From a D to a C-Suite
Seated in her office at the NEXT Innovation Center surrounded by white boards brimming with ideas and plans, Melissa Patterson reflects on her unexpected path to becoming the “queen of all trades” at Servosity, a NEXT ecosystem partner tenant. The first in her family to earn an undergraduate degree, she sometimes can’t believe how the doors of opportunity have opened since earning her bachelor’s through Furman Undergraduate Evening Studies in 2009 as an accounting and business administration double major.
Prior to her education at Furman, Melissa worked at Target while earning her accounting associates degree at Greenville Technical College. During and after Furman, she held a position in a small accounting firm as a staff accountant. As she analyzed clients’ financial reports, Melissa further developed her talent of ascertaining patterns and processes for improvement and was able to strategize with clients. She knew she wanted to be a catalyst that could “push a company forward.”
When a former client approached her to join his young start-up technology company, Melissa jumped at the chance. Although accounting duties were only a small part of the position, she felt prepared, thanks in large part to her Furman education, for the new opportunity. Four years later, she is involved in operations, product development, strategic planning, and just about every facet of the online backup and disaster recovery company.
Melissa’s path to success had its momentary valleys. She still recalls her first (and last) “D” of her academic career with a grimace, made during her first semester at Furman. Yet, Melissa remained undaunted. Recounting the many professors who made an impact, she observes, “You had people investing in you the entire time you were there.” She relished the challenging academics, great facilities, supportive environment, and the real-world approach to the entire curriculum. As someone who paid her own way through college, she appreciated the affordability of Furman’s evening classes, and the high rate of return on that educational investment. As graduation neared, Melissa admits to struggling with how to translate what she had learned into opportunities she knew were in the real world. Melissa wanted to meet “those who had been in the trenches and emerged successful.” To that end, she continued learning after graduation by constantly reading business leadership books and by joining professional organizations such as Women in Openstack and the Greenville chapter of the National Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance.
As a woman in the male-dominated fields of accounting and technology, Melissa takes her leadership role seriously. This year, Melissa volunteered to serve as a mentor for UES’ inaugural FUCAP (Furman University Career Advancement Program) class. As a mentor, she critiqued resumes, conducted mock interviews, and regularly connected with her mentee. Melissa also addressed students’ attitudes about themselves that could stifle success, employer expectations, as well as the importance of identifying and meshing well with a company’s culture.
Melissa reflects on her education at Furman with great appreciation. “I would never have imagined I could’ve achieved this or have been presented with the opportunity to fill a C-suite position.” Such gratitude has propelled her commitment to “invest in those who want to achieve . . . to build up future leaders, not followers.”
Learn more about Undergraduate Evening Studies at Furman.