MilliporeSigma Employee Spotlight: Melissa Hackmeier

Nov 10, 2020 7:30 AM ET

As part of our employee spotlight series, we’re sitting down with Melissa Hackmeier, head of employee and community engagement at MilliporeSigma, to learn more about how she’s supporting employees, partners and the next generation of scientists around the world.

1. How did you get your start with MilliporeSigma?

I joined MilliporeSigma in 2013 as part of what was then the Corporate Responsibility team (now Sustainability & Social Business Innovation), with a focus specifically on employee engagement programs and communication to raise awareness about our overall programs and initiatives. Soon after, my role expanded to include our global community engagement efforts and has grown into what it is today.

2. Tell us about your background (where you grew up, went to school, your family, etc.).

I grew up in a suburb 30 minutes north of Boston in a close-knit family with one older brother. I majored in English and minored in communication at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. Following college, I wanted to experience a new city and made the move to New York City, where I worked in public relations. While working on a specific corporate responsibility project for a client, I realized that for-profit companies can leverage their expertise and resources to not only impact the bottom line, but also to have a positive impact on society. That ‘aha moment’ led me down the path of a career in corporate responsibility before it became a mainstream company imperative. To expand my skillset, I returned to Boston and enrolled in business school at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business.

3. Explain your role at MilliporeSigma.

I lead the development and implementation of global employee and community engagement strategy, programs and nonprofit partnerships. This includes our SPARK™ global volunteer program and our flagship science education programming. In addition, I oversee the development of our multi-dimensional, impact-driven nonprofit partnerships, which focus on supporting scientists to accelerate access to health through investments in scientific research and inspiring curiosity in the next generation of scientists through investments in science education.

4. Tell us more about the employee engagement programs at MilliporeSigma.

Our SPARK™ global volunteer program is the foundation of our employee engagement programs, and it allows employees to leverage their time, passion and expertise to make a difference in their communities. At the heart of SPARK™ is our Curiosity Labs™ program, which educates and inspires students around the globe through hands-on, interactive science lessons led by employees, and our Curiosity Cube® retrofitted shipping container turned mobile science lab that travels across North America to spark curiosity in visitors of all ages through hands-on learning. To round out our science education programming, we also host students at our sites, giving them a first-hand look at what it’s like to work at a life science company and engaging them in career discussions. In addition, we participate in school and community science day expo events where employees showcase small-scale, interactive experiments.

5. What led to the launch of the SPARK™ Program?

The SPARK™ global volunteer program was born in 2016, following the acquisition of Sigma-Aldrich by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. It was designed to unite our employees around the globe in our shared commitment to making the world better through education, service to others and the enhancement of our ecosystem. With a focus on science education, especially for underrepresented populations, SPARK™ allows our employees to give back to the communities in which they live and work through skills-based and non-skills-based volunteering. The program has engaged 9,700 employee participants, reaching 235,000 students in 36 countries to date— and counting!

6. What is the most rewarding part of working with partners across the globe?

Through our nonprofit partnerships, we aim to support our partner organizations in achieving their respective missions. The most rewarding aspect of that is the collaborative relationships that we develop with each partner. Those relationships are the backbone for creating the most effective long-term, sustainable and impactful partnerships.

7. What is one thing that few people know about you?

When I was in high school, I spent a summer living in Costa Rica, where I did volunteer work in the rainforest.

8. What is your favorite part about working at MilliporeSigma?

One of my favorite parts about working at MilliporeSigma is engaging with employees from around the world. To drive our programs locally, we engage with SPARK™ Teams at each of our sites. Our SPARK™ Teams are comprised of employees who are passionate about community engagement and volunteer their time to organize SPARK™ events in their local communities, whether it is a Curiosity Labs™ event at a school or a meal packing event at their site. The passion, creativity and unique perspectives that each of our SPARK™ Team members bring to the table inspires and motivates me. They make our SPARK™ program possible. 

9. What has been the most exciting development or project you’ve worked on over the past year?

Due to COVID-19, our in-person SPARK™ activities have been halted since March. However, it was important for us to continue to spark curiosity in the next generation of scientists, even if we were constrained by this new, virtual environment in which we were all thrust. My team and I quickly pivoted and developed Curiosity Labs™ at Home, a series of easy, educational science experiments that can be completed at home with materials typically found around the house. Each experiment comes complete with a video, as well as corresponding recipe cards and lab report worksheets. The response we’ve had so far has been incredible. It makes me smile anytime I hear the positive feedback from students around the world, like from 5-year-old Giovani in Brazil: “I like doing experiments with my daddy because he is a biochemist, and if I want to be a biochemist, I must to do more experiments every day.”  

10.  What do you like to do outside of the office?

When I’m not working, I like to go for a hike and just be in nature, spend time with family and friends over brunch or coffee (in non-Covid times), and hop on my bike (both indoor and outdoor). Most of all, I love exploring the wonders of the world through my 1-year-old daughter’s eyes and seeing the spark of curiosity every time she experiences or discovers something new.