Brenna Clairr O'Tierney
M.A. in Strategic Public Relations
Jillian Smillie graduated from the MSPR program in 2010 and currently works for Charles Schwab as a manager, Employee Communications, at the company headquarters in San Francisco.
The Employee Communications team at Schwab is a centralized function within Human Resources and Employee Services that provides strategic counsel and communications support to leaders and business partners throughout the firm. Together, the team develops and implements comprehensive internal communications strategies and campaigns to effectively communicate key business-specific and corporate-wide goals, initiatives, and programs to employees.
While every day is different, her role includes providing planning and execution support for high-impact meetings and events and drafting leadership communications for various voices and channels. Her job features a balanced mix of strategic and execution-based work as well as a combination of both short- and long-term projects.
Smillie just wrapped up co-chairing the San Francisco activities for Schwab’s third annual Employee Appreciation Month, a program designed to celebrate and thank employees for the contributions that they make each day for the benefit of Schwab clients. Smillie worked closely with her team to propose, coordinate, and execute five complex, large-scale events and activities during the month of September for the 2,000+ Schwab employees in San Francisco.
What’s the best part about working at Schwab? For Smillie, it boils down to three things – the people, the work, and the company.
“At Schwab, I work with a group of incredibly talented and intelligent professionals who are passionate about what they do and committed to producing high-quality work,” said Smillie. “As a team, we encourage each other to ask questions, think differently, and speak up and express our opinions. Every day, the unique strengths and perspectives that I bring to the table are valued. I also feel supported in my personal career development.”
Smillie is both empowered and challenged when it comes to her work.
“I truly enjoy what I do at Schwab,” said Smillie. “I’m given countless opportunities to extend myself and challenge conventional wisdom. There’s also a good balance between strategic and execution-based work as well as a strong work-life balance, which I appreciate. Since joining the team, I’ve been given several opportunities to own projects that have given me direct exposure to senior leadership, which has further helped me learn and grow as a professional, communicator, and consultative partner.”
As for the company, Smillie appreciates Schwab’s positive and transparent culture. She says that “people at Schwab, including myself, love working for a company that values its employees and has a strong, deep-rooted commitment to the client. As an employee, I feel that my voice is heard and that my work is valued. I also feel deeply connected to the company and its mission.”
Prior to joining Schwab, Smillie worked at Weber Shandwick in its Sunnyvale, California office as well as at Locaid, a mid-size startup in San Francisco. Smillie joined Weber Shandwick shortly after graduating from the MSPR program in 2010. During her time with the company, she worked with several B2B and B2C technology clients. Shortly after leaving Weber Shandwick in 2011, Smillie joined Locaid as a communications consultant. She built several PR resources and collaborated with leaders at the company to develop and execute the overall communications strategy.
Smillie has also volunteered at a local non-profit, Changeling Dance Theatre, where she provided general PR support and worked to raise awareness about the organization in the community. Through her work, she landed a front-page feature story about the organization in four community newspapers that also ran in the ‘Local’ section of the San Jose Mercury News.
Throughout all of her career endeavors, Smillie has continually applied the knowledge and skills that she acquired as a student in the MSPR program. She says that the program provided her with a deep sense of confidence and honed her ability to think both practically and strategically. The program also taught her the importance of approaching communications from the mindset of an executive -- not just a strategic communicator. As she looks to the future, she’s excited for what’s in store and is grateful for the solid foundation that she built at Annenberg.
What advice does Smillie have for current PR students?
“It’s critical that you truly understand and are confident in the unique value that you bring to the table,” she said. She also stressed the importance and value of networking, persistence, and seizing every possible opportunity to learn and grow. “While you’re a student here, take advantage of all the incredible resources that the PR program and Annenberg offer you!”