Jackye Reilly has explored a lot of career possibilities. She’s gone from aspiring to be a ballerina to envisioning a life of service as a foreign diplomat and diving into academia. Here’s how she found her fit working at Cox Automotive in Burlington, VT.
Growing up, Jackye Reilly dreamed of becoming a professional dancer; and for a time, it was within her grasp.
At 13, she left her home in Syracuse, NY, to attend ballet boarding schools in Washington, DC, and North Carolina. But it took a toll on her body and after a series of stress fractures, Jackye’s time as a ballet dancer was cut short.
Instead, she went on to study anthropology and international relations at Dartmouth and got a master’s in cultural anthropology from the University of Chicago. Her interest in different cultures and learning new languages — she’d taken French, Russian, Arabic and Persian — inspired her to set her sights on the U.S. Department of State as her ultimate goal.
“I traveled a bunch in college, I worked in Kuwait, Morocco and Ghana and I was like, ‘I love traveling, I love languages, I’m going to go work at the State Department,’” she said.
But as she learned more about what it actually takes to be in that line of work, she realized that the lifestyle of relocating every few years (and often to countries you don’t have a cultural affinity with), just wasn’t for her.
At that point, Jackye turned to academia, a route many friends of hers had taken, but again realized that the reality of the career path was not what she envisioned.
“I love teaching aspect of it, but in real academia, your focus is on writing grants and doing research,” she said.
This, believe it or not, is where Jackye’s story really begins. Here’s how a spontaneous move and a little happenstance led Jackye to a new career at Dealer.com, a Cox Automotive company, and a whole new life in Burlington, VT.
While dance took the front seat when she was a kid, Jackye also always had a knack for technology. She admitted that she used to take apart her mom’s computer and put it back together before she’d get home from work. And all throughout her time in college and grad school, she leveraged those skills to work in tech support and IT jobs.
So, in 2014, when she was feeling particularly directionless after ruling out a career in academia, Jackye went out on a limb: she moved with her boyfriend to his hometown, Burlington, and got an IT job nearby.
While that relationship didn’t last, meeting that boyfriend’s mom changed the course of Jackye’s life and career. For one, she introduced Jackye to a new creative outlet that offers as much physicality as dance: figure skating.
“Skating was like a new, similar thing to focus on,” she said. “And then she and I got very close because I was skating all the time,” she said.
She also encouraged Jackye to seek out better career opportunities, and specifically recommended that she look into roles at Dealer.com, where she could grow her technical skills and really shine. Jackye, who at the time was working the overnight shift about an hour away, took her words to heart.
“She’d tell me, ‘You are so educated and so capable, you can do anything else; please do something else,’ and kept pushing me to apply,” she recalled. “It was really her pushing me to get out of my dead-end job that led me here.”
Finding her niche in the auto industry
Jackye joined Cox in 2016 in a technical support role; since then, she’s moved into four new positions, including as a digital strategist and manager of performance management. Now, she is a program manager for original equipment manufacturer (OEM) services, where she helps different auto franchises with their digital presence.
Jackye has also been able to make good use of her degrees in modern culture anthropology, which taps into the sociology and psychology of how people communicate and operate. She puts these skills into practice when working out technical issues with dealers.
“Anthropology teaches a lot of getting people to tell you what they’re doing, what they really want and why,” she said.
Making a life in Burlington
Jackye met her new husband during her first months working at Cox. They’ve now made a home together with their 11 pets (and currently, a family of skunks living in their backyard).
“Having lived in a bunch of different countries and different states, I was a little concerned that I was never going to find a place to settle down — and I got to Burlington and immediately felt at home,” she said.