Volunteering to Lead: Melanie McDonald


Volunteering to Lead: Melanie McDonald

A Q&A with Palm Beach County 'Canes President Melanie McDonald, B.B.A. '07.

Palm Beach County native Melanie McDonald, B.B.A. ’07, transferred to the University of Miami in her third year of college. After graduating from the entrepreneurship program, McDonald joined UBS Financial Services, where she worked for over a decade. Now, the avid Miami Hurricanes fan runs her own practice, providing financial management services – from managing company investments to helping implement 401k plans – for small business owners in the southeast Florida region. And, as president of the Palm Beach County ‘Canes, she leads a network of alumni, family, and friends whose passion for the U has kept them connected long after graduation.

Melanie McDonald

We touched base with her to learn about her time at the U and the keys to her success.

Tell us about your time at UM.

My experience at UM was a little different than most because I transferred and worked full time during my time there. The majority of my time was spent at the business school, of which I have nothing but great things to say.

I received an amazing education. The professors were phenomenal. I still have the connections I made with some of my classmates. I also spent a lot of time in college sports. I’ve been a University of Miami football fan my whole life, growing up in a family of Miami fans. We bleed orange and green and have watched or attended almost every game.

Why did you get involved with the Palm Beach County ‘Canes Community?

To stay connected to the University. I began by attending a few events but quickly found that this was something I wanted to devote more time and energy to. I want to continue to spread the word about how amazing UM is, and this is a great way to do it in my local community. We have a really unique club here in Palm Beach with people who are really passionate about the University and the work they're doing and the events that we put together, the recent grads that we engage, and the connection that we all make with each other, for years and years.

How has your time at the University of Miami helped in your career?

University resources are what connected me to the industry I’m currently working in today. I was an entrepreneurship major and had always planned to open my own business. As a recent graduate, gaining experience and making an income to create financial flexibility took priority. I attended a Topple Career Fair shortly after graduating and met a representative of a major wealth management firm. One thing led to another and shortly after I was interviewing for a position at a local downtown Miami branch. Although it may not have been the future I initially envisioned after graduation, today, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Over a decade later, my business partner and I went on to open our own independent registered investment advisory firm.   

How did you get to where you are? What has been the key to your success?

Tireless determination! For some reason, I was always the type of person that had to put effort into achieving any form of success. In sports, I had to practice more than my teammates to develop a skill; as a student, getting good grades was always a challenge; with my career, I literally worked my way up from the bottom. I attribute my success to the individual challenges I faced along the way and the work ethic that developed because of it. Without that solid work ethic I fine-tuned throughout my youth, I don’t think I would be where I am today.

Define a great leader — what are some traits you think great leaders possess?

A great leader is someone that isn’t content with the status quo, is driven by hopes of change or improvement and actively does something about it. A great leader leads by example, they’re direct, typically visionaries and have passion in everything that they do!

Leaders typically take a firm stance but are willing to hear others out. They show others why they support a particular viewpoint and what the plan to do about it. They’re passionate about their cause or position and they educate others on why they should share that passion. 

What message would you send to other alumni and new grads?

TAKE CHANCES! I think 2020 has been a testament to the fact that some things just aren’t in our control. As much as we may plan and prepare for the future, those plans may be thrown off track. Personally, I’m a firm believer that life has an interesting way of steering you in a direction you may not completely understand or are willing to accept, but in hindsight may have been exactly what you needed. When life takes you off course, be willing to take chances and explore the possibilities!

What was your dream job as a kid and why?

As a kid, I always wanted to be an attorney. Regardless of the discussion, I always found a way to organize facts, build a case and defend the opinion I had. Honestly, half the time I feel I may have been doing it for the sheer joy of arguing rather than a defense of my opinion. My parents always told me – “You’re going to make a great attorney one day.”