Q & A with Melissa Burant

Q: Tell me about your job and how it contributes to the overall goals of CIRAS to help companies prosper.

I like to say, I help companies solve their problems. This can mean I help them identify a new supplier or it can mean, I connect them to a resource either at CIRAS or external who can get them to a resolution. I’ve worked at CIRAS for over 9 years and what keeps me going is that every day, I get to help people. My favorite compliment was a client who said: You’re better than Google. That was powerful. I can think of nothing more rewarding than using the knowledge I’ve gained to be a partner in finding a solution. Sometimes this just means I talk it out with them, or it can be more formal. I think one of the most powerful things about what we do at CIRAS is that we can be coaches/partners to industries to help make their lives a little easier.

Melissa Burant Supply Chain & Supplier Scouting
Melissa Burant
Supply Chain & Supplier Scouting

Q: What skills or experiences have prepared you for this job?

I’ve held a variety of positions throughout my career. I am curious about so many things and how they interrelate. How can we truly understand one another and the world, if we aren’t curious? I started my career with the Department of Defense. I worked in Accounting, then Logistics, then got my “big break” in Contracting. I think all of these lived and work experiences have helped prepare me for this job at CIRAS … helping people solve their problems. I always want to understand WHY, so that I can offer better support to those who trust me enough to reach out and seek assistance.

Q: What types of companies do you work with?

I support any company that needs assistance. However, my ideal client is one that is also willing to help themselves and do the work. What this means is that I prefer clients who are willing to meet me halfway. I can map out the steps they may need to take, but if they never take the first step, then there is not a lot I can do to help. Manufacturers are a challenge. Our industrial base needs the skillsets of small manufacturers but oftentimes it can be a challenge to connect these smaller companies to larger OEMs. My passion is to find ways to spark these connections and to support the smaller business in their growth to be ready for larger opportunities.

Q: What opportunities for advancement are available for companies by working with CIRAS?

The opportunities are endless. CIRAS’ superpower is that we facilitate connections across the state and nationwide. We are a resourceful group. If we don’t know the answer, we can probably get you connected to someone who does.

Q: How do you stay updated on the latest developments or trends in manufacturing/government contracting?

I read a lot of publications: weekly emails from trade groups like IndustryWeek, LinkedIn articles/blogs, etc., and then I work to find someone who I can discuss it with—this is also how I build my network. If something piques my interest, I like to set up a call with them to learn more and introduce CIRAS and the MEP organizations and our mission and to explore whether there are opportunities to work together in the future. I’m always looking for those opportunities to connect and bring knowledgeable resources to the people in Iowa.

Q: What is the best part of your job?

When I learn that a client has taken the steps I recommended and has achieved a new milestone for its business. I’ve learned a lot in the past 9 years working with Iowa companies (what works and what doesn’t), and it gives me great joy to pay it forward to help others.

For more information, contact Melissa by email, mmburant@iastate.edu or phone: 563-726-9958.