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Melissa Dinwiddie, who calls herself a “passion pluralite”, is a creative first and foremost. She has pursued a wide variety of creative expressions throughout her life: calligraphy, abstract painting, paper flowers, jazz singing, improv, dance (her first love), animation, and more. She is happiest when creative expression is woven throughout her day.
Together with her husband of 9 years and their two adorable-but-pesky kitties, Melissa lives in a little townhouse in Silicon Valley, not far from Google HQ, a few miles from her parents, who still live in the same house she grew up in.
You can connect with Melissa Dinwiddie on LinkedIn.
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IN WHICH GENERATION DO YOU BELONG?
Gen X: 1965 – 1980
DO YOU WORK? IF SO, WHAT DO YOU DO?
I’m a Creative Learning Strategist and Virtual Experience Designer. I work with innovative, people-first companies grappling with boring (or nonexistent) virtual training and events. I design creative, interactive, playful experiences that attendees rave about because they acquire new skills and behaviors and build connections while having fun.
The specifics of the work itself can be quite varied. For example, I worked with several teams at Facebook (now Meta) to help them communicate for influence and impact. For another company, I worked with them to develop a virtual instructor-led training that would help their customers fall in love with their products and grow a loyal base of brand ambassadors. Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of calls to work with agencies and individuals who are challenged with delivering presentations that stand out and convert clients.
The common denominator is that most of my work these days is virtual, and I use play-based methods as opposed to lecturing (no “Death by PowerPoint” here!) It’s a point of pride that participants often remark that my workshops are “the most fun meeting I’ve attended all year!”
WHAT WOULD THE 25-YEAR-OLD VERSION OF YOU THINK OF YOU TODAY?
Holy moly! The 25-year-old version of myself would be blown away at the way I’m doing — and have done — things she couldn’t even imagine and didn’t even exist when I was 25! She’d be impressed and surprised to learn that I: made my living as a professional artist/calligrapher, performed around the country as a singer/songwriter, recorded two EPs of original songs, wrote a book, led/lead creativity retreats (including one week-long retreat in Istanbul), and that I’ve never stopped evolving.
On the other hand, I think she would be disappointed that I still struggle to pick up after myself and have yet to achieve the House Beautiful model home of her dreams. As my ambition has softened since I’ve gotten older, I think she might also see me as settling for less than her 25-year-old visions. Though I’d hope she’d just think I’m chill and kickass.
I certainly appreciate that I’m a lot less uptight than I used to be. As a pre-teen, it was practically a motto for me that “life is serious business,” and at 25, I was still very serious. I’ve mellowed quite a lot since then! I enjoy finding the fun and humor in life, and I’m just a lot more easygoing than I used to be. (I credit my wonderful and very goofy husband for some part in this change. 😊
WHAT HAS NOT CHANGED ABOUT YOU?
What hasn’t changed through the years is my empathy and compassion for others. I’ve always been disturbed by hypocrisy, cruelty, and unethical behavior. This has definitely stayed the same.
GOOD OR BAD, WHAT ABOUT MIDLIFE HAS SURPRISED YOU SO FAR?
What surprised me about midlife is the wild physical changes that my body is going through. And also how these changes offer an opportunity for women to connect with each other. I think in generations past, women didn’t talk about perimenopause and menopause. But my generation is more open about these things, and I love how that creates an instant bond between women. Just the other night, I was at a small party for a women’s leadership group, and as I started to take my leave, I heard a few women talking about menopausal issues. I stuck around for another 20 minutes because the conversation was so rich! And I felt an instant connection with those women.
WHAT ONE HABIT ARE YOU ACTIVELY WORKING ON THESE DAYS?
I’m continually working on the habit of getting to bed early. I have to be vigilant, or my bedtime will creep later and later, which wreaks havoc with my entire system. My circadian rhythms changed years ago, but my mind still hasn’t quite caught up! It’s an ongoing issue.
WHAT BRINGS YOU THE MOST JOY THESE DAYS AND WHY?
What brings me joy these days is music! Music was a big part of my life for several years. I performed regularly, wrote a lot of songs, and recorded my EPs. Then I kind of put it on a shelf for about five years. This past July, I went to a week-long music camp, which re-energized me, and reconnected me with my love of music-making. I took a beginner double bass class at camp and have continued on afterward with private lessons, which is so fun – I love being a beginner at this new thing! I also started back with my vocal coach and have started going to a songwriting class to help kickstart my songwriting again. It’s all making me so happy.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT THESE DAYS?
In addition to music, I’m excited about my new signature system, the Winning Presenter Process™, which I developed to help people who are frustrated with boring, ho-hum client presentations. Through play-based, experiential activities, I help you deliver engaging, creative presentations that win hearts and minds and win clients on the first pitch.
IF YOU COULD GIVE A 20-YEAR-OLD PERSON SOME WORDS OF WISDOM OR PIECE OF ADVICE, WHAT MIGHT IT BE?
Don’t stress about getting older. A lot of things really do get better with age.
AND THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION: WHO WAS YOUR FAVORITE SINGER/BAND GROWING UP?
Confession time: I really hate when I’m asked to pick a favorite because I can rarely identify a single favorite! There are so many bands and singers I loved when I was growing up, but just so I can answer the question, I’ll say Cyndi Lauper because I so admire her pro-woman, iconoclastic style.
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