Award-winning advocate, speaker, author, entrepreneur, CEO, publisher, Radio Show Host, and proud Navy veteran Melissa A. Washington wears many hats. Yet woven throughout her diverse pursuits is a mission of service—and a passion to empower her fellow women veterans.
The daughter of a Bronze Star Army Vietnam War veteran, Melissa grew up in San Francisco’s East Bay. Fiercely independent as a child, she spent many afternoons in her family’s video store, where she developed an early sense of business acumen. That enterprising spirit continued into her teenage years when Melissa began training for a career in early childhood education while still in high school.
But something else sparked in Melissa, just as she was finishing her certification. Seeking to expand her world and serve her country, the 18-year-old enlisted in the Navy, where she spent three years on active duty and five years in the reserve. During her time on active duty, she did a 6 month "Med Cruise" and a 6-month "West Pac" deployment. That formative experience set her life on a completely new trajectory—not only taking her across the globe and teaching her vital lessons, but also introducing Melissa to her husband and, ultimately, inspiring her to transform thousands of lives.
In the mid-nineties, she chose to leave the Navy early, having witnessed the burdens that come with a dual-service family. While her husband would remain in the Marine Corps for 21 years, Melissa embarked on a new path, earning her bachelor’s degree in business management. She followed with a decade-long career in corporate recruiting and human resources, working with such entities as Nissan, Oracle, Tickets.com, Randstad, and the 2002 Winter Olympics.
But in 2009, amid The Great Recession, Melissa was laid-off. Despite the setback, she relied on her military training—which taught her to be adaptable and resourceful—as well as her innate sense of resilience. Above all, Melissa saw an opportunity to reinvent herself once again.
Initially, she held LinkedIn workshops from her dining room table, where she imparted her vital knowledge to others. Soon, she was hosting larger workshops, which eventually grew into speaking engagements with hundreds of attendees. In 2011, she established Melissa Washington, Inc.—a consulting service catering to businesses and individuals, which incorporates LinkedIn for research, recruiting, job seeking, and collaboration.
Following a four-year period at LinkedIn, where Melissa held a planning role within the company’s Global Corporate Meeting & Events division, she returned to her entrepreneurial roots. But this time, she focused on her fellow women veterans. A natural networker, Melissa initially sought to connect with her peers outside of traditional veterans’ organizations. Yet, the more meetups she planned, the more she realized the need for a dedicated support system for women veterans.
In 2015, Melissa responded by founding Women Veterans Alliance—a national organization that seeks to empower and positively impact the lives of women veterans. Three years later, she established the nonprofit wing of WVA, Women Veterans Giving. Both entities offer women veterans opportunities to gain valuable career experience and successfully integrate back into civilian life. WVG also helps fund women veteran-owned businesses, which are often overlooked by other organizations. To date have awarded over $20k to women veteran-owned businesses. In 2016 created and produced the first "Women Veterans Unconference".
In 2021, Melissa expanded her role in the community by co-founding Women Veterans Magazine—the first publication of its kind that speaks to the issues that affect women veterans, while providing them with local and national resources.
Today, aside from serving as CEO of both WVA and WVG and publisher of Women Veterans Magazine, Melissa stays busy as an in-demand public speaker, whose topics range from career reinvention and women veterans to discovering one’s self-worth. She speaks regularly at conferences and events around the country and has conducted more than 100 training workshops—presenting for the likes of Marriott, the Urban League, Blue Diamond, and IMEX America. Melissa has also appeared on the Dr. Phil Show and the Lifetime Channel’s The Balancing Act, as well as on SiriusXM, iHeartRadio, ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox, among others.
Additionally, Melissa is the author of Get Back to Work: Smart & Savvy Real-World Strategies to Make Your Next Career Move (FriesenPress, 2014). And Unstoppable: Being Fierce, Fearless & Unf*ckwithable in Life and Business, based on her experiences with WVA, which offers practical advice on creating a meet-up group and becoming an influence within one’s community (Brave Healer Productions, 2022).
A longtime resident of Northern California, Melissa was a 2011 recipient of the Sacramento Business Journal’s prestigious 40 Under 40 award and was among the Journal’s Women Who Mean Business honorees in 2017. She has also been recognized by the National Association of Women Business Owners with an Outstanding Women Leader Visionary Award and received the 2016 Soroptimist Ruby Award, which recognizes women helping women. In 2019, she received the Center for Women Veterans’ Trailblazer Award.
In 2022 Thrive Causemetics Inc. featured a "Melissa" Warm Sienna Sheer Strength Hydrating Lip Tint to honor her infinite impact on the community.
Outside of work, Melissa enjoys spending quality time with her husband, Jarrod, and daughter, Maya. In addition to being an avid genealogist, Melissa loves vacationing with her family—particularly trips that involve a beach.
Her grandfather a WWII Army Air Corps/Air Force Veteran, who received the Bronze Star, Air Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters, served in the 509th Bomb Squad AC, in the Eastern European Theater with 37 missions over Germany.
Her husband is a retired Marine who served in combat in Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
Building and Connecting Community
I'm on LinkedIn Now What?
My Journey of Career Reinvention
Vanquishing the Invisible: Women Warriors
2023: NAWBO OWL Vision Award (A woman who leads an organization whose vision provides meaningful opportunities for women)
2022 The Brave, Bold, & Unstoppable Women's Summit Humanitarian Award
2022 Sacramento Host Committee Navy Honoree
2019 Department of Veterans Affairs Women Veterans Trailblazers: Women Breaking Barriers
2018 Sharif Jewelers Sacramento Kings Hometown Hero
2018 Tapestry Impact Award
2017 Sacramento's Women Who Mean Business
2016 Soropotomist Ruby Award
2016 KFBK (iHeart Radio) Hometown Hero
2016 Congressional & Assembly Award and Recognition. Name listed on Congressional Record.
2015 NAWBO OWL Vision Award (An organization whose vision provides opportunities for girls or women)
2011 Sacramento Business Journal 40 under 40 award
Member, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR)
Founder and President Women Veterans Giving
SBA Advisory Committee on Veterans Business Affairs
Member California State Commanders Veterans Council
Member Placer County Veterans Advisory Council
Special Advisor American Veteran Organization of Women Magazine (AVOW)
Advisor and Former Co-Chair VA Community Veteran Engagement Board (CVEB)
Board Member of Lincoln Veterans Memorial Coalition
Member VA Northern California Health Care System Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service (VAVS)
Member of Military Women Coalition
Member of the Military Family Research Institute Advisory Council, Purdue University
Charter Member- Military Women's Memorial in Washington D.C.
Veterans Foreign Wars (VFW) Lifetime Member
Member: American Legion Post 264, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Sea Services Leadership Association, Association of the United States Army, Non Commissioned Officers Association (NCOA)
Former Chair California Women Veterans Leadership Council
Former Board Member Placer County Veterans Stand Down
Get Back to Work: Smart & Savvy Real-World Strategies to Make Your Next Career Move, 2014
Unstoppable: Being Fierce, Fearless & Unf*ckwithable in Life and Business, Chapter 10: Perseverance: How to Build and Empower Your Community, 2022