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Mills alumna finds success as consultant

Karilee Wirthin (above) is a Mills College graduate who has found success as a consultant for KL Consulting. (Courtesy of Karilee Wirthin.)

A consultant at her own firm, KL Consulting in Silicon Valley, which she started 13 years ago, Karilee Wirthin works with clients such as Adobe, Oracle and Hewlett-Packard as a liaison between their technical and marketing divisions to help the companies better understand what they
are marketing.

Wirthin got her start  by taking former Mills professor Lydia Mann’s Introduction to Computer Sciences class  in 1988, where the computer science classes were using the computer programming language Pascal.

“I loved the class so much, I just had to go on with the classes, and it became my major,” Wirthin said.

While Wirthin was at Mills, the school got a grant from the national finance foundation to create a multimedia lab between Wirthin’s first and sophomore years, which was headed by Carol Lennox, who was director of Academic Computing at Mills from 1989-2000. The school hired students to work with the NeXT (Steve Job’s company after he was ousted by Apple in the mid 80’s) computers given to Mills.

Wirthin worked on campus that summer and learned how to use the new computers and taught her fellow students.

Out of that summer program, NeXT created their campus consultant program.

A way to have advocates for NeXT computers. Wirthin was nominated to be one of the consultants after the summer program by NeXT.

While Wirthin worked at NeXT there were about 300 employees, so the employees got to experience Steve Jobs in a small environment.

“It was really intense. But looking back, it was great to see that I was a part of such a revolutionary time,” Wirthin said. “Looking back at old demos … and a lot of what we take for granted now, like multimedia email, is based on the NeXT operating system.”

After leaving NeXT in 1992, Wirthin followed her boss and mentor, Kathie Kaplan, to SGI company where she worked at the reseller communications division where she worked with companies who resold SGI’s products until 1999.

At SGI Wirthin helped put together a password protected site for just for SGI’s resellers, it was one of the first password protected sites of its kind.

After being laid off by SGI in 1999, Wirthin took a short break before starting KL Consulting.

“It was really great to work in marketing all my career, with that marriage of technology and marketing, I use skill set of tech side (of my education) and ask intelligent questions, which help me explain tech to the marketing. Then in turn help technical folks with marketing.” Wirthin said. “I love it; I get that mix of working with people and still using my expanding skill set.”

Wirthin said she got more out of computer science than just programming skills.

“Really what I learned by being a computer sciences major wasn’t necessarily about the technology, but about being a problem solver,”she said.