July 19, 2013

Melissa Harris

Melissa Harris

Age: 32

Title: Director of Strategy + Communications

Company: CO:LAB

Town where you work: Hartford

Town where you live: Newington

College: Providence College,
BA in English + Philosophy

What I do for fun: My kids are 1 and 3, so fun
consists of outdoor adventures, finger paints and a
little TV before crashing.

Friends/Family that influence me: I'm blessed with an amazing (and large) family. Each person has a unique quality that I admire and learn from.

My Charity/Cause: My husband Jamie and I have a special place in our hearts for organizations that serve people with developmental disabilities.

My Passion, Hobby or Special Talent: My passions are family and making the world a little better. My talents are empathy and connecting ideas and people.

'I want to make a positive difference in the lives of those I love, through my work, and in my community.'

What do you do?

CO:LAB partners exclusively with businesses, organizations and initiatives that have social value. I help our clients rediscover, position, develop and articulate their brand. I'm helping CO:LAB also navigate its own transition from a traditional design studio into a new, still-being-defined business model. At the end of the day, I'm trying to align our company with partners that are willing to think differently, push boundaries and truly collaborate.

Please describe your career path.

I began my career in alumni relations, which sparked my interest in building community through communications. I wanted to learn how to combine written and visual meaning, so I went back to school and studied print design at RISD|CE. At the same time, I started working at an autism agency as their first-ever hire for public relations and marketing. My time with Connecticut Association of Nonprofits taught me an incredible amount about the nonprofit sector, its challenges and tremendous potential. Working at CO:LAB allows me to affect change across many organizations alongside a brilliantly talented team that shares commitment to meaning and the greater good.

What's been your biggest challenge professionally?

Patience. I can instantly see the value in an idea, how to articulate it and opportunities to make the systems that support it better – but producing something of value or creating meaningful, sustainable change does not happen in a vacuum. It involves people and a process that requires time, patience, collaboration, adjustments and more patience.

Where do you want to be in 10 years?

Life unfolds in unpredictable ways. I trust that I'll be where I'm meant to be, especially if I know what I want out of life. I want to make a positive difference in the lives of those I love, through my work, and in my community.

What is the best advice you received?

Whenever I was faced with a decision, big or small, my parents would ask, "Well, what's more important?" Keeping things in perspective and staying true to what's most important has served me well personally and professionally.

How are you involved in your community?

I feel very fortunate that my work allows me to be involved in advancing communities every day. Once my kids are a little older, I look forward to getting involved on boards again too. I miss it. I also anticipate a lot of family volunteering. Civic-mindedness and servant leadership are very important to Jamie and me, and we want to actively instill those values in Livia and Ethan.

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