Melise Jones – Signing Off & Going Out on a High

Our Client Services Director, Melise Jones, reflects on her career – especially her time at The Curve.

I wrote a blog about Women in Tech back in March, 2021. In it I stated: “Before Women in Tech there were, well, women in tech…I never thought there was anything special or remarkable about the fact that I had entered a field dominated by fellas. The feeling was comparable to when I turned up to play a ball game with the lads and I’d be chosen for a side…most of the time I was picked last, but I was happy for the chance to play. Not because I was accepted as a girl – but because I wanted to join in!

Fast forward to 2024 and I’ll be retiring from working life at the end of March.  Of course I’m in a reflective frame of mind – thinking back on my experiences – mostly good memories which include meeting and knowing some wonderful people –  mixed with one bad season in those 40 odd years.  I’m a pretty positive person, so even during the most difficult times, I’ve chosen to accept them as opportunities to develop professionally, spiritually, and personally.  Walt Disney himself was quoted as saying: “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me. You may not realise it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.

After graduating from Auburn University (War Eagle!), my professional career began with a 4-year tour of duty as a Cryptologist Tech in the U.S. Navy. When I finished at my last duty station in Washington, DC in 1985, I learned that Bolt Beranek & Newman (a tech company in Boston) had won a US Department of Defense contract to build a wide-area network and provide the operational staff to run it.  They were to be based in metro Washington DC, Honolulu, Hawaii and Stuttgart, Germany.  The headhunter was looking for people with my operational background AND– the golden ticket – they needed qualified people with a security clearance. Was I interested?  $18,000 a year plus shift-differential – Sign me up!

At BBN, I joined part of a pioneering group of young men and women who were given the opportunity to work alongside some true technology wizards. Ray Tomlinson, the guy who put the @ sign in our email sat two doors down from the Network Operations Centre (NOC) where we ran one of the first global computer networks. Remember the ARPANET and its military counterpart the MILNET?  These were the beginnings of what commercially grew to be the Internet…and I was there!

I’ve had the privilege of working with and for people who set the bar high and instilled the importance of teamwork whilst operating a culture of mentoring, supporting one another, and being accountable – all of which combined – forged some of the life-long friendships I continue to cherish even now.

None of these experiences has been more potent and powerful than in both my first role at Bolt Beranek & Newman and my last role at The Curve. My first boss was an ex-Navy skipper, nicknamed “The Bullet” –  who gave me an opportunity and then got out of the way. That’s what I wanted. Let me give it a shot. The Bullet also had our back. I used to tell people he’d step in front to keep the corporate brown stuff from raining down on us, so that we could get on with our job. The only thing he would ask in return is that we always do our best and own our work, warts and all.

Equally at The Curve, I’ve had the privilege of being part of a team who’s only agenda is doing the best possible job for our clients and supporting a culture of quality, focus & respect.  No politics, no games, no brown stuff. I count my time here as one of the most rewarding and refreshing experiences of my entire career.  There is a real commitment to doing things properly – this starts with our leadership’s dedication to the development of the entire team.  That means doing the little things like diarised 1-2-1’s, performance reviews, operational stand-ups, weekly team meetings and some epic quarterly meet-ups which includes a business round-up followed by some off-site food and fun.  Because we believe in doing ‘the little things’, staff turnover is minimal, the workplace is one of openness, honesty and inclusion.  I’m living proof that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.  Everyday presents an opportunity to learn and try new things, take a different approach and break away from doing something the same way because it’s always the way we do it.  If it doesn’t work, let’s change it.

Having been in South Yorkshire for 25 years now, I’ve really enjoyed being part of the Sheffield digital community. The region is chock full of talented, hard-working people.  I’ve met most of them and have had the pleasure of working quite closely with a select cross-section dedicated to helping develop the best possible environment for starting up, working in and growing digital businesses in our area.

So – I’ve had a bit of a bookend career – it started out well, with a brief season of challenging blah in the middle, and now I’m finishing strong.  A huge and heartfelt Thank You  to Bob Bartlett,Paul Ridgway and James Ridgway for giving me the opportunity and then getting out of the way…as we used to say in the Navy, I wish you all fair winds and following seas….