UT alumna Kelly Reilley fondly recounts a humid summer she spent working alongside local businesses in the Chinese province Guizhou. Since Reilley had no experience speaking Mandarin, local students acted as her interpreters and guides.
“The university interns introduced me to WeChat, a Chinese mobile chat app,” Reilley said. “We still use it to keep in touch with one another, and we celebrate each other’s holidays.”
Reilley traveled to China through IBM’s Corporate Service Corps program, in which she worked as a pro bono consultant to local companies to help solve infrastructure problems. Her current position as senior business unit advisor at IBM incorporates communications, leadership and financial problem solving.
“I interact with people in diverse fields, which makes my work challenging,” Reilley said. “I have to find a way to talk about complex topics in a digestible manner.”
A huge proponent of volunteerism, Reilley said she values the opportunities she has had during her career to volunteer internationally.
“The United States is in a privileged position in terms of global business,” Reilley said. “I think it’s important that we use our knowledge and resources to aid developing economies.”
Sandy Dochen, manager of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs at IBM, said Reilley is intelligent and compassionate about her work and her community.
“Kelly is the best of the best at IBM,” Dochen said. “Only a very small number of IBM-ers are accepted into the Corporate Service Corps each year.”
Reilley was born and raised near College Station.
“Most people I went to high school with wanted to attend Texas A&M for college,” Reilley said. “But I was determined to come to Austin.”
As an undergraduate at UT, Reilley studied English, and, although her career path led her away from jobs typical for English graduates, she still values the benefits of her broad liberal arts education.
“I find it sad that so many college students these days are strongly discouraged from being English or liberal arts majors,” Reilley said. “As an English major, I learned invaluable communication and analytical skills that corporate employers really value in the workplace.”
Reilley noted the deficit of women in leadership positions in science and technology fields and in business.
“Even in the most progressive companies, the percentage of women managers and women executives lags behind the percentage of women in the workforce,” Reilley said. “I have observed that women are less apt to market their skills, abilities and talents in the workplace, and that’s one of the reasons I’m a proponent of mentoring.”
Leadership and the visibility of women in STEM fields can play help even out the gender gap, according to Reilley.
“There is a lot of opportunity, but it requires concerted effort early in the educational process,” Reilley said. “Female mentors can be valuable because they can help give younger women perspective and offer a constructive space to evaluate their strengths and areas that need development.”
Reilley recently attended a youth business forum at UT, and the number of students interested in globalization and international volunteer service encouraged her.
“I would encourage young men and women to consider factors like how a prospective organization’s values align with their values,” Reilley said. “I have had the opportunity to participate in projects that I really believe in.”
John Buchholz is a former colleague of Reilley’s who now works at Pitney Bowes in Stamford, Connecticut.
“What’s impressive about [Reilley] is how fearless she is,” Buchholz said. “She is comfortable counseling the company’s senior-most executives and traveling across the globe to represent IBM to those in need.”