consistent behaviors that help us to uncover the truth about who we are as individuals and the contribution that we make to the community,” says James. “You don't have to know all the answers at first. But, using what you do know about yourself as guide to answering some of life's most profound questions can help you get closer to your vision for yourself.”
James sees herself authoring more books in the future. “The readers have already given me so many amazing ideas that I never thought of. I love reading the emails that come in,” she gushes. “People are so creative I love it!” People have inspired her to think about authoring books on how to get “real” goals, How to become a “real” manager, how to run a “real” start up, and more.
James’ work is also driven by her passion for community service. In addition to leading The Tech Connection, she is the founder of the Black Tech Boston Meetup, a platform created to celebrate the impact of technology within African American communities. She has also served on the board for the Youth Institute of Science and Technology and the Young Black Women’s Society. In February of 2017, she won the UMass Amherst Distinguished Alumni Award for her impact and community service.
Perhaps a layover of her days studying journalism, James is effusive about wanting to learn more from people. She encourages readers to reach out to her. “I want to hear your goals,” she tells us. “I get inspired by hearing from people who have changed their habits and committed to becoming the best version of themselves. You are smart, you are capable, and once you start believing that, the whole world works with you to take you to new heights.”
-- by Ebru Kardan, Director of External Affairs and Communications