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September 10, 2018

Bethany Mily: Fashionable Fearlessness

Originally Posted September 2018

What you see is almost never what you get.

Case in point: Bethany Mily.

Outwardly, she’s a highly-regarded executive. A polished professional, dressed to the nines with intention and poise. Oh, and she’s whip-smart to boot. With two master’s degrees, a bachelor’s and enough credentialing to dazzle the higher-ups, Bethany Mily is a person you can put in any room and know she’s got it covered.

But that’s the outside.

Underneath the shiny LinkedIn profile is a lot of courage and quite a bit of daredevil. A snowboarding, pickle-loving, once-lost-her-shoes-in-a-mosh-pit human who loves dissecting what it takes to really, really use education to change lives. That fearlessness runs through just about everything Mily does.

Once upon a time, she was on the fast track to superintendent. She jumped ship, leaving her pension and pencils to sign on the dotted line to be the curriculum designer at a (then) fledgling tech-education startup in downtown Fresno. Mily hung up her dean of curriculum robes for a chance to be a part of something completely new – and completely unproven. It was the proverbial leap of faith. For her, it was the best way to get nearer to her passion.

“I’m interested in people’s lives and how they navigate the challenges they have.”

– Bethany Mily

“It gives me a much better understanding of the human condition,” Mily said. “I see my life through the way I was raised and the opportunities I’ve had. Unless I can talk to other people or read about them, it’s really difficult to see into those experiences.”

Through her love of nonfiction, biographies, and the human condition, Mily is on a journey to better understand her position of privilege. Sometimes that means looking back over a lifetime of choices to find the irony. If you’d asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would have told you the only thing she didn’t want was to become a teacher.

Of course, in the way the universe causes best laid plans to go awry, Mily went on to become exactly what she was avoiding. In doing so, she found that teaching isn’t so much about imparting knowledge as it is “helping people learn about themselves – how they process information and how they look at the world,” she said. “You just happen to be doing it through the lens of a particular subject area.”

A veteran educator, administrator, and mentor becoming the head of Geekwise Academy seems like a natural fit. Like a pickle needs pickle juice, Mily quickly became a necessary part of the executive team. Without breaking a sweat, she’s overseen the company’s human resources and finance departments as the company consistently grows and changes shape.

“You might make the mistake of imagining a duck calm and collected above water, but paddling furiously underneath,” said Jake Soberal, co-CEO of parent company Bitwise Industries. “But that’s wrong. I think she’s calm all the way down to the toes which makes her the go-to for everything hard.”

Take a girl from the north side of Fresno, former-skater, former-water polo player and you might think it’s a bad match for the head of an organization whose job it is to reach the most underserved of the county on a personal level—literally in order to change lives. But it works, and it’s all due to Mily’s “growth mindset” which she imparts on the program.

“No two people are alike, even if they are struggling with the same issues,” Mily said. “It’s very difficult to try to learn a new thing that could better your life in the future, when you’re struggling with life right now…I’ve always disliked grades in a traditional system because they are so finite. We’ve taken this snapshot in time and allowed it to determine whether or not you’re good at a subject, but ineptness today doesn’t necessarily mean ineptness tomorrow, it just means you’re not there yet.”

If Geekwise is the heart of Bitwise Industries, Mily is the adrenaline. Don’t let the relaxed and buttoned-up exterior fool you, underneath is everything that makes this place run daily with the constant push to strive for more.

“I have believed in this company since before I came on full time,” Mily said. “As we get bigger and collect more buildings, and as we help support all kinds of cool things in the community, I hope people understand why we do it. We desperately care about the Central Valley and believe in its people. There is heart, resilience, determination and a whole lot of scrappiness threaded into the humans in the community. We hope to shine a spotlight on them and give them a place to thrive.”

Angelica Cano is the VP of Marketing Strategy for Bitwise Industries and helps ensure our marketing efforts align with our company goals. In her spare time you can find Angelica building a playlist for almost every occasion and playing around with dye for her company, Sideye Tie Dye.