If Melanie Frank’s career at banking conglomerate Capital One was a person, it would be old enough to buy a drink.
Following her first job as a software test manager at Honeywell, she moved to Capital One, the McLean, Virginia-based financial services company, to take on a software testing position in 2000. Along the way, she’s moved from the director of quality services to take on a senior director role in enterprise customer management. In the years following, she’s held leadership roles in retail bank technology, card technology and associate experience all the way up to her current role: managing VP of cyber engineering. All in all, it adds up to a 21-year career with the company.
But before she did all of that, Frank told Technical.ly that she actually wanted to be an astronaut, even studying aerospace engineering at the University of Virginia.
“In roughly middle school [times], I decided that I wanted to be an astronaut,” Frank said. “I mean, all kids have different things. At one point, I wanted to be a circus clown and a dolphin trainer, but the astronaut thing stuck. Secretly, I do still want to be an astronaut.”
She actually did get the chance to work in aerospace during her time at Honeywell, which was contracted with NASA at the Goddard Space Center. But Frank was drawn to Capital One when she decided she wanted to leave DC in favor of returning to Richmond, Virginia. It has held her attention for over two decades, she said, because of the ability it offered to try take on a variety of roles, and her own alignment with the company’s mission and goals.
For Frank, the opportunity to take on new challenges and changing responsibilities within tech and engineering has led to staying power at Capital One.
With each new position, she set out to try something new. As it happened, many of Frank’s role changes aligned with the birth of her children, she noted. Going on maternity leave allowed her to come back to the company as a free agent and find where she was needed most.
In May of 2018, Frank said she was approached by Capital One to take on the managing VP position in associate experience technology, which oversees the technology used internally by the company’s team. It’s a move that later brought her to cyber engineering. And although she now says it was one of the best decisions she’s ever made, she initially said no.
“I was like, no way, that is a thankless job. Have you ever tried to make [50,000] people happy every day? That doesn’t go very well,” she said, explaining that the department gets the complaints when things go wrong, and, speaking to the old adage about IT, no one gets thanks when everything is working properly.
Frank eventually changed her mind once she realized that many of her previous positions had been more customer-facing, and thus closer to the new role than she really knew at the time. Working in associate-facing technology, she added, also helped her realize she do could something completely different from everything she had done before, and still enjoy it.
As someone who has worn a lot of hats within Capital One, Frank said that what keeps her excited is the opportunity to take on new challenges and changing responsibilities within tech and engineering. Since she started, the company has moved to go all-in on the cloud, and added AI and machine learning aspects.
And for those interested in moving up the ladder at the same company, she said that staying curious helps find new and better solutions to the job at hand, which can lead to new responsibilities and growth.
“To me, that’s all wrapped up in curiosity of, how do things work and how do they connect?” Frank said. “And I have found that over the years, the more I seek to understand, the more I understand, the better connections I can make…and [through that] I just had this organic growth.”
Frank isn’t sure what’s coming next for her with the company, although one thing she definitely sees in her future is continuing to lead the resource group for women in tech at Capital One, and helping to create a more inclusive workplace overall. No matter what, she said, she expects those ideals and initiatives to remain as part of her core role at the company.
Though she has now been with the company for a long time, Frank said that she never intended to be a 21-year vet of Capital One. But her ability to grow, change and meet her goals at a company that prioritizes innovation and technology, she said, has helped her stay put for so long and continue loving what she does every day.
“I’m a huge believer that no matter where you are, there’s an upside and downside, pros and cons,” Frank said. “I think there’s a match for really understanding, as a present person, what makes a great day for you and finding a match between that and what you get to do in your job, and where you get to do it.”-30-