September 16, 2014 - Comments Off on Q&A: Rokkan’s Melyssa Brown on Working at an Ad Agency, Caring for Her Baby Corgi, and Fitting Her Figure

Q&A: Rokkan’s Melyssa Brown on Working at an Ad Agency, Caring for Her Baby Corgi, and Fitting Her Figure

Melyssa-Lead1Melyssa wearing our Edie Romper in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn

Meet Melyssa Brown from Rokkan

Melyssa spends her days working as a marketing and communications manager at an ad agency called Rokkan, which is located in Soho. At night, she takes on freelance consulting and writing gigs. Melyssa handles the social channels for the organization, while also jumping in on creative projects and strategies for the brand—something she absolutely loves about her job. (Fun fact: She actually made her way to the communications world via neuroscience—more on that later.)

We got the chance to shoot Melyssa in the Edie Romper—with her adorable 3-month-old Corgi pup, Ein—in their natural environment at Fort Greene Park (more on why that's her favorite spot for relaxing later on). We chatted about her day job, what she looks for in fashion, and how she views the gender breakdown within the advertising industry. Read on to see what she had to say:

Melyssa's Adorable Corgi Pup, Ein

She's pretty much taken over my whole Instagram feed. I wouldn't post her to Instagram until I created a hashtag for her. (It's #einstagram.) Her name is Ein, short for Einstein. Actually, this is dorky. I really like anime and there is a seminal anime called Cowboy Bebop that really popularized that form of animation and entertainment in the US. Think early 90's Cartoon Network, late-night. (They were the only type of people who would air this type of stuff.) There is a corgi in this anime who is a hacker dog. His name is Ein, which is German for "one," or short for Einstein. Sort of an homage to this character and also to the fact that little Ein is brilliant, so she really fits the name.

A Day In Her Shoes

Weekdays: Depends on Ein, as she has this knack for getting up at 4am on the dot every morning (trying to get her away from doing that). She does have an excuse: She's a baby, and with that, has a baby-sized bladder. My alarm goes off at 7am, so theoretically, I get up at 7am. I get dressed and we go for a jog around the block. I come back in and we eat breakfast - I usually have yogurt and granola with some fruit. I put Ein in my room or in her crate so she can calm down again and adjust and then I hop in the shower. I get ready for work and we go out one more time before I leave.

To commute to the office, I walk to Atlantic terminal. Depending on how fast I walk and how late I am, it can be anywhere from a 6 to 10 minute walk. I usually head out around 9:30am. I theoretically work 10am-6pm, which may or may not happen because it's advertising. I work all morning, which consists of meetings or planning, and, of course, emails. Then, I just work the rest of the afternoon. I'm typically off at 6:30pm or 7pm. I might go to Zumba or yoga, out for a drink with some of my co-workers, or networking with a reporter. Then I'm home!

That being said...

My typical day is pretty different day-to-day, not only because of the size of Rokkan, but also because I'm on a two-man team. One day, it'll be running and planning an event and basically PMing. Or it could be doing traditional PR outreach, or a new business pitch, or client-facing. So that's really what I enjoy about my job - the fact that I get to be creative in many different ways. I might be designing an invitation to something one day and writing a blog post or press release the next. I have a degree in journalism, by way of neuroscience, so the strategic aspects of advertising are what initially got me into the field—I really like psychology and logic. That strategic lens is how I approach anything I do—whether it's social media, content management, or "is this color a good idea for this email invitation?" So, it's really cool that I get to flex all of those muscles in one position, which is pretty unique. You'll generally only see that situation in a small company. If I'm not able to leverage creativity in those many realms, I get bored and a little unfulfilled. Having the opportunity to do that has always been very important to me, and it's always given me a lot of interesting experiences.

Post-work: For dinner, I like to cook a lot, so I'll whip something up or occasionally, if I'm really tired, I'll use Seamless. No shame. I usually feed Ein around 8pm. I'll switch gears and actually look at personal stuff. I do a lot of consulting and stuff on the side, so that's when I'm either working on a project, talking with clients, or working with reports or strategies. At night is when I do my freelance stuff. And then I'm usually asleep by 12:30am. I'll take Ein for an evening walk, too. I'm a little worried about how we'll do in the winter. I've seen videos online of corgis running around in snow. They are Welsh, so maybe that'll instinctively kick in and she'll be fine. So that's pretty much my day.

Weekends: Weekends are always a little different. A lot of the time, I'm traveling. Ein travels very well. She has a little bag and she loves it—I'll just put it on the floor and she'll jump right in. Her ears perk up, and she's ready to go. She also loves the subway. I was really worried at first that the noise would bother her, but it wasn't a problem. She's completely unfazed. I have also biked with her slung across my back a few times, and she's done pretty well. I have a little Sherpa bag for that, with netting on the sides so she can see outside. She basically just chills in there.


