Women in Technology: Melanie Purkis
Liquid Web’s Director of Managed Hosting on what drives her and the importance of bringing your passion to work.
Melanie Purkis had a book-filled childhood in Charlotte, Michigan. An avid reader since her youth, she developed a deep love of learning and stories. “I was always the kid who hit the max on the number of books you could check out from the library every day,” she says. She still reads constantly, averaging about 150 books a year covering a range of genres and subject matters. “My ideal Saturday is a day spent with books.”
After graduating from high school, Purkis went to work for a distributor in Lansing. What started as a temporary data entry job turned into an education in marketing, computers, servers, and digital imaging. It was clear that Purkis had a knack for tech and, in time, she became the company’s Marketing Coordinator. “A tech career fell into my lap,” she says. “I started learning about computers and tech support and found that I was good at it. That was my entry into the tech world.”
In the fall of 2001, Purkis joined the US Army as an Aviation Operations Specialist. She joined one week before September 11th and spent the following four years serving in the armed forces. She has always had what she calls drive—fueled partly by stubbornness. “I refuse to fail,” she says. “I managed to survive basic training at 27 because failure was not an option. I graduated first in my class simply because I didn’t want to have worse grades than anyone else. When I make up my mind to do something, I have to do it.” She’s had this sort of perseverance since she was a child and, when her time in the army was done, she brought her sense of purpose back to school and tech.
Eventually, her work as a Service Relations Supervisor for HP brought her to New Zealand. There, she met her spouse, Joseph, who now works alongside her at Liquid Web as Project Coordinator for InterWorx, which is part of the Liquid Web Family of Brands. At Liquid Web, Purkis is the Director of Managed Hosting, helming a team responsible for Liquid Web products’ success. “It’s our job to make sure that what our customers are asking for is what we’re bringing to the market. We have to make sure the customers are happy, that the price is right, that our products are competitive and current.”
The most satisfying aspect of working in tech, for Purkis, is learning about and focusing on advanced technologies as they develop. “It’s exciting to spend time thinking about where we fit into the industry, thinking about what our unique niche is, where the opportunities are, and what we can offer customers that no one else can. We’re in a period of growth, despite the impact of the pandemic, and I’m looking forward to finding out what the upcoming year holds for us.”
Asked if anything surprises her about working in tech, Purkis says, “I’m surprised all the time. I’m surprised and pleased to discover how far I’ve grown in this company. I have not yet earned a college degree. My ability to continually progress in tech has been partly thanks to determination and ambition, and partly thanks to mentorship and people willing to take a chance on someone who is committed and wants to learn. I’m at a pinnacle of my journey right now. I’ve set milestones throughout my career and, once I meet them, I keep reaching farther as I go. I’m not sure what the next step is for me, but I feel incredibly proud of where I am right now.”
Purkis inherited her sense of determination from her father. “My dad has been very influential for me,” she says. “He was a junior high math teacher for a year before realizing that teaching was not what he wanted his future to be. He went to work on the assembly line at GM. He eventually worked his way up from working on the factory line to recently retiring as a self-taught coder and developer. He has been a huge inspiration for me.”
In the past six years, Purkis has also been grateful for the influence and mentorship of Liquid Web’s CTO, Joe Oesterling. “Joe had faith in me and brought me in on projects I might not otherwise have been exposed to,” she says.
There are some lessons along the way that Purkis tries to be mindful of and pass along to her daughter as she considers different career paths. “Make sure you go after what you want to do that will make you happy. Don’t spend too much time thinking about what you should do next. Consider your passions. If you can find any way at all to incorporate them into your working life, that’s the direction to take. The hope is that your work becomes something you can pour yourself into day after day and feel like you’re doing something meaningful. Follow the things that make you happy. If you’re not passionate about your work, you’re going to have a difficult time finding long-term joy in it.”
Purkis is optimistic about the doors opening for women interested in the field of tech. “There is so much opportunity for growth for women who have grit and the will to succeed,” she says. Purkis thinks it’s essential to impress upon anyone considering a career in tech that there are many ways to succeed in technology. “You don’t have to be a tech wizard,” she says. “There are so many sides to the tech world—business, finance, legal, creative. I think many young people are made to feel that coding or hands-on computer work are the only options in a career in tech, but the field is so broad and so full of possibilities. Find the area of tech that speaks to you and your passions. Passion, curiosity, and enthusiasm are traits you should strive to bring to whatever path you choose.”
Mayra Pena is the former Communications Manager at Liquid Web and has over 10 years of experience in technology.
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