Leadership Advice for Women Moving on Up

Sponsored by Aramark

Melissa Schwartz from Aramark

Image Courtesy of Aramark


Awesome coffee isn’t the only perk to working at Aramark. Melissa Schwartz, Vice-President of Operations and Service at Aramark Refreshment Services, tells Fairygodboss she also appreciates that Aramark serves up confidence in her ability to lead.

“Being a subject matter expert is what got me promoted into the leadership rank,” she says of her role. “For me today is all about engaging and empowering our people.”

Melissa built the team that she’s now leading. We caught up with her to talk about her top advice for other women moving into leadership roles. Here’s what she had to say.

What were your initial thoughts when you learned you were moving into a leadership role?

Honestly, I was ecstatic that the company had the confidence in me to give me the role!

How has your day-to-day work changed since you went into leadership at your company? What about your overall approach to work?

Being a subject matter expert is what got me promoted into the leadership ranks. I have grown in my leadership roles at Aramark and have learned it is less about continuing to be the subject matter expert, but more about focusing on removing barriers for our current subject matter experts. For me today is all about engaging and empowering our people.

What is your #1 piece of advice for other women who are moving into or want to move into leadership?

Own your seat at the table, and don’t say you’re sorry.

What’s one strategy you’ve used when managing an individual or team that you think has been particularly effective?

Transparent and authentic communication. Know your strengths and your weakness and focus on maximizing your strengths and minimize your weakness by building the team that excels in those areas.

How do you think about making sure your direct reports feel well-supported in their lives both in and out of the office?

Be respectful of their time out of the office, and recognize that everyone has individual needs specific to them.

What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?

When I made a mistake, they were not punitive but propped me up to focus on what I can learn from the experience.

What do you believe is the #1 thing managers must do when onboarding new employees?

Have an onboarding plan, and ensure it is executed.

While building your team, what did you learn that surprised you most?

The best coaching I receive comes from the team I lead.

What’s been your most valuable career mistake?

I have been in jobs long enough that I needed to fix my own mistakes. Too often I see people not in the role long enough to know if what they did worked or didn’t. My best learning has come from course-correcting those mistakes.

How do you prioritize and deal with your to-do list each day?

Tackle the hard things in the morning. Be sure to have goals to accomplish each day so managing the inbox doesn’t become your whole day. Keep open blocks of time to catch up with your team. Address the issue of the day.

What are you trying to improve on?

Clear communication — both verbal and written — has always been my opportunity.

What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?

Shifting from IT Manager to Director of Operational Excellence.

What opportunities did your company provide that ultimately helped you land your role?

The exposure to many facets of the company, experience to work on many different projects, and education to learn more.

Who is/was the most influential person in your professional life and why?

The prior Director of FP&A. He gave me a seat the table when it was not naturally there. He spent years providing me the business acumen across the entire business, not just one functional area. And he taught me how to present myself and my work, focus on the details and, being in a service organization, who my customer was in a support role: the field organization.

What’s your go-to stress-relief activity or routine?

Walking. I try to get 45 minutes in a day to think through issues I am trying to solve.

What about outside of work?

Being a mom — my greatest development is my children.

Tune in below to hear more from Schwartz.


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