Melyssa's Style

The office itself is really casual. It feels very startup-y. If I know I don't have any client-facing meetings, I can go in jean shorts and a tank top and a blazer (or even without a blazer sometimes). Anything ranging from that to very business dressed, if I have a pitch scheduled for the day. Never a suit—that's just a little overkill. I definitely go for something that's very chic and smart. I'm 5'2" and very curvy—I have a classic hourglass figure. Everyone always says, "That's so great!" and I'm like, "Yeah, try buying clothes!" Especially with so many trends lately going back to the '20s or the '70s where things are very billowy, straight-cut, or boy-cut. It's agony for me.

A lot of people compare my style and my look to Emma Stone and Christina Hendricks. That sums it up pretty well. I try to go for a more classic look and I like to edge it up a bit with accessories or shoes to keep it modern, so it doesn't look costume-y. It means belting a lot of things or picking well-cut pieces or getting things tailored. A lot of styles aren't cut with as sharp a waist as what I'm looking for—so pieces like blazers or coats are always taken in. I have a good tailor, which is something that I didn't really tap into until I was in New York. Coming from Texas, fashion is obviously a thing there, but it's very different. It never gets cold, so the idea of layering doesn't exist. Moving to NYC, I very quickly had to get several types of shoes and coats that would get you through the transitions. I'm always a little anal about dressing for the occasion. Whether it's knowing I have a client meeting, so I have to look very professional, but I also have a cocktail thing after work, so I don't want to look stodgy. How can I dress in a way that's going to be "workwear to evening wear." So I end up packing two pairs of shoes a lot of the time.

Go-to pieces: I have several, actually, and they're dresses. At heart, I'm really not a girly-girl, but I dress in a more feminine way because it tends to be what fits me better. If I'm wearing pants, they'll be higher waisted so I can tuck in a shirt, just to get that waist shape. Anything that's a lower rise is not cute—not with these hips. With pants being tricky, I turn to dresses because you throw them on and you're done. In the fall, I'm really into leg wear. I'll do a black lace patterned tight—something with a cool, crazy pattern, but it'll be a darker solid color—with an over-the-knee sock in a fun color, or maybe black, depending on the dress. And over the dress, I'll style either a chambray shirt with a belt, or a cardigan, or a blazer for a more business-y day. Dresses are so versatile—add a belt or a necklace or a particular pair of shoes and you're good to go. So instead of sitting here and trying to match separates (which I do from time-to-time), I'll grab a dress.

Most important clothing attribute: Fit, for sure. My figure is difficult to fit because a lot of clothing isn't cut for my kind of figure. So much out there is billowy and boho, just not cut for people like me. From a fit perspective, quality tends to go with that just because when you get a garment that fits well, the quality has to be pretty high. Darting for the waist is important. Also detail placement - I do have hips and a bust, so I don't want details in those areas because it exaggerates. It's a mixture of fit, quality, and the general placement of things.

Melyssa's Neighborhood

I've been in Fort Greene in the same apartment for a little over three years now. I actually just re-upped my lease for two more years. I love it here. It's a real neighborhood—a very cozy community. I'm originally from Texas, so I'm a sucker for that neighborhood feel. I need space, trees, and nice people. Working in the city, you have your game face on all day and there's this brusqueness you have to adopt just to get on your commute and get to work. Here you can walk a little slowly, and you can take your time. For example, at my laundromat, they don't even speak English—but they know my name. They remember me. There's this fantastic organic grocery store down the street that's been run by the same family for two generations. Of course there's a pretty large wave of new gentrified places—in a good sense of the word and bad sense of the word. The neighborhood was originally heavily South African and Ethiopian in terms of immigrants. In the past 15 years or so, it's started gentrifying, like every neighborhood in NYC. What that's brought is a really interesting diversity aspect.

Fort Greene Park // Photo by: cisc1970/Flickr

Fort Greene Park // Photo by: Francisco Daum/Flickr

Melyssa's Picks

Restaurants: Up on Dekalb, there's a restaurant called Madiba, which is basically dedicated to Nelson Mandela—all of the food is South African. There's Habana Outpost, with an outdoor space where they show movies in the summer. I also love Walter's for brunch or drinks. I prefer a fantastic cocktail to any other kind of drink; otherwise it's a gin and tonic or a craft beer. I'm a little snobby when it comes to drinks and food. Why would you want to put something that isn't wonderful into your body? Walter's has fantastic cocktails and a really solid menu that's deceptively simple. There's a newer place called Martha that's very similar, but with a smaller cocktail situation.

