From the Q-mmunity
Breaking the Bias – Rebeccah Kilty is transparent about her career aspirations
As a part of our Women’s History Month celebration, we are elevating the voices of women at Qualtrics who have Broken the Bias by seeking nontraditional career paths. We sat down with Rebeccah and other women at Qualtrics to hear their stories and we'll be sharing them throughout the month. You can check out the rest of the series here.
I have a fairly unconventional career path: Middle Eastern Studies major in undergrad -> coworking space management -> higher education administration -> business school -> Qualtrics!
Coming out of undergrad, I didn't at all know what I wanted to do. I had loved my studies as a Middle Eastern Studies major, but the Arab Spring scrapped any plans to work abroad in the region after graduation. I knew I wanted to do work that made an impact, which led me to the nonprofit space. My first job out of school was working for a small coworking space specifically geared towards non-profits and other mission-driven organizations - a job and an industry that I hadn't even known existed! I was employee #3, so as is typical of startups I did a little bit of everything.
About a year into that role, the coworking space I was working for got acquired and I helped the combined organization launch a new location in downtown Boston. There, I developed the business model for event space rentals and drove rapid expansion of that business. That also meant I was frequently working nights and weekends to staff these events. Without any kind of work-life balance, my engagement plummeted and subsequently, my performance suffered. I ultimately chose to leave that role without having another job lined up - definitely scary for someone just 2 years out of college with minimal savings!
Again, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, but people operations, employee experience, and recruiting were all attractive options to me. I spent almost 6 months searching for the right role while also exploring other interests and hobbies that I had neglected. Fun fact: I started a (now neglected) food blog during this period and quickly learned that any job where I'd have to constantly be on social media also wasn't going to be in the cards for me!
Through a friend's referral, I ended up working at Harvard Business School - a far cry from most of the tech companies I had been applying to! I stayed there for 3.5 years, managing our career coaching program comprised of 50 part-time contractors. My primary responsibilities included coordinating student and alumni programs, analyzing coaching data for trends, and managing my team’s $1M annual budget. Beyond my role in the careers office, I was also able to take on many special projects: chaperoning two global immersion trips, coordinating the weeklong MBA academic capstone, and leading hiring/onboarding for my team. Most importantly, working for HBS planted the seed for business school and showed me the numerous paths open to me if I took that route. I knew relatively early on that I didn't want to stay in higher education long-term - I was lucky enough to have coworkers passionate about their work, but I didn't feel the same call to education. I felt that an MBA would help me pivot back to the tech space, while also filling in some core knowledge gaps I had around how business fundamentally runs. Having lived in the Boston area for 10 years, my husband and I were also interested in exploring a new region - we had lived through some of the biggest snowstorms to hit the city ever and needed a break from winter!
I got a full ride to the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business and moved to Charlottesville, VA in the summer of 2019. My initial thought was to enter people analytics, combining my passion for employee experience with data-driven decision-making. To pressure-test this hypothesis, I interned at Wayfair on their Talent team. My project was to develop a go-to-market strategy for a global employee resource center – everything from a staffing model, implementation plan, technology improvements, and more.
Even though I got an offer from my summer internship, I decided to decline in search of the right fit – I’m so glad I did! My internship made me realize that while I care deeply about employee experience, I had also fallen in love with the business side of things and wanted a role that was closer to the product and our customers.
MBA recruiting can be a two year process. I first met with Qualtrics during my first year while on the Career Center-led Tech Trek, but they were relatively new to MBA hiring and weren’t hiring interns. We reconnected the fall of my second year and I ultimately received an offer in March before I graduated! My role as a Global Operations Manager is a perfect mix of what I love to do: coaching and process improvement. I directly manage a team of 15-20 recent college grads, with the goal of placing them out into the broader Qualtrics organization within 1-2 years. I also have an influence on our customers’ pain points, finding innovative ways to improve our service offerings. My team specifically focuses on our Employee Experience product line, which ties nicely back to my own interests.
Tell us about the importance of leadership / mentorship in your career journey.
At HBS, I was incredibly lucky to have numerous women leaders who saw my potential and empowered me to grow with additional responsibilities and projects. I was transparent with them that higher education wasn't my passion and they in turn were enormous advocates on my path to business school.
I've also been incredibly impacted by those who show leadership even without holding an official title. Even without that formality, there's so much impact that we as individuals can make through our actions - this is something today I continue to stress to my team.
What’s the best career advice you have ever received?
Learn to listen. The power of listening is so important and for most it’s not something we are never explicitly taught to do. Oftentimes, people already know the answer to a dilemma they are facing – you just need to give them the space to talk it through. That being said, you also have to motivate your employees to action, because we each have a remarkable ability to avoid things we don’t want to do! Striking this balance is definitely a learning curve, but a skill I use often in my career.
|Rebeccah Kilty is an alumna of Tufts University and University of Virginia, Darden School of Business and works as a Global Operations Manager. She is an active member of Women's Leadership Development, a Q Group (employee resource group) with the charter of elevating and supporting all women at Qualtrics so they achieve personal & professional wellness and impact.|