Tinamarie Feil (’84) pays it forward, earning her the 2016 Alumni Mentor Award
The UW Department of Communication gave this year’s Alumni Award for Excellence in Mentoring to Tinamarie Feil (B.A., 1984), co-founder and President of BMC Group, who has been the Foundational Alumna for the Career Exploration trips to New York City.
“Being a major world financial center, New York is a meaningful location for my company to do business,” she said. “When David Domke and Victoria Sprang of the Department of Communication told me about the career exploration project, I was excited to be involved in furthering the opportunity… To help students experience New York at a pivotal point in career planning is a no brainer.”
Feil says when young people actively seek to explore and improve themselves, she wants to help in any way she can – partially stemming from her appreciation of those who helped her along the way. Growing up in Seattle as a self-identifying “latchkey kid,” Feil had an independent demeanor at a young age.
“As early as kindergarten, my entrepreneurial spirit was in gear,” she said. “The story goes that I was sent home from school because I was selling packets of homemade cinnamon toothpicks for five cents – I’m not sure if the issue was that kids were ‘burning’ their mouths with the potency of my cinnamon or they were concerned I was engaging in commerce.”
When it came time to attend college, Feil yearned to go out of state, but money kept her in Seattle.
“Lucky for me, I got into the University of Washington and received an excellent education and had a most enjoyable experience,” she said.
Feil was on the UW women’s crew team as a freshman, lived on and off campus, worked to pay tuition – all experiences that gave her exposure to very different ways of living and types of people. But her independent nature was still calling for her to “get outta town.” She landed a job as a deputy clerk at the US Bankruptcy Court in Seattle and was able to get transferred to Houston, Texas. After a couple of years in the Lone Star State, she moved to Los Angeles and got a job at a bankruptcy boutique law firm as a paralegal.
“I had thoughts of going to law school, but, again economics kept me in the work force,” Feil said. “I had seen an opportunity to offer specialized administrative services in the bankruptcy practice area and wanted to start a business, but my boss, a partner at the law firm said I wouldn’t likely succeed because of the ‘old boys’ network.’”
It took 10 years to break through that restrictive thought and Feil started her own corporate bankruptcy administration consulting practice with her current business partner and company co-founder Sean Allen.
“We’re both hard workers and decided if we were going to work as hard as we do, we might as well do it for ourselves instead of for someone else,” she said.
And the perks were a plus: Allen wanted to be able to pay for his car racing interests and Feil wanted to be able to travel the world. Now, as part of their marketing and advertising, they run vintage Formula One cars with Feil traveling along with the team to places all around the world. Over time the company expanded into broader secure, information management platforms serving critical corporate life cycle events, with offices in the US, Asia, and Europe.
Feil has achieved the dream job that she has always imagined, but it hasn’t been a cake walk. She says to take and make opportunities that align with your interests, even if it seems out-of-reach or unlikely – because what’s the worst outcome that can come from asking?
“Someone says no, or you don’t get what you wanted?,” she conjectures. “What’s the best outcome? Someone says yes; you do get what you wanted. There’s another no brainer! Everything you want to do, but don’t do, is your choice. It’s ok to fail, it builds your character and gives you strength for whatever’s next.”
In addition to running her global information management firm, Feil is an active participant in the evolution of legal noticing and legal claims management – her work including many “first to market” services. She sits on the Board of Directors of the American Bankruptcy Institute, is an International Women’s Insolvency & Restructuring Confederation (IWIRC) Director liaison and delegate to the United Nations Committee on International Trade Law, and is on the Board of Editors for The Bankruptcy Strategist. She was named the 2014 Executive of the Year from the Women’s Division of the New York Institute of Credit and was awarded the 2011 Melnik Award from IWIRC for significant and long-lasting contributions.
Passionate about community service focused on education and advancement opportunities for young people, Feil has held board and committee positions with various non-profits, including on the board of nonprofit Kids Co. in Seattle. But with everything that she does, Feil says balancing personal and career activities is key to living a healthy and happy life.
“For a period, I let work be more important than paying attention to physical fitness and personal relationships,” she said. “Balance is a good thing. Remember what I said about choices? Choose to ‘have it all!’”