A Conversation with Melanie Margolin, Our New Chief Legal Officer
I’d like to welcome Melanie Margolin to Thumbtack in her new role as Chief Legal Officer. The very first time I spoke with Melanie it was abundantly clear that she was the person for the job because her values and passions line up perfectly with our company culture and mission. I think you’ll see what I mean when you read our Q&A below.
First, a little background on Melanie. Most recently, she served as SVP and General Counsel at Wabash National, a company with 6,500 employees and annual revenue of $2.3 billion. Prior to Wabash, Melanie was Deputy General Counsel at Cummins, Inc., a business with more than 58,000 employees and revenue of $24 billion.
Throughout her professional career, Melanie has always found time to serve on a number of non-profit boards and has donated money and time to LGBTQ youth organizations. She is also a member of several legal associations, including the LGBTQ National Bar.
At home, Melanie has two dogs, two cats and over the years many horses have called her house a home.
I had the pleasure to connect with Melanie during her first few days on the job to talk about her background and role here at Thumbtack (as well as her dream career as a wedding singer).
Marco: How will your role on the leadership team, overseeing company-wide objectives, carry over to the legal decisions you make for Thumbtack?
Melanie: My best value to the company will be my role as a business leader first, which will lead into my strategy and work on the legal issues. So, I plan to learn the business, meet people at all levels of the company, help drive corporate business initiatives and results, and work on coaching and mentoring our top talent at all levels. Because I’ll be so involved and have a deep understanding of the company from the variety of initiatives and people I touch, I’ll be able to guide us to the best legal decisions using a proactive, business first approach that is totally aligned with the company’s goals.
Marco: What are you hoping to accomplish at Thumbtack? What will your primary responsibilities be?
Melanie: I really want to be a holistic leader who drives results, engages with and inspires the people here, and — substantively — helps create and maintain a risk profile that allows us to reach our goals. My responsibilities will be to make sure the Legal function supports our business initiatives in a pro-active, practical, business first manner. My public company background is an asset there, because I can make sure Thumbtack employees and leaders know what that would or could look like, and we can make fully informed and risk weighted decisions.
I’m thrilled to be here, and am driven to make sure that Legal becomes everyone at Thumbtack’s favorite place to go for questions, problems, issues and FUN!
Marco: Why is company culture so important from your perspective?
Melanie: As a society, we spend more time with our work colleagues and teams than we do with some of our family members. I think anything in life worth doing, is worth doing 110%. So, if I am going to spend time and energy and effort working, I want it to be at a place where the people are smart, collaborative, connected and joined at the hip in achieving the goals we set. I also like to think about the long game. In my experience, creating and maintaining a terrific company culture over a long stretch of time is what allows people to really see themselves somewhere for the long term. Truthfully, I also think working hard mixed with playing hard is just more fun.
Marco: I understand your philosophy is “it’s truly the connections in work and life that are critical to success.” Can you elaborate on this? How do you feel this philosophy is aligned with Thumtback’s mission?
Melanie: When I was in law school, or shortly after, I watched a movie called Working Girl. It’s about an executive assistant who brings her A-game to the company every day, and has aspirations to run a business. She rides the ferry into Manhattan each morning and she reads tons of newspapers and magazines and business journals (this was when people read stuff on ACTUAL paper!). She connects the dots between the different stories and comes up with ideas about business partnerships and collaborative transactions. Of course there is drama and her boss steals her ideas (it’s a MOVIE!), but that process of connecting the dots, making connections, introducing new ideas, and seeing the way from point A to B with a sidestep to point K, always stuck with me.
I’ve created a diverse network of professionals and friends and mentees in my life who I always think about and for whom I like to make connections. I help them when they need it, and rely on them when I need something. I am a better lawyer for connecting those dots and having them in my life, and frankly, I’m a better person for it, too.
Thumbtack’s mission drives everything we do here. And that mission is about helping small businesses and professionals support themselves and their families. While doing this, it also makes the customers’ lives better and more manageable. I see my life mission and Thumbtack’s mission as in lockstep. It’s one of the reasons I am so excited to be on this team!
Marco: Can you talk about your advocacy work mentoring diverse lawyers and business professionals?
Melanie: I came from a humble background and was the first person in my family to go to college. Doing that without the guidance of a mentor or coach was tough at times. I often found myself not wanting to make the wrong decisions, but having to rely purely on my drive and intention to figure out the right decision!
When I was in a place to make sure others had an easier or clearer path, it became part of my purpose professionally. As a third year lawyer, I started coaching law clerks and paralegals and asking them to imagine what their careers could look like. Since DEI has always been a cornerstone of my value system, I found myself paired with women, LGBTQ+ professionals and racial minorities in these discussions because there weren’t a lot of people who looked like us or led our lives openly in law firms.
I had official and unofficial career development relationships with controllers, engineers, sales and marketing professionals, communications and corporate developments employees and everything in between. I’d like to think I helped each of those people in some way professionally, but as is always the case, I’ve learned just as much or more from anyone I’ve ever mentored, coached or sponsored. I am grateful for the time we spent together.
Marco: What’s it been like joining a new company in a remote work environment?
Melanie: In a million years, I would never have imagined it! But, honestly, the technology has enabled me to feel like I am developing real relationships with the people I meet. I am having lots of one-on-one meetings, and just spending the time getting to know people as people. While I really want to dive in substantively, too, I think the remote piece for me has simply forced me to slow down a bit, and do online what I would naturally do in the hallways, kitchen, happy hours or other spontaneous pre-pandemic in-person events. All in all, it’s been a great start!
Marco: If you were a Thumbtack Pro, what would your specialty be?
Melanie: Well, if you mean in my dreams, I would be a wedding singer who specializes in 80s and 90s pop covers! If you mean what I could be hired to do? I could provide low cost legal services to small businesses and families.