Meet the Herd: People and Development Manager Melissa Meister

Melissa shares her outlook on People and Development, kindness in interviews, and maintaining a value-based culture as the company continues to grow

Meet the Herd: People and Development Manager Melissa Meister
Photo by Aaron Henshaw

By Bison Trails · Sep 4 2020

Each profile in Bison Trails’ Meet the Herd series is the story of a member’s professional path: how they started their career and made their way to the world of blockchain. Interview by Mark Forscher.

Q: Hi Melissa! What’s your background? How did you find Bison Trails and start working here?

In Chicago, I worked for 3 different startups in Operations Management roles. For every role, I wore many hats and was able to see behind the curtain to most areas of building a startup. I loved the culture and being a part of building startups. I fell in love with all of it.

The third startup wasn’t doing well and I approached a crossroads. Having always lived in Chicago, I felt a bit sheltered, and I decided it was time to start over somewhere new. I sold all of my furniture on Craigslist in 3 weeks and picked up and left for New York. My family didn’t quite agree with my “I’ll figure it out when I get there” mentality but I knew I would.

Within a week of moving to New York, I started interviewing at a few startups. I had a call with Joe, came in the next day for an onsite interview with Joe and Aaron, and knew immediately Bison Trails was where I wanted to be. They showed me the small room they worked out of and said they only had a few employees: one engineer (Sasha) plus a contractor (Dan).

I had worked in tech, but never blockchain. I didn’t know much about it, but I knew I trusted Joe and Aaron and was inspired by their passion. Their enthusiasm and ability to lead convinced me immediately that I was ready to dive in and learn from them. They called me an hour after the interview, and I accepted the job as Operations Manager.

How do you describe your role? What are your responsibilities and how have they changed over time?

My responsibilities started in Operations, assisting Joe and Aaron in building the foundation of this company and the roadmap for its future. I did a lot of admin work when I first came on—there really wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do. Whether scheduling their days, going to walkthroughs to find an office, interviewing potential employees, or creating new processes for the team.

I am now the People and Development Manager. My role centers on continuing to build an amazing team and improving the culture we’ve worked so hard to create. My day-to-day is usually focused on People/HR operations, which has become more intense as we continue to grow. We’re over 40 people and currently have more offers out!

I handle all of the correspondence for the interview process, sending out offers, and parts of onboarding new team members: everything from setting up accounts, to software, to making sure everyone feels welcome and embraced by the team on their first day. I’m trying to make sure the company is scalable, prepared to continue to grow at a rapid rate, while we stay organized and true to our values.

You interview folks for a wide range of open positions. Are there general qualities or qualifications you look for in job applicants? How do our company values inform the interview process?

Initial interviews are extremely important at Bison Trails. Of course, we have a high bar and we do need to test for technical or role-specific skills, but I’ve never seen a company put so much emphasis on their values to ensure we’re building a strong team.

I make sure each person aligns with and upholds our values of Transparency, Empathy, Creativity, Trust, and Excellence. I also look for what else they’re going to bring to the table that will help inspire our continued growth.

It’s important for team members to understand and care about our mission. We want everyone to be excited about what they’re building, knowing our work could have a huge impact on the blockchain ecosystem and the future. To be honest, I also make sure everyone is kind and that they care about people, not just work. Everyone at Bison Trails wants one another to succeed, and that’s something I hope to maintain for as long as I’m here. :)

Melissa Meister
Photo by Aaron Henshaw

What’s the best question a candidate asked you in an interview?

A candidate once asked me “If you left Bison Trails, what would you miss most?” The question helped me see a new perspective on what we’re doing and I left the interview loving the company even more. Also, “Do you think Bison Trails sounds like a beef jerky company?”

As one of the earliest employees at Bison Trails, you’ve seen it all. Looking back, are there any memorable moments that stand out to you?

Thinking back to the first week, we were in half of a room with a whiteboard, and about twenty computer monitors on the ground, for a brainstorming session with Mark, Sasha, Dan, Aaron, and Joe about what we were going to build and why it was needed. I just remember thinking “wow… this is amazing.” I’ll never forget how I felt leaving the office that day.

Also, I’ll never forget the day I looked up from my computer and realized we went from that tiny room to taking over the entire floor. It was surreal.

What’s the most exciting thing about working at Bison Trails? What do you enjoy the most?

For me, I really enjoy bringing on new team members. Knowing what they’re in for and how much they’re going to be inspired and embraced by the company. It is so exciting for me to watch each person we bring on grow, learn, and come to love Bison Trails.

What are your interests outside of work? Any links you’d like to share?

I play and write music. Specifically, I play guitar and sing. It’s something I am very shy about, but I am slowly pushing myself to perform in front of people other than my family.

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