Diverse experiences led to flexibility and a dream job for Susie Ellicks ‘18

Varsity lacrosse, English major and marketing internships helped launch promising career start with Burlington start-up Mamava

June 10, 2020
Mark Tarnacki
Staff Writer
Susie Ellicks

Susie Ellicks ’18, center, with the Mamava cofounders Christine Dodson (left) and Sascha Mayer (right).

Susie Ellicks ’18 says a demanding senior year at Saint Michael’s College directly prepared her for a job she now loves with the fast-growing and promising Burlington startup Mamava, where today she applies skills she developed as an English major, varsity athlete and marketing/communications intern.

Mamava “designs solutions to empower breastfeeding and pumping mamas on the go, like our freestanding lactation pods and lactation space locator app,” according to its marketing language, which Ellicks now helps develop and disseminate, among other duties.

“It made for very busy time my senior year as a full-time student, a full-time varsity athlete in lacrosse, and doing work-study with the College Marketing and Communications office,” Ellicks said — “but those had the most direct correlation to my getting the internship at Mamava the summer after graduation, which led to my job now that I love.”

A native of Acton, MA, Ellicks said she was focused on lacrosse when she began college-hunting, and heard of St. Mike’s only because many contemporaries of her parents in her hometown were alumni so her mom suggested it – also, an older former high school lacrosse teammate and Saint Michael’s student talked it up. A tour of larger schools while still in high school made Ellicks realize a smaller college is where she would feel more comfortable.

“It felt more like people knew each other here, and the community aspect really came through on my visit to St. Mike’s – the campus is beautiful, and the people are super nice, and the academics felt right,” she said. Happily for her, she was able to make the lacrosse team through tryouts even though she was not guaranteed a spot on the team before arriving. She advises anybody looking at college now to “think of doing a sport” if that is an option. “It’s a ton of work and you have to be ready for that level of commitment, but it wildly prepared me and gave me such a leg up in professional growth,” Ellicks said.

Finding the best path

English and history always were her favorite high school subjects, but she started undeclared in a major. “Even though I always loved English, I was worried about choosing it as a major since I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher, and wasn’t sure of opportunities outside education,” she said. Yet, after taking a few English classes in her first two years, “I said, yeah, clearly this is my favorite subject and I want to continue down this path — I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, but I was going to try to figure it out and see what happened.” She appreciated the patience and helpfulness of her adviser, Christina Root of the English faculty, in helping her figure it all out over four years.

Liberal arts were the best preparation for her present work at Mamava, Ellicks said:  “Obviously my marketing position for the college as a summer intern and work-study had a direct correlation since I was doing writing, photography and handling social media,” she said. “It surprised me how much I liked it since growing up I hadn’t wanted to do anything with marketing – it was ‘too business-y’ I told myself – but then I saw how a lot of English major skills relate to the position and I learned about representing a brand and how to uphold an institution’s reputation and entice more people to follow that enterprise on social media, so I learned about the responsibility marketers have for creating a healthy brand and sustaining an organization.” Further, she said, when such marketing work is for a place you believe in, such as St. Mike’s or Mamava in her case, it provides further motivation and satisfaction.

When applying right after graduation for the summer Mamava internship that she judged might be a good career-starter, “I had a full year of doing this for a college, so I was able to say confidently to them, ‘I definitely could do this for your startup – I understand the importance of presenting in a professional, on-brand voice and the implications of social media that reflect back to you so that you have to be responsible — so I was very ready,” she said.

Susie playing lacrosse

Susie Ellicks ’18 in action as a varsity women’s lacrosse player for Saint Michael’s College in her student days.

Though uncertain about taking an internship right out of college rather than seeking a regular full-time job as many of her peers saw as important, she also saw strong opportunities in the longer view to do fulfilling work that meant something to her. “I weighed my options – I really loved the work environment at Mamava which had maybe 20 people at the time, and fortunately, as I had hoped, they hired me after the June-August internship, to work as a temp employee through October while going through rebranding and redoing the website.”

In October based on her strong performance for those months, she was hired as a full-time marketing coordinator. Ellicks feels some keys to her success were being adaptable as far as transitioning to Mac computers that she had never used before and being willing to keep up with ever-changing “best practices in social media and technology” – though she said for her generation “at the end of the millennials,” technology is a natural extension of who she is , so social media was a familiar world from a very early age, which helped.

“It’s about picking things up as I go, being comfortable asking questions if I don’t know what things mean,” she said, explaining the broad relevance of her liberal arts education. “Mamava is pretty exciting.”

Optimizing many resources

While in college, Ellicks tapped career help that Saint Michael’s offers, particularly resume-writing workshops, and she attended networking workshops that brought to campus successful alumni from a wide range of professional fields. “The liberal arts core curriculum gave me the opportunity to explore a lot of different options, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that at many others colleges — it helped me figure out how to narrow down my likes and dislikes,” she said.

“When you’re 18 and coming into college, some people know and have known forever what they want to do, but essentially at that age, figuring out what you’re going to do for the rest of your life is so big,” she said. “I found writing is such an important skill to have for any job, and my English classes always were writing-heavy. I’m very grateful for that experience, and confident in my ability to communicate in a clear, concise, educated manner, which employers value.”

Ellicks said at this point, she is in no hurry to leave her current position at Mamava and would like to stay there as long as possible, “at least until I see maxed-out career growth potential here, and I don’t see that happening for a while.” At this point she enjoys the “freedom and creativity” that come with marketing work – “It never feels boring to me, which is important, and I can see continuing in the marketing realm in my work.” She also loves the people and mission at her Mamava workplace –“I think that’s what most people hope to find, and I’m super lucky to have found it just after college,” she said.

Ellicks encouraged anybody just starting college to “try to join clubs, because they’re a great way to meet people not in the same grade and major as you. Find a way to be involved that works with your life and schedule – but you have to prioritize classes”.

She found that in a workplace as at a college, it’s the people around you and mentoring you that make the difference. “All of my Saint Michael’s professors were really fantastic I’d say, and I don’t think too many at other colleges can say that. I really didn’t have a professor I didn’t like — it was apparent how much they cared about what they were doing and the students – they knew you by name and it was a very personal education experience.”  Ellicks also touts the residential life experience at St. Mike’s. “I love the fact that students have to live on campus all four years – I think it makes a huge positive difference.”

“I often think how I did not expect to go to St. Mike’s initially, but it worked out for the best and gave me really great experience – I’m excited to see how my experiences there continue to prepare me as I go forward through the years.”

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