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Meet Dr. Melissa Steach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Melissa Steach.

Dr. Steach, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Our community was not included in the decision that would change not only what our homes looked like, it changed where in the neighborhood we lived. This change pulled elders from their long-loved gardens, children from their friends and working parents from their trusted support system. Sure, the neighborhood was ‘improved’ – new playgrounds were erected, trees planted and grass laid – but we had no say in it. As you might imagine, this caused us to feel disconnected from the place in which we lived. As a result, we didn’t take very good care of our redesigned surroundings. And why should we? We had no stake in it! Of course, I didn’t know it then, but this experience planted in me a curiosity about what makes ‘community’ and how the spaces we inhabit shape that community. Done well, our surroundings can imbue us with a sense of pride, purpose, self-esteem and self-efficacy. This applies to where we live, commune, worship and work.

My friends once challenged me to list how many paying jobs I’ve had; I lost count at around 64… Only recently did it dawn on me that I’ve been doing the fieldwork to become the Industrial-Organizational Psychologist I am today. Yes, I have my doctorate now and that’s awesome. But what’s really great, and what I believe really matters, is that I’ve had tons of experience doing many different types of work. Knowledge alone is only information. But knowledge applied is truly powerful.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
In our last interview, I shared how I would typically ‘blow up’ my life, and I’m happy to report that I’ve grown past that behavior. But going to school full-time for seven years (two for my MA and five for my Ph.D.) was a beast! I worked full-time, started an amazing relationship, struggled with infertility, competed for a promotion and moved to a new home! There were days when I’d leave my doctor’s office, sit in my car and cry, then touch up my makeup so I could present a webinar twenty minutes later. I’d then remember that I had to run the statistics for my latest numbers so that I could submit an updated dissertation draft to my committee. It was insane! Hell, I was insane! The greatest lesson I learned was that the only thing I could control was my mindset. Life happens and the best you can do is be good to yourself: Know your limits, accept help and acknowledge when you simply need a nap. I chuckle now thinking of the beating my ego took – and I’m so grateful to have learned some humility – but damn!

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m known for my focus on the role of implicit cognition (i.e., unconscious preference) plays in overall workplace well-being. I combine art with research as a way to explore personal/organizational culture and behaviors so that we can better understand how our environments can engage, empower, even shape how we treat ourselves and each other. This work provides the foundation for my work with communities and organizations with whom I co-create more diverse, inclusive, creative and holistically well cultures.

My ‘giveback’ is the free consulting work I do with people who are interested in making a career pivot, or who want help identifying their unique career path. I’m proud to say that this service has supported many of them in forging a new way for themselves.

What sets me apart is that I walk the talk: I have 20,000+ hours of formal education, art, and business experience. I’m an award-winning artist, best-selling author, certified ergonomist, academic, entrepreneur and employee. I’ve bar-backed and I’ve run point on large corporate projects. I try to live my life as a ‘yes, and’ rather than a ‘no, but’. I’m admittedly not always good at it – but I always keep trying.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I’m half-way through my second book, “The Intangible Environment: The Unseen Elements of Workplace Well-being” and am slowly building an online course to accompany it. My website is in need of a reboot, and that’s in the works too. But thankfully, I’ve had the good sense to hire someone for that!

The biggest change for me is a shift in mindset about what ‘work’ looks like. With so many people struggling for stability and work today, I’ve developed a keen sense of gratitude for working with integrity. For the first time, my ego isn’t tied to whether or not I work for someone else or have my own company. Instead, I ask myself if the work I’m doing is doing good: for me and for others. Change is constant so I’ve learned to not fabricate it but let it flow. I’ve chosen to let my purpose point the way and use my work to get me there.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Lin Marty, Khachik Simonian

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