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SEMA "She Is" Spotlight: Hemmings' Melanie Barsness on Building a New Career in the Industry

By Ashley Reyes

Melanie BarsnessThe SEMA Businesswomen’s Network (SBN) named Melanie Barsness as this week’s #SheIsSEMA Spotlight Member. Barsness is an account executive at Hemmings, a media production and motor news company geared toward publishing high-quality content and publications for the collector-car enthusiast.

Having always wanted to work in an environment that fosters innovation, collaboration, and fun, Barsness joined Hemmings in July 2020, and is new to the industry. Get to know how she got here, and what she has planned for the future in her Q&A with SEMA.  

SEMA: How many years have you been in the industry and what was your first industry job?

Melanie Barsness: This is my first gig in the automotive industry. The warm welcome by this community has been amazing! After 12+ years of focusing my advertising/marketing efforts on a hyper-local clientele, it has been fun to pivot and turn my attention to clients looking to reach audiences on a national scale.

SEMA: What are three qualities that got you to where you are today? How have these qualities benefited you?

MB: I’m a military spouse, so I’ve had to stay open-minded and flexible when it came to building my own career. With each move, I felt like I was starting over. (Anybody remember when remote work wasn’t a thing?) Looking back, I now realize that I was fortunate to have had those experiences with organizations all around the country; and solving for clients in various industries was fun!

Without having gone through the process of rebuilding my career every few years, I without a doubt would not be where I am today. So back to the question. Three qualities that got me where I am today: resilience (being okay with starting over), optimism (taking whatever life throws at me and making the best of it), and self-confidence (being brave enough to put myself out there, whether it’s jumping into a new industry, meeting new people or sharing crazy ideas with clients).

SEMA: What is the best career advice you have received? How has this advice helped you either professionally or personally?

MB: I had a mentor who always quizzed me, “What’s the No. 1 key to success in both business and in life?” He’d pay money for a correct answer by the way! The answer is, “You are what you think about.” He got it past me a couple of times, then I made a few bucks off him.

SEMA: Have you always wanted to work in the automotive industry? What keeps you here?

MB: I’ve always wanted to work in an environment that fosters innovation, collaboration, and fun—the automotive industry certainly lends itself to that! Now that I’m fortunate to work remote, I look forward to staying in the industry for many years to come, and I’m excited to continue to learn, grow and give back!

SEMA: Who was the most influential person on your career/goals?

MB: The most influential person on my career was a boss who believed in me more than I believed in myself. He continually challenged me to get out of my comfort zone, take on more responsibilities and have confidence to speak up. At the time, I was working at a daily newspaper which was very much a male-dominated environment. It’s difficult to explain—it’s as if my self-confidence was always a part of me; it just needed a little push. I am so grateful for the years I worked under his leadership. Anytime I’m presented with the opportunity to lift someone else up, I happily pay it forward by offering encouragement and celebrating wins (even the small ones!).

Do you know, or are you, a woman with a career in the automotive industry? Fill out a #SheIsSEMA spotlight form to submit a self-nomination or nominate a colleague and highlight how you or she is contributing to the specialty-equipment industry. Selected candidates are automatically eligible to be considered for SBN’s #SheIsSEMA Woman of the Year award, featured on SBN’s social media, SEMA eNews and recognized on the website.