We had the good fortune of connecting with Melanie Connolly and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melanie, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
It started out so difficult- my office was in my home, and I can be a workaholic for sure. I would work until 9 pm or later every day if I could. Now I have a toddler, and that doesn’t really fly! In an effort to be more efficient, I now use spreadsheet trackers and project management software, which have absolutely changed how I work. I can break down tasks into tiny chunks, assign them to different days, and knock them out when I have a free few minutes. It keeps to-dos from sitting in my head, and keeps me from feeling like there is a never-ending list that I never get far enough through. It makes even the most daunting projects feel manageable and has solved all the time I used to waste through procrastinating and email-digging.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I love the early conversations with a potential client. It’s like how some folks feel about a first date—full of excitement and potential. Taking someone’s problem or idea, brainstorming it out, and testing solutions to find the right fit is one of my favorite things. I can’t imagine anyone who would say that building a business from scratch is easy. There’s a lot to learn on the fly, and a ton of stumbling blocks that you never see coming. But for all the stress of it, it’s really fun. I never know who will contact me or what I’ll be working on next. At the beginning I was focused on survival, but now I’m getting to expand the offerings of the brand and explore new programs and types of communication. I used to believe that so many problems in healthcare could be solved by better communication, but now I’m engaging in equity, access, and health transformation too. I’m getting to learn how to manage programs while building and supporting teams. I wouldn’t have imagined learning these skills even a year ago, and they’ve been extremely exciting for my personal and professional development. I try to embrace the feeling of “falling upward” into new roles—I don’t necessarily have a 10-year vision for my career, but I try to remain malleable and curious. Impostor syndrome can still hit from time to time, but growth happens through the challenge areas.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
So assuming we’re not talking about COVID times, I usually like to plan one or two major events to do followed by good food. After someone has traveled in I like to do some lighter fare like Mai’s. The next day I’d say we take it easy at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. This probably isn’t surprising, but I can easily spend a whole day at an art museum. I just love them, and Houston has a fantastic collection. I’d recommend Niko Niko’s for dinner (I tried to have them cater my wedding but it was too far, their gyros and potatoes are just so good!) and the next day I’d vote for the Houston Museum of Natural Science. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise- I’m a scientific artist! I would follow up with Ramen Tatsu-ya (so good, and the owners are awesome) followed by either the Alley Theatre or Houston Symphony. Some of my favorite memories have been in those buildings! The next day I’d say we need to hit the Empire Cafe for breakfast, followed by an Astros Game. A good (or bad) Astros game calls for a follow-up bar, and the Maple Leaf is an easygoing local one (plus my family is full of hockey fans). Finally, what would an outsider’s trip to Houston be without going to NASA? It’s one thing to see movies or documentaries about space flight, but another entirely to see where so much of the grit and magic happened. I’d suggest Uchi’s Sake Social Hour for dinner, or (if we’re being honest about the fact that we’re in COVID times) their curbside dinner for two is a stellar deal!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Oh gosh, so many. My mother is also a medical illustrator and has been running her business for over 30 years, so obviously I can’t do enough to thank her. Her insight continues to be invaluable, and she helped me find my love of piano when I started lessons at age 4. I can never thank her enough for that—piano is how I turn over problems in my head and put connections together. It’s a type of meditation, and especially during quarantine it has given me something relaxing and challenging to improve on from home. My mom helped me find a ton of loves, from piano to my career to parenthood!
Other: My medical illustration business with my mother, Peg Gerrity: www.ChicagoMedicalGraphics.com The Austin Healthcare Council, where I work as their Marketing Director: www.AustinHealthcareCouncil.org
Headshot: Credit Eva Mae Baucom Photo of Melanie & Toddler: Credit Peg Gerrity All Illustrations Copyright MeCo Visuals