A people person: Manley-Pipkin uses her passion to help others find theirs
“If it’s not there, go build it.” Communication arts graduate Melissa Manley-Pipkin, ’02, learned this important life lesson during her years at Stritch and carried it with her throughout her successful career in the human resources field.
Manley-Pipkin now works for Eaton’s Cooper Power Systems, a $25 billion company that provides electrical products and energy/safety solutions, and said she sort of “stumbled” into HR, with initial plans to become an English teacher.
When looking for a college, she considered multiple schools in the area with solid teacher education programs. Manley-Pipkin, who knew of Stritch through a friend, said she liked the smaller size of the Stritch campus and the comforting, personal atmosphere.
“People said ‘hi’ to you in the halls and smiled,” said Manley-Pipkin, remembering one of her first visits to campus. “The campus visit days at other schools I was considering were not as inviting.”
So, when it came time to make a decision her senior year, she chose Stritch.
“I couldn’t shake the way I felt about Stritch,” Manley-Pipkin said.
Once enrolled, Manley-Pipkin did a little self-exploration and realized that a communications degree was a better option than education.
“I like to explore, try different options, and a communications degree allowed me that flexibility to go into many different fields of work.”
Outside of her studies, Manley-Pipkin took advantage ofevery opportunity she could to try new things, explore her interests, and develop new skills while a student on campus.
“I was the vice president of clubs for the Student Government Association, traveled to Belize and Costa Rica, and was a member ofthe then-University President Sister Mary Lea Schneider’s distinguished ‘President’s Club,’” Manley-Pipkin recalled.
Most of all, Manley-Pipkin who had been dancing professionally since the age of three, had the opportunity to perform on Stritch’s dance team and even won a state title for dancing while on the team.
“Being able to dance at halftime were some of my best memories of my college experience,” Manley-Pipkin said. “And I was proud that I not only danced and was very involved, but that I got good grades.”
Those good grades resulted from her enthusiasm for her subject matter.
“There was such passion in each of my instructors – whether it was in my philosophy, math, or communication theory class, Stritch instructors got us excited about learning no matter the topic,” said Manley-Pipkin.
The passion she saw in her teachers solidified her belief that a career in human resources was the best choice.
“I wanted to help do that for others, help them find a career they were passionate about,” Manley-Pipkin said.
After graduating, Manley-Pipkin began her career as a staffing specialist for Manpower, where she was responsible for pairing candidates with clients. From there she became an employment manager for one of Milwaukee’s largest downtown hotels.
“It was this role where I really got the full picture of all it takes to run a human resources department as I managed the full hiring process for the entire hotel,” Manley-Pipkin said. She went on to serve as a supervisor in HR for three more years before she felt the time was right to move into recruitment.
“Recruiting is a key component of human resources. It’s aligning the right candidate to the set of skills the company is in need of in order to be successful,” Manley-Pipkin said.
After being exposed to all aspects of HR, she felt this is where she belonged.
“I still remember my interviewing techniques class at Stritch,” Manley-Pipkin said. “One of our assignments was to interview the hiring manager at a company. From that assignment I got a feel for what hiring managers look for in candidates and I thought I could be the person to coach people in securing those jobs one day.”
And that is exactly what she does today, only on a much larger scale.
Manley-Pipkin has spent the last four years of her career as the person who oversees the “process” for new employee hires, which includes managing all of the logistics for getting the candidates through the interview process, debriefs by company decision makers, background checks, full candidate reviews, final offer packages, and new employee orientation.
“And my primary role is to evaluate those processes – both on the candidate and company side,” Manley-Pipkin said. “I need to ensure that it is a rewarding experience both for the candidate and for the company.”
And although she may not be the English teacher she once aspired to be, she is always looking for ways to incorporate education into what she does in HR.
“I am all about continuous improvement: how can I educate others on best practices and use those to become more efficient and successful?” Manley-Pipkin said.
What brings the biggest smile to Manley-Pipkin’s face is getting to see new employees on orientation day.
“Everyone always remembers their first day of anything,” Manley-Pipkin said. “It’s such a great feeling knowing that I had a part in making that happen for that individual.”
Manley-Pipkin has enjoyed getting to watch those individuals grow into their roles and succeed with the company.
“It’s helping nurture that growth and development where Inow see my passion and career heading,” Manley-Pipkin said.
Manley-Pipkin recently began a new role with Eaton’s Cooper Power Systems as its talent management specialist for the leadership development program.
“I am responsible for helping our new employees, who are mostly recently hired graduates, develop and grow their leadership skills,” said Manley-Pipkin, who is excited about her new role.
The most challenging aspect to her work is the scope of the business.
“When you work in HR, you have to get to know every aspect of the company,” Manley-Pipkin said. “That also means getting to know and understand the personalities of many employees who work in all areas of the company.”
For Manley-Pipkin, who works mainly with engineers, it has been like learning a new language.
“I am no engineer, so my interpersonal communication skills have come in handy,” Manley-Pipkin said.
In addition to those communication skills that have helped Manley-Pipkin advance in her career, Stritch gave her a solid foundation of values and self-confidence.
“It was very early on in my career that I had the opportunity to help people who had made some bad choices in life but who wanted to turn their life around and make a fresh start,” recalled Manley-Pipkin ofher work with individuals with criminal backgrounds.
“It was those core values and learning how to be respectful and to give people who others may turn their back on, opportunities to succeed,” said Manley-Pipkin of what Stritch taught her.
“Working in HR is a powerful role – decisions I make can have a dramatic effect on a person’s life (good or bad) and the council Iprovide company leaders also has a major impact on the decisions they make,” Manley-Pipkin said. “I don’t take that responsibility lightly.”
More than anything, Stritch gave Manley-Pipkin the confidence she needed to be successful.
“Stritch taught me to believe in myself,” Manley-Pipkin said. “These brilliant professors and admired staff would tell me ‘You have good things to give’ and there is no ‘book’ that could ever come close to what that did for me as a person.”
Manley-Pipkin carries that confidence with her every day.
“I can walk into any business setting and feel competent around people who have no idea who I am. That comes from all those presentations and real-world work I did during my time at Stritch,” Manley-Pipkin said.
And it all stems from that ideology: “if something is not there, go build it.”
“I am most proud of not just sitting idle in life, but being open and receptive enough to know where I want to go and how to get there,” Manley-Pipkin said.
When looking back at her decision to enroll at Stritch, she is most grateful for the people that came into her life through that experience.
“Stritch was the best decision I ever made because it’s where I met my best friends. I would not be where I am professionally or personally without those people,” she said.