A fire in 2003 left Mellissa McHargh hospitalised for six months and with lifelong scars, but this was just one of a number of traumatic experiences that have taught her the value of life. The experience was also the catalyst for continued success in all spheres of her life.
Since that time, the mother of one has excelled, becoming the general manager of Edgechem Jamaica Limited in 2005, and in February of this year, was appointed the first female board chair for the Scientific Research Council.
"I still have scars up to this day, but they were minimal and I am proud of them because this is an ordeal that I went through and survived," she said. "It reminds me everyday when I start to lose focus of where my goals should be, that listen, 'you are given a second chance here, it could have been worse', so you must just keep moving along."
More energised than ever, the trained geologist and scientist — who generally likes working behind the scenes — has sought ways to utilise her expertise to improve brand Jamaica.
"I love my country and I want to build it and that's one of the reasons why I am on the board of SRC, because I sat down far too long behind the scenes," she said
McHargh knew she wanted to become a geologist from age nine, given her love for gems. After leaving St Andrew High School, she pursued her first degree in geology at the University of the West Indies, Mona. A deep-seated concern for the environment later resulted in her branching off into waste management and she went on to complete another degree in environmental sciences at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom and then a certificate in the management of landfill operations in 2000 at the Solid Waste Association of North America in Silver Springs, Maryland.
She also achieved a waste management programme certificate at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and completed the general management programme at the prestigious Harvard Business School.
Although her natural inclination is towards the preservation of the environment and exploration of scientific research, her time spent at Edgechem, thus far, is what she accounts for the development of her manufacturing, sales and entrepreneurial skills. All these skills combined have come in pretty handy in her current post as the board chair for the SRC, where she has been mandated by the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining to facilitate the development of businesses that will move the country forward.
"On the application side of things, they want to see a turnaround with the agency, they want to make sure that it can function and take Jamaica into the next 50 years in terms of food sustainability, new research for energy, for waste reduction and maintenance in terms of converting waste to energy," she said.
McHargh acknowledges that there are challenges that the SRC faces in moving forward, but having literally been through the fire, she remains undaunted. The professed tomboy said she is also unfazed by the fact that she has been given a task which has always been held by men, since the paint industry is a very male dominated environment as well.
"It does take a lot of planning to juggle the two activities, but what you have to know is where your priorities are. I have an obligation to my employers at Edgechem which I would never renege on, so that is core; and the fact that I have taken up this additional responsibility means that the time for that has to be found outside of my responsibility here," she said.
"I am a low keyed person, I am very quiet, I am very behind the scenes. I will work the late nights, I will get up early mornings, I will sit down and make sure that the work is done, but at the same time, I have to balance that with family. I have to make sure that that balance is met," she stressed.
McHargh is always mindful of her responsibilities to her 13-year-old son and her husband who have seen her through some of her toughest moments. A solid family backing, coupled with an understanding boss and reliable staff, have for her provided the perfect recipe for a life filled with minimal regrets.
"I can say I have achieved a lot in the 39 years since I have been here. I live like I am dying, so I enjoy every day to its fullest," she said.