Meet Rachel Arst McCullough: A Leading Lady

Lady Boss
Tremendous Techy
Swanky Skier

We Interviewed Rachel, who is the owner of McCullough Web Services.

Rachel has her B.S. in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, from Cornell University, and her M.S. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois! She isn’t just a wicked fast web designer, and overall smarty pants, she is also an active ski instructor at Northstar California and is a brand ambassador for Tahoe Mountain Sports!

She’s been the owner of McCullough Web Services for four and a half years now, and loves it. Rachel has been a ski instructor for 13 whole years in profession  and 11 years at Northstar California. And she’s been a brand ambassador for Tahoe Mountain Sports for a year and a half, but this lovely lady boss doesn’t stop there. We had a speed sesh where we interviewed her and asked for fast facts about who she is, and what she loves to do before we asked her questions about her work and her passion.

GM: What was the last book you read?

RM:Age of Context by Robert Scoble & Shel Israel

GM: Who was the last musician you listened to?

RM:  Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (chosen by Pandora!)

GM: What’s your favorite movie?

RM:  I don’t pick favorites, except for food, where I have two 🙂  Pizza and ice cream.

Who are the most significant people in your life (friends, family, kids or pets)?

RM:My husband, Garrett. My mom, dad, and brother out East and their dogs, Shakti and Tucker.

GM:Tell us about your profession/company and the duties of your position?

RM: At McCullough Web Services, we help small business reach their market online and sell more through creating websites and marketing programs.

At Northstar California, I teach people of all ages and abilities to ski.  I spend a lot of my time working with children with developmental disabilities such as autism and Asperger’s