Melissa RickfordBy: Anne Maxwell
As parents try their best to balance career and family, they can find themselves at a crossroads. A place of impasse where the two worlds never seem to be in sync, but in opposition with one another. It’s a familiar push and pull for professionals in a modern world, and one that Melissa Rickford knew all too well. But about four years ago, she found she could no longer sacrifice her family for her career.
“I was working in the medical device field and had reached the career goals I had set for myself,” she recalls, noting that at the time she had two young children. “I loved the work, but I would leave on Tuesday mornings and not get home until Friday nights. When I was home, I was just working there, too. Our family time basically consisted of whether or not I could fit a walk in when I was home. I was missing all my kids’ events.”
She nearly missed a special musical performance by her son. Having rushed to make it just in time to see him turn around to see her slip into her seat before he took to the stage, her son Ashton said. “I knew you’d make it, Mom!”
It filled and broke Rickford’s heart all at once.
“I knew deep down I just about didn’t get there in time and had missed that, too,” she said. “I didn’t want those disappointments and knew that was the breaking point for me. I had all I wanted for my career and I had a lot of value there, but I knew something needed to change.”
So, in 2017, Rickford and her husband, Travis, moved back to her hometown of Atwood. The small community was where they wanted to raise Ashton and his sister, Olivia. Problem was, Rickford struggled to find the right career fit. She initially worked as a controller and HR director, before taking a contract position as a CFO. When that ended, she wasn’t sure what her next step would be and felt as though her days of loving her work were behind her.
When her husband suggested she contact Rural & Remote, she was initially hesitant, not wanting to be “some random employee” who didn’t feel part of a company, but decided to give it a try. The result?
“It has seriously changed my entire life,” she says from the comfort of her home office on a sunny spring afternoon. “The company I work for makes me feel good about what I’m doing every day and it is challenging work with so much room for growth.”
Taking the Rural & Remote Master of Remote Work Certificate helped Rickford discover something about the limitations she falsely assumed were bound to exist due to her rural address.
“Through Rural & Remote, I discovered that you’re not limited because of your location,” she said. “The only thing that limits you is your skill level. There is no reason you can’t achieve the same career you could in a metro area.”
Rickford’s outlook isn’t the only thing that’s changed. Now, she picked up her kids from school, attends every school event, and best of all – has the gift of time.
“My oldest will leave for college in three years and I am so happy I have the time to have such great conversations with him and to go on walks with him, just to know the person he is becoming,” she said, noting her daughter loves knowing her Mom is right at home, working in a career she loves.
“For Mother’s Day, she got on Amazon and found me some gifts she thought would be perfect for my home office.”
Rickford received support from Gretchin Staples Program Coordinator with Rural and Remote – from encouragement to insight on job opportunities. In fact, one of Staples’ suggestions for Rickford to take further training from a Utah company – The Workflow Academy – ended up helping Rickford land the remote job of her dreams. Shortly after completing that training, Rickford began working in business management for the company.
Her message to others who want to live in rural areas, yet find engaging, challenging work to enjoy is simple: it is possible.
“Through Rural & Remote, you get the training and you gain that collaboration with the right connections,” she said. “You have to do the work, but they help open the doors to opportunities. Your career is not based on your location. It’s based on your skill. With the right connections and pathways, you can achieve your greatest career goals.”