Reese McGillie, the Director of Insights & Analytics at Tinuiti is the epitome of #BlackGirlMagic. She’s a mom, yogini, autodidact, and female POC who’s become a leader in one of the most in-demand fields in the tech industry.
Last month, Reese was chosen by @TwitterWomen and @Blackbirds to present at the #HerStory speaker series – an opportunity to bring together diverse female voices to share their stories and inspire women inside and outside of tech.
With more than 20 years of experience working in technology and marketing, Reese has accomplished an enormous amount of success in the tech industry despite never receiving a college degree. Early on she started out in the digital printing technology industry and later moved on to software engineering for websites and mobile applications. She finally found her destiny working in marketing analytics.
In addition to her professional career, she is also a certified Yoga instructor, wife, and mother to her two children – Soren and Fenix. She’s also an advocate for Seattle non-profit organizations focused on addressing health outcome disparities for women.
In the following interview, Reese shares her unique personal story to becoming a leading expert in the tech industry, why she loves working for Tinuiti, and what we can expect to see from her in the near future.
Q. You’ve had a unique journey. Can you share a little about yourself and how you got started in this industry?
I have done so many things in my 44 years on the planet but the most important of those things is making a family. I have 2 children and an incredibly supportive and understanding husband, Jason.
Women’s health is something I’ve been passionate about for many years which at one point in time led me to become a birth doula. I was able to support women and their families in that capacity for 5 years and have shared what is arguably the most intimate moment in a person’s life with many families.
This work was rewarding but it was also very mentally and physically taxing so I chose to retire from it a couple of years ago. I went on to serve on boards and steering committees for Seattle-based nonprofit organizations that are focused on addressing health disparities for women and children, especially for people of color.
My career trajectory is fairly interesting and I know this because I’ve gotten that feedback from many different people once they learn more about my journey. As a child, I was extremely academic – a straight A student and a bookish, shy girl.
I went to a vocational/technical high school where I studied graphic arts and printing technology. I learned all about graphic design, printing press operations and desktop publishing in that program. I ended up as the valedictorian of my high school graduating class but did not go on to college.
My choice to not go to college is really difficult for most folks to understand. As a child, I was actively discouraged from doing so by my family and other influential adults in my life despite my strong academic performance. You see, I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and pursuit of secondary degrees is very frowned upon in that religion – or at least it was at that time.
As a young, sheltered girl, I couldn’t even begin to contemplate the idea of risking my relationships with my closest family members. Given the dynamics of that religion, had I chosen to defy my family’s wishes, the risk of being shunned by them because of my choices was very real.
During my senior year of high school, the county newspaper named me scholar of the week. After reading about me in the scholar of the week article, an executive from the NJ office of an Israeli company reached out to my school about hiring me for a job which I ended up accepting.
The company manufactured digital pre-press hardware and software. My job was to demonstrate this hardware and software for prospective clients at the company’s upscale office in northern NJ and at tradeshows all over the country. I was excited about the idea of sidestepping the whole college dilemma and getting right into the workforce.
I stayed in that job for 4 years and had a lot of success there, eventually expanding my role in providing onsite training for clients who had purchased our products. During my time there I dealt with so many instances of overt sexism, ageism, and racism. Eventually, I left that job to join a coworker who had taken a job working for a news media organization.
Q. How did you become a leader in one of the most in-demand fields in the tech industry?
I started my career in tech as a QA engineer – basically, I used to write code to test code, primarily for web sites – making sure that site experiences were optimal and free of bugs or security issues. Over the years I held QA roles at The Associated Press, Getty Images and Zillow.
When I got a job working for a Digital Marketing agency I was inspired to make a career change. Analytics had interested me for a while so I made the leap and it was the best thing I ever did. I’ve been lucky enough to provide measurement and insights for so many different brands over the years.
Q. You recently spoke at the Twitter #HerStory Speaker Series. Why did you feel it was important to be part of that event?
A former colleague who works at Twitter was part of the team organizing the event so she proposed the idea to her colleagues, and they agreed to invite me to participate. Of course, I immediately said yes. I took a very non-traditional path to where I am today in my career and I feel like it’s so important for others who are just starting out to hear that there are lots of ways to get to where they want to be.
We had a full room of really engaged folks from a variety of backgrounds and professions. It was a privilege to have a platform to speak to my experience as a woman of color working in tech.
I am at the point of my career where I feel it is critical to pay it forward by investing my time and energy in sharing, coaching and mentoring folks who are much earlier on in their career journeys and this talk gave me the opportunity to do that. It was also lovely to connect with all of the people who took the time to attend.
Q. What is it about Tinuiti that you value or find appealing?
A great company culture is something I’m quite passionate about and Tinuiti is very invested in fostering that. A colleague referred me for the role I’m in now and they were very enthusiastic and positive about their experience working here. Throughout the recruiting process, I saw everything I had heard or read reflected in the way each person engaged with me along the way.
I’m also really fond of how invested the company is in building a truly distributed team. I work out of my home full time and that allows me to skip the headache of a commute and to be around to pick up my kids from school without it impacting my ability to perform in my job.
Q. Do you have any advice for females seeking opportunity in the tech space today?
Learning the tools and technological landscape of your chosen field is of course, very important. But developing emotional intelligence is, equally, if not more important. The most successful and sought after people at any level are strong communicators who are self-aware.
I also think that it’s important to invest some energy into building relationships with other women professionals whether they be peers who are at the same point in their careers or more experienced folks.
These women can become your personal “board of directors” and help you as you navigate the challenges inherent to being a woman in these professional spaces. These are relationships you can leverage for advice, seeking other perspectives, job opportunities and even commiserating when you are trying to work through something really hard.
Through this whole journey over the last 20 years or so one thing remains true – being a woman, especially a woman of color, in business is not for the faint-hearted. Looking back now I can see how some of the same challenges continue to come up over and over again no matter how much I have attained or what title I have.
I don’t want to sound like I’m ungrateful for the success that I’ve experienced. It’s just that so many times I wanted to give up and walk away from all of it. I still have moments like that even now – when I have to make hard decisions or when I get put into situations that challenge my personal values. But I find peace and comfort in my ability to create positive work experiences for the people I work with especially other women who may still be finding their own voice in this very tough space.
It’s my personal mission to continue to pay forward the support and validation that I have been lucky enough to receive from every person who ever believed in me and my abilities.
Q. What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I believe that a career typically manifests in three phases – learning, applying and sharing. I’m in the sharing part of my career so I’m looking forward to continuing to expand my network, reach and visibility by attending and speaking at more industry events.
I’d also love to land a corporate board role at some point in the near future. There is plenty of research to show that the voices and perspectives of women and especially women of color are underrepresented on corporate boards.
Yet we know that a more diverse and inclusive board is great for business. I want to be among the cohort of women who help break the current paradigm. On a personal note, I’m excited to continue my growth and development as a yoga teacher and I look forward to doing a lot more traveling with my family as my kids are getting older and more interested in experiencing other places.