When Ayda Melo-Taveras needs a reminder about just how much she’s capable of achieving, she recalls a specific childhood memory: her first day of kindergarten.
“Right now, I can remember seeing myself and looking back with my little book bag, just ready to go, ready to learn,” she says. “Every day after that was just so exciting. I always go back to that when I have a challenging moment. I say, ‘I was so little and had no clue what I was getting myself into, but I was ready.’”
So it’s not surprising that this “ready to go, ready to learn” mentality has aided the 33-year-old Melo-Taveras during her role as WeWork’s regional director of facilities, where she must react quickly to unexpected dilemmas.
“I’m putting out fires all day,” she says.
Melo-Taveras leads a team of about 18 people in New York alone, with other teammates scattered across the globe. She oversees everything related to facilities from a maintenance standpoint: all the various repairs and upkeep infrastructure-wise, including electrical, plumbing, and heating and air conditioning.
If there’s a broken chair or a leak coming from the floor above, she’s on it. If a two-person company is evolving into a 10-person company and they need a larger office to accommodate everyone, she’ll be there to help.
“Every day is a challenge,” says Melo-Taveras. “Because every day, it’s different things. And that’s what makes it fun. I come in here with a set of priorities, and they change every day, every second. It’s kind of an innate quality that I just go with the flow.”
When she was a child, Melo-Taveras remembers dreaming of becoming an architect.
“I always used to draw houses,” she says. “That was my thing. Not dolls, not families. It was just houses.”
She says her father was extremely proud of her aspirations, telling anyone who would listen that his only child was going to be an architect.
Melo-Taveras’ father recently joined the WeWork team. But when she and her father started working together, he didn’t see his daughter—who has an architectural degree in construction management from New York Institute of Technology—designing any plans, or doing the sort of work that’s typically associated with an architect.
“I brought him into WeWork so he could understand that what you think of when you think of what an architect is—or contractor, or an engineer, or whatever—has changed so much throughout the years, that at this point, you wear many hats,” she says. “You have to be a person manager and a character manager. You have to be an architect and a construction person. It’s all of that, and I think WeWork provides that. I wanted him to really see that.”
Almost three years ago, Melo-Taveras joined WeWork as an assistant construction project manager, where she was the third employee on the construction team. She remembers that many new locations were in the pipeline, and that the people building them were the same people managing and maintaining them. The company was growing fast, so this system wasn’t going to work for much longer.
“We needed sometime to manage the facilities end of it,” she says of her switch from construction to operations.
The experience that reigns supreme for Melo-Taveras is working with her field staff—the workers who built the very first WeWork spaces—many of whom share her Dominican heritage.
“I saw them like my dad: trying to go for a dream,” she says, “and being in a company that typically you don’t see these guys working in, and having the benefits, and being cared for. I want to make sure they’re cared for, and we see their hard work, and make them grow. And sometimes, I can come off a bit stern, but I say, ‘Hey, guys. This is not where it ends. You’re learning here to grow.”
Photo credit: Lauren Kallen