SpotlightYouth Spotlight

We are thrilled to introduce you to Melissa Minton, a full-time student at the George Washington University, President of GWU’s Epsilon Sigma Alpha chapter, Her Campus Correspondent and Co-Editor-in-Chief of GWU Branch, and content intern at Birchbox and Birchbox Man. Whew. We know that’s a lot to get through, but that’s what makes Melissa so awesome – she keeps herself open to opportunities and then utilizes them when she has the chance.

It’s certainly not easy being a full-time student and juggling a handful of other pressing responsibilities, so we asked Melissa to provide us with some insight into how she does it all and still has time for herself! If you want to find out organization tips, learn more about securing incredible internships (Melissa has previously interned at the National Press Club, ELLE Magazine, and De*Nada Design, to name a few), or be inspired by this multi-tasking master, read on!

Name: Melissa Minton
Age: 20
Education: B.A. from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences in the School of Media and Public Affairs from George Washington University
Follow: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

MM: I think seizing your youth means actively searching for new experiences and opportunities. Nothing is going to be handed to you unless you’re going out and searching for it. Even if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for, just be open. And if there is an opportunity that falls in your lap, say yes. Always say yes until you have to say no.

CJ: What advice would you give to your 13 year old self?

MM: Don’t downplay your passions and don’t worry about what other people think. I would probably still need to follow the latter even today, but when I was 13 I thought that reading and writing and fashion were just hobbies. It wasn’t until I realized that putting my three passions together could make for a great career that I started to really hone in on that. Also, I wish my 13 year old self knew that bangs aren’t a good look for me.

CJ: What is the benefit or downfall of having such different internship experiences?

MM: I think that in today’s work environment, you need variety. Especially in the media industry you have to be able to do everything yourself. I chose the internships that I’ve had because they all have to do with media, but I learned about different facets of the industry with each experience. You’re never going to be able to explore your interests as thoroughly as when you have different internships, so I think it’s a major benefit to have unique experiences. However, it could be seen as a downfall for the future if you don’t sell your skills in an interview, so before you start an internship you should always know what you want to get out of it.

CJ: What three traits do you think make an outstanding intern?

MM: Willingness to do anything, thinking ahead for your boss, and enthusiasm.

CJ: If you could pinpoint one common thread through all of the work you’ve done to secure your internships, what would it be?

MM: In order to secure internships, being really professional and thorough in every contact you have with your potential future employer is key, whether that be email, phone, or in person. You want to come off as friendly, but I think employers respect professionalism in a young person. If you’re able to point out what skills you’ve used in the past that will be useful to them in an eloquent way, you’ll never be rejected. I like to think that I’ve done that for all the internships I’ve secured.
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CJ: You are a student at the School of Media and Pubic Affairs at GWU. What does your major involve and how did you decide what to study?

MM: My major is Journalism and Mass Communications and I am absolutely in love with it. I didn’t discover the program until my sophomore year after trying out classes that interested me. I was taking classes focused on culture and thought I might go into American Studies, but ultimately figured out that I wanted a more real world perspective rather than analytical. As a Journalism major I learn about not only many theories behind how the media industry works, but also skills such as video editing, and lots of writing in different styles. It’s a very hands-on major but also backed up by knowledge of theories.

CJ: What have you learned from your experience as a Her Campus Co-EIC?

MM: I think one of the biggest take-aways for me is that writing is very personal, but the entire process takes a village. From coming up with ideas, weeding through the good and bad, drafting, editing, posting, promoting on social, the process is in constant motion and no one person can lay claim to all of that work.

CJ: What kind of responsibilities do you have as President of ESA?

MM: As President of ESA, I am essentially the brain that works all of the different appendages. I use what I’ve learned in my past years on the executive board of ESA to map out our future, our goals, and objectives, then trust my e-board members to do the muscle work. I’m pretty type A when it comes to organization, so I task myself with mapping out timelines and due dates and checking in on progress. There are lots of nitty gritty details, but basically I get to conceptualize what I want the organization to look and feel like, which is really satisfying.

CJ: Did you choose to study abroad in college? Why or why not?

MM: Unfortunately, with the requirements of my major, I wasn’t able to do a semester abroad, but I was happy that I found a short term study abroad option. I took a class called “Globalization in Media” in which the class met on campus during the semester, and then went to Paris for 10 days of spring break and had lots of amazing speakers and seminars. I’m so happy that at least I was able to experience that. Not going abroad for an entire semester is definitely my biggest regret!

