Military Spouses Who Work It: Emily McIlvaine, Trail Run Series Manager

Editor’s Note: Give us your lawyers, your accountants, your massage therapists. Give use your teachers, your engineers, your real estate agents.

NextGen MilSpouse is going beyond traditional career tips and tricks for military spouses! We are sharing the real stories of working military spouses (just like you!) and their professional success stories on Wednesdays. 

MilSpouses Who Work It Emily McIlvaine, Trail Run Series Manager

Name: Emily McIlvaine

Years as a military spouse: 8

Tell us your job title/profession:

I am the Trail Run Series Manager for a company called XTERRA. We are an off-road sporting event company that mostly focuses on trail running and triathlons.

Is this full-time, part-time, hourly, contract or freelance work?

I am a part-time, salaried contractor.

How long have you been working in this career field?

8 years

Do you work in an office, telecommute from home (or Starbucks), or a little bit of both?

I mostly work from home or in hotel rooms when we are traveling.

How did you get this position? Was it a resume, referral, job fair? Spill your magic.

Right after I married my husband, we were stationed in Pearl Harbor. Our financial planner at the time knew that XTERRA was looking to hire a marketing assistant, so I sent in an application while I was still working in Chicago before I got married.

When I arrived in Honolulu, I had an interview within the first two weeks. I started working the next week. About a year later, I was promoted to XTERRA Trail Run Series Manager.

I worked for XTERRA for two and a half years full time before I had my first child and moved to California. My boss amazingly and generously agreed to let me try to stay on as a part-time contractor working remotely. I have kept this going for four moves now – California, Maryland, Pittsburgh and now even Italy!

I realize everyday how lucky I am.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced while trying to maintain a career while living the military lifestyle?

Since I work remotely and in a much different timezone than my company (which is based in Hawaii), my hours can be very sporadic. I work very late at night and very early in the morning to make sure I have a few hours that I am working during the hours that my boss is in her office.

I am a contractor, so I don’t technically get vacation days and feel like it is hard to pull myself away from my computer. Especially when my husband was deployed and we had a small child, it is hard to balance.

I now have three kids and the juggling gets even harder, but I am so grateful to have no gaps in my resume post-college. It may be my personality, but it is challenging to turn my “work brain” off.

Tell us one thing you love about your job:

I absolutely love the flexibility and the people I work with. We are currently stationed in Italy, so I can simply pack my laptop in my suitcase and do my job even when we are traveling across Europe.

Before we moved to Italy, I would attend our trail running and triathlon events to manage the registration. My co-workers and the athletes that compete in XTERRA events are some of the most amazing people I have ever met.

Share your best life-hack for saving time or sanity during the work week:

I try to get up at least an hour before my children in the morning. Going through my email and at least knowing the tasks that are ahead of me for the day makes me a better mom than when I am trying to plan my day with three kids screaming in the background. It helps me make a plan of attack for the day.

Do you and your spouse or partner split household tasks? How do you do it?

Since I am part-time (working 3 to 5 hours a day), I usually handle most of the household tasks during the day. However, I am very lucky to have a husband who is willing to help out with anything that I ask him to do. I usually work at night, so he takes care of the kids’ baths and getting them ready for bed so I can get a jump on the work I have that evening.

On big championship race weeks when the workload is more, he is extra supportive and picks up anywhere I need him to help.

When we lived in the United States, he would take off days from work to take care of the kids while I was away working at the events.

If you have children, how do you and your spouse or partner split parenting responsibilities?

I am in charge of all things day-related. We have a 1-year old that stays home with me, but I take the other two to and from school, cook and taxi them to most of their after-school activities.

Like I said above, he takes care of baths, bedtime and will taxi the kids to activities as much as he possibly can.

Tell us one piece of tech you couldn’t live without:

Since we live in Italy, our Internet is sporadic at best. I have a portable hot spot that gives me Internet when I absolutely need to work and the normal network is down.

Favorite app for making the most of your day?

Google Translate. It helps me communicate to all my Italian neighbors, landlord, the kids’ teachers, etc. while I am still learning the language.

Must-have song on your productivity playlist:

I really don’t listen to music that much during the day!

What is your No. 1 tip for a military spouse on the hunt for a job?

I would suggest trying to look for a job that is in an industry that you enjoy. For example, if you like shopping, then the retail atmosphere might be fun for you. I like running, so talking to runners and being at running events is exciting to me.

Military spouses move around so much that getting a dream job is sometimes close to impossible. Finding something that simply makes you happy on a daily basis is sometimes all that matters.

Are you a working military spouse? Do you want to share your career tips and tricks? Fill out the MilSpouses Who Work It Q&A today.


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