Cross-Functional Leader: Alisha Merlo
Written By: Michelle Emmick
People skills. The list goes on.
If you’ve been on the leadership side of business for any length of time, chances are you’ve seen skills and traits like these on resume after resume.
How many people with these characteristics actually come to mind, though? Hopefully many.
But in a world where relationships are often solely transactional, it’s great to know there are still professionals who understand the true meaning of doing business- professionals like Alisha Merlo, who brings class and integrity as a quintessential relationship builder.
To ask her peers, they would describe Alisha as an amazing, hardworking professional who has served as a mentor to countless women in the aesthetic space and is universally loved and respected.
In Alisha’s words, “I’m a Jewish girl from New Jersey who migrated to California.”
Alisha brings a cool Cali vibe with a smart Jersey swagger. Combine the two, and her likeability factor is off the charts. It’s no surprise Alisha comes from solid stock.
Her family is rooted in everything she is and has done, including the decisions that have led her down the path of success. Growing up in a small town in central NJ where her graduating class of about 100 reflected a simpler life, Alisha was surrounded by influences of hard work, faith, and character.
Having come of age in a much different era, beauty consisted of big hair and blue eyeshadow. Alisha never considered a profession in the industry; it chose her. With a degree in Speech-Language Pathology and a life set up in California, Alisha’s personal and professional life took an unexpected path early on.
“I remember telling my mom after I graduated college, ‘I am not getting married, not having kids, and I will not be driving a minivan.’ Three months later, I was dating my husband, six months engaged, and 11 months later we were married. Never say never!”
She also added a child and a mini minivan along the way.
Her career path looks less like a minivan and more like a race car. Married young, Alisha dabbled in retail sales and quickly gravitated toward a healthcare position with an orthopedic group, working the front desk, answering phones, prepping charts, and greeting patients. She took her job as the ‘Director of First Impressions’ to heart and was committed to delivering the best patient experience.
“During my time in that role, I listened to and learned about what other team members were doing, I shadowed my co-workers, and I built relationships and a reputation for hard work.”
This quickly led her to the position as a Patient Coordinator for one of the group’s spine surgeons, and then she moved up to become a Clinical Study Site Coordinator. One important lesson she learned is that every role is important and has a purpose.
“Do each one to the best of your ability. Learn how you can contribute to the team and be confident to ask for opportunities.”
With her college degree and healthcare experience, Alisha was ready for her next career step. In the late ‘90s, she hit the one and only online job board and submitted 121 resumes in pursuit of her goal to land a pharmaceutical sales position.
The first offer she received required six weeks of out-of-state training, but as a mother with a young child, Alisha chose to decline. Fortunately, a second opportunity presented itself.
“I asked them right away about the training. They said there would be five days of training in Kansas City. I said, ‘when do I start?’”
That position was with a privately held skincare company called Obagi Medical Products, which has become one of the most recognized professional skincare brands in aesthetics.
While aesthetics is now among one of the fastest-growing industries in the business, that wasn’t the case when Alisha first found her way into the field back in 1999. Nevertheless, Alisha found a home in aesthetics and carved out a future for herself.
“The industry wasn’t that big, and I loved the opportunity to move into a space where people sought out services and procedures. It was challenging, exciting, fast-paced, a bit of an adrenalin rush, and I fell in love. I was ready to make an impact for practices, physicians, and patients.”
Alisha went on to be recruited to launch Restylane®, the first hyaluronic acid dermal filler, in the United States (Medicis), and she spent what she fondly calls her ‘decade of excellence’ starting in sales, moving to marketing, and then developing the new professional relations team that enabled her to work with the top thought leaders in the aesthetic field.
When the company was bought by Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Alisha departed and decided to start her own aesthetic consulting firm.
While having success, she quickly realized that she missed having and being part of a team.
Alisha took her talents back to the corporate world and became an integral part of cutting-edge companies such as Ulthera®, Alphaeon®, and Obalon®, giving her the opportunity to feed her curiosity and love of learning, travel the world, work in different areas of startups and early-stage companies, and undoubtedly establish herself as a trusted professional and ultimate connector.
These days, Alisha Merlo calls Colorscience®, a company that delivers clinically-proven skincare and sun care innovations that are thoughtfully designed to improve overall skin health, home.
Her current role as the Executive Director of Professional Relations provides her a “unicorn” opportunity to cross all business verticals, including sales, marketing, education, clinical trials, business development and thought leadership, society, and industry relations, doing what she does best: creating unique programs, driving innovation, working collaboratively, and building lasting and authentic relationships.
Outside of her beautiful family and career, Alisha has another passion in her life: raising awareness about the issues of human trafficking. She is leading the way through community outreach and educational events, and she is working with leading dermatologists on a special initiative that will support survivors.
“We can’t share the details just yet, but it will have significant impact on survivor healing and restoration.”
Alisha Merlo has always been guided by what she is most grateful for: the people who have given her opportunities, the challenges she faced and overcame, and her reputation and her relationships.
“I’ve stayed out of drama, away from negativity, and put effort into listening, learning, and cultivating long-lasting connections.”
One of her favorite books is Win The Day by Mark Batterson- “We all have Response-ability . . . the ability to choose our response in any set of circumstances . . . being accountable for our response no matter what.” In short, life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond.
As you would expect the quintessential relationship builder to mention, Alisha recognizes and extends thanks and credit to all of whom have come alongside her.
“I have worked with a countless number of talented colleagues and leadership teams that taught me the many things that contribute to my success. I am grateful for those who invested, trusted, and believed in me, even when I doubted myself, and encouraged and challenged me to stretch and grow. I know who I am today is because of them.”
It’s not surprising that Alisha is still driving a race car, and hopefully, you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to ride along.
Here you can find the Stop Traffic Walk Video:
Stop Traffic Walk Sizzle Video https://youtu.be/kXZhdEq2usM
You can find Alisha Merlo at:
- Instagram: @stoptrafficwalk_sandiego
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