“It was a crazy experience, I was the youngest person in that office. It was Imposter Syndrome at its finest—you have to remember, I was a 19-year-old from Ecuador with all these things that had happened in my childhood, and out of nowhere I’m in a New York office and people are giving me real assignments. I was just like ‘What makes you think I can do this?’ But, honestly, the best thing I could’ve done was be transparent with my manager. Since I was willing to do my best and wanted to learn, he was willing to sit down and teach me. In the end, they invited me back the following summer.”
Marielle wanted to understand how corporations can make their employees not just satisfied, but happy. "BCG is a great place to work," she shares, "but that’s not the case everywhere." She got into Positive Psychology and was both a research assistant to Dr. Adam Grant and a Teacher Assistant to Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman. Marielle wanted to figure out how companies (and individuals) can improve their environment without having to play an active role. In order to answer this question, she pursued Dr. Sigal Barsade, a Wharton professor, to advise her undergraduate senior thesis—something Dr. Barsade usually reserved for PhD students at Wharton. After being denied many times, Dr. Barsade recognized Marielle’s drive and gave in. Together, they set out to answer Marielle’s question.
“We tested a group of 400 people to see if small, passive changes in their surroundings would affect their overall happiness. For example, posters with inspirational quotes. We found that it’s more impactful if the employee chooses it themselves.”
This style of easy positivity, that requires no continual effort from the individual, is of “great fascination” to Marielle. Recently, she explored this idea at Sensical, a kids’ free streaming service inspired by Common Sense Media, where videos are screened by experts and filtered through a rigorous, proprietary rubric based on the most comprehensive child developmental research available. Grounded in science, Sensical takes on a child's natural interests and builds upon them to provide content that strengthens their skills, entertains them, and, most importantly, is very safe. Since the video selection doesn't consider the child's gender, it furthers the possibility of a tomorrow where there is more gender representation in homogenous fields like STEM and education. In the future, Marielle wants to build a positivity-based curation system or algorithm for people of all ages so they can receive positive and productive content that contributes to their overall happiness.
“You know, I’m kind of a kiss-ass,” Marielle smiles, “But it genuinely comes from the heart and a place of wanting to help others.”