Drinks + Dancing: Not in the neighborhood, but I do love going to Radegast, which is a beer hall in Williamsburg. I swing dance in my down time from time-to-time and on Wednesdays & Thursdays, they'll have a really amazing swing band playing. I'll go and get a beer and dance, and it's a lot of fun. It's a quick bike ride from Fort Greene—15 or 20 minutes. I get nice and and sweaty when riding there, dancing, and on my way home. It's a way to get in lots of cardio.

Festivals + Theater: In the summer, there's the West Indian festival nearby, with Filipino and Indonesian associations hosting a parade, and lot of booths and food. BAM is amazing and I'm so spoiled having that in the neighborhood. It has the most amazing theater, and the dance companies that come in are fantastic. Ira Glass did a "This American Life" radio opera one night there two months ago with Philip Glass. It was insane, fabulous, and also hysterical because it's "This American Life."

Music: San Fermin. I got into them earlier this year. It's sort of like indie orchestral-pop. Beautiful. They're just as good live as they are in recording, which is hard to do with orchestral pop especially. Sufjan Stevens really got me into chamber pop. A lot of my college friends (I went to Baylor, which is known for their music program) were classical musicians. It's great to see a Brooklyn version of that. Another one is Typhoon. I love them. I saw them at Littlefield, which was amazing. They have these dueling drum kits. It's really loud, but so cool. I listen to mostly indie type music, or if I'm writing, I'll do classical. My grandparents are huge patrons of the fine arts. Growing up with them, I was exposed to classical music, ballet, and art at a really early age.

I also listen to a lot of jazz and big band music from swing dancing. If I want to have that feel, or if I'm hosting a dinner party, that's what's on. Totally on the other end, I really love dubstep. If I'm on a deadline, it puts me in a trance. So I'll put on Skrillex and it's the same effect of Chopin—but in a totally different way. I'm a musical omnivore, I guess. Coming from Texas, I also really enjoy bluegrass music. Not so much modern country because it's awful. But classic country like Johnny Cash, there you go.

Parks: Of course, there's Fort Greene Park, which I love to death. It's so beautiful, there's so much history there, and it's wonderful to grab a blanket and book and just lay for a few hours reading a book under a giant tree. I also love people-watching and bringing Ein and letting her scamper around. That or Prospect Park. We're just about equi-distant between Prospect Park and Fort Greene Park. Biking around the loop, or chilling out in the long meadow is always fun. I went to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden for the Cherry Blossom festival this year, too, and that was just gorgeous. Anywhere there's nature, I have to be there.


Breaking Down the Gender Balance in Advertising

Advertising is historically male-dominated, but in certain positions. Obviously, everyone watches Mad Men. That's a very "Hollywood" depiction of  advertising, but there are aspects of it that are true even today. What you will overwhelmingly see is that the higher the position is, the more male-dominated it's going to be. That's something that any informed woman recognizes, not just in advertising, but in most industries. Within creative, I'm seeing a lot more women, but they generally will be lower-level designers or an associate creative director, not the creative director. I am seeing more women who are taking that by storm and really running with it. There are several notable women, including Swiss Miss. She has created a platform for herself and people pay attention. I really respect that. What started as a blog, she's turned into a whole initiative.

The idea of girls in tech is big—encouraging girls and women to code and get into STEM industries. At Rokkan we actually have several women in our tech department. It's something we've always been really proud of. Where you will see tons of women in is PR—it's practically 95 percent women. Accounts is historically almost entirely women. If you look at community —which is a communications role—also a lot of women. So any role that's going to involve communications, you typically see a lot of women. Any role that involves more technical expertise, whether that be in a tech sense, or a creative sense, or user-experience, you'll see more men. I don't mean to do a blanket statement for the entire industry, but that's how it is in my experience.

Women tend to be more effective in communication as a whole stereotypical group. That's not to say men can't do it or women are better, but I can definitely see that being a reason why that's the case, as well as long-standing traditional gender roles within an agency. That's actually something I've recently been getting involved in, and being more vocal about. Like everyone else, I read "Lean In" and I've been tuned in. Amy Poehler has her organization, the Smart Girls. I'm trying to really kickstart that not only at Rokkan, but also in my own career, by being that motivating and encouraging woman as much as I can be.

Why Melyssa Wears Nicole Lenzen

Nicole Lenzen styles are really easy to wear. The fabrics are very comfortable and the fabrics have a little bit of stretch which is great for ladies with curves. You don't want a lot of stretch, because that's skanky, but you don't want anything that's too stiff because then you'll squeeze into it like a sausage. So this is a really happy medium. They're also just highly functional. They're beautiful to look at, but they also wear very well.

Published by: Nicole Lenzen in People Who Inspire