CJ: You are a student, an organization leader, an intern with multiple groups – How do you create a strong work-life balance (socially and personally balanced with professional goals)?

MM: I think that’s a challenge for everyone and I’d be lying if I said I had achieved it. One of my role models, Ann Shoket, said in an interview with The Every Girl that “There is no balance. You have to embrace the mess.” I think that’s true. I try to do everything in moderation and on a schedule. I like to do recurring tasks on the same day at the same time weekly so that I won’t forget. But, flexibility is also key. Sometimes you’re too tired to do extra work, and sometimes you need to push and get something done instead of relax. I think the balance between regiment and flexibility is the key to balance between personal and work priorities. That’s a long way of saying that I try to embrace the mess.melissa CJ 3

CJ: What are your best organization tips?

MM: I’m always trying to find new apps or programs I can use to be more productive and organize, but it always goes back to pretty simple things for me. To do lists and iCal are my best friends. If every night you write down all of the things you have to do the next day you’ll wake up feeling more in control and ready to cross things off the list. I’m also crazy about color coding and timelines.

CJ: Would you have done anything differently during your college experience looking back with 20/20 hindsight?

MM: I do wish that I had found the School of Media and Public Affairs sooner, but I probably would not have been able to take some of the really cool classes I took freshman year. I think every upperclassmen wishes they took advantage of their freshmen year more, but that’s what it’s for – to be a buffer time between high school and real college work. I always wish that I had gone abroad for a semester as well, that is one thing I am sad about.

CJ: What motivates you?

MM: I’m motivated by the strong women that have the jobs I want. Seeing someone else doing what you want to do is the best way to motivate yourself to get there eventually.

CJ: Where do you see yourself going next?

MM: Hopefully after I graduate I’ll be in New York City.

CJ: When you aren’t busy working and studying, what do you enjoy doing?

MM: Recently I’ve gotten really into painting and drawing and I want to learn how to throw pottery. I like anything creative. Also, watching reality TV will always be my un-guilty pleasure.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

MM: If You Have to Cry, Go Outside by Kelly Cutrone

CJ: What is the best piece of college related advice you would give to your 18-year-old self?

MM: Don’t do anything just because everyone else is. And conversely, just because no one is doing something doesn’t mean you should stay away from that either. Do whatever you want to do.

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Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Ever since I found out about Birchbox, a monthly subscription beauty sample box, I have been hooked. When I had the opportunity to interview one of the co-founders, Hayley Barna, I jumped at it. Hayley Barna and her business partner, Katia Beauchamp, are inspiring women who have taken the beauty industry by storm. Ambitious, down-to-Earth, and capable, Hayley is not only a lot of fun to talk to, but she is also generous with her advice and knowledge. After years of consulting and working in the corporate world, Hayley made the leap and started her own company (Birchbox), which continues to see amazing success. Read on to learn about how Hayley got to where she is today, her thoughts about business school, and the advice she has for her 20-year-0ld self. You’re going to love and admire her as much as we do!

Name: Hayley Barna
Age: 30
Education: B.A. in Economics from Harvard University; MBA in Business Administration from Harvard Business School
Follow: Hayley’s Twitter / Birchbox

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Hayley Barna: I don’t know if I think about it as my youth or just seizing every day and making the most of every hour, every week, every year. Starting Birchbox, for example, there was a lot we didn’t know that actually helped us have the ambition to think “we can do this!” I think a lot of that was about being young and not being jaded.

CJ: You attended Harvard University and majored in Economics. How did you determine what to study?

HB: I went to Harvard thinking I was going to be a science major or an engineer. I did science research in high school and I was very into it. I took computer science and economics my first semester of college. I thought the classes were so cool and I loved it, but computer science was not very applied and it didn’t have a lot to do with people. Economics was the mix between left brain and right brain. I took microeconomics first, which was about people, decisions, and real world practicality. I fell in love with economics and stuck with that. I also started taking psychology classes. It was the behavioral aspect of economics that I really focused on.

CJ: How did you make the decision to go to Harvard Business School and what were your biggest takeaways?

HB: I applied to business school three years after graduating college. One of the reasons I wanted to go to business school was, first of all, everyone I had ever met who went to business school loved it. I heard 100% positive ratings. I also realized that I had a lot more to learn. I love learning, so I was excited about the possibility of going back to school.

I really liked being a consultant, but I did go into business school expecting to change careers because I wanted to get closer to the customer. Being a consultant, you work for people who are working for people. You put together PowerPoint documents but you don’t really get to see the results. I was hoping to make the leap away from professional services and more towards direct impact. I thought that consumer internet or consumer businesses would be a good place for me to land.

CJ: What advice would you give to someone who is considering going to business school?

HB: Business school is amazing. It’s also very expensive and it is two years of your life. If you already know what you want to do and have a clear path towards getting there, then maybe business school isn’t right for you. If you need to learn more about yourself and explore or want to go into a field where an MBA is a requirement, then business school is amazing. Do it.

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CJ: What skills did you have that were useful in starting Birchbox, and what do you wish you had known before taking the leap?

HB: I ask a lot of questions and I want to know why. I don’t accept the status quo and that was a big part of Katia and me coming up with the idea for Birchbox and believing that there was a better way to buy beauty online. That was a muscle that I had exercised.

My early career was as a strategy consultant at Bain & Company. In that job I learned a good mix of analytical skill sets, such as structuring a problem and knowing when it was important to have data behind things. I also learned the soft skills that come with business, such as being able to ask the right questions and package an idea to have it be accepted and get people on board with something.

CJ: What advice do you have for teenagers and young adults interested in starting their own business?

HB: Start having business conversations. If there is a business that you are interested in, such as sports, talk to someone in your life who is a business person about the business of sports. How do you make money? What are the costs? Get used to having your brain work like that. It’s most fun to learn about running a business when you’re thinking about a topic that you’re passionate about.

Work exposure is also a very important first step for a young person. Try a lot of things. I interned at so many different places and a lot of my experience was to cross off that experience as an option. I interned at a hedge fund and realized that finance was not for me. Thank goodness I figured that out early.

CJ: How do you balance running the New York and Europe offices?

HB: It’s really different. When we went from having one office to multiple offices, it was a really big change. Part of it was just getting comfortable that we wouldn’t be able to see and know about everything that was happening. We try to travel there as much as possible, usually about every six weeks. We have three offices in Europe so we try to go to two countries at a time with every trip. We also stay in touch through email and regular phone calls. It’s so different but really fun.

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CJ: How do you keep yourself motivated? What drives you forward?

HB: This is really simple but I am motivated by ideas and impact, and in particular, making people happy. The product of Birchbox is very simple when you think about it – samples in a box that arrives monthly, editorial content, and a place to shop.

The most motivating thing about my job is when I hear customers talk about what they feel when they get a Birchbox and how it makes them smile or connect with their family or friends who live across the country. That is extremely motivating. Getting your Birchbox is a real world experience that creates connections even though we’re an internet company and sell products online.

CJ: Is there anything you did as a young adult that greatly influenced you?

HB: I was a science geek in high school and doing independent science research was a helpful skill. It gave me the confidence to know that I could not only ask questions but I could also test things and find answers and iterate on it. It gave me confidence that I could be 17-years-old and contribute to science.

My family was also an influence. My family has a family business and I was exposed to those types of conversations at the dinner table my whole life. Those business conversations get soaked in somehow.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

HB: Every day is different. We started Birchbox three and a half years ago, and my job has fundamentally changed at least six times along the way. I get up early and try to work out before work because you never know what is going to happen later in the day. I try to do 7am workout classes and get to work by 8:30am. We have offices in Europe, so I often have phone calls with our Europe teams earlier in the morning.

Throughout the day a lot of my job is management. I check in with my direct reports to make sure everything is flowing well. I have very little sit-at-my-desk time. As co-founders, Katia and I set the strategy and make sure that the strategy is being communicated. I’ll work on monthly recaps of the business or agendas for off-sites and what is going to happen next.

CJ: How do you set personal and professional goals?

HB: I don’t have a very formal goal-setting process. I just have a lot of self-motivation. For the business we set all kinds of goals. They should be made on many different timeframes. Here we have monthly goals, quarterly goals, and annual goals. It’s also important to set five year goals.

If I had time to do that for my life, I would do it the same way. I would think about where I want to be in five years and move backwards from there. That would be fun because there’s no right answer.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

HB: I give this advice to every age of my past self. Don’t take things too seriously. Don’t worry too much about your next step. Don’t think that your next step is going to dictate the rest of your life. A lot of people when they are 20-years-old think that the job they get after college is going to be their career for the next 60 years. It’s not. Don’t overthink it. Just make sure that it is something you enjoy and that you’ll learn from and go from there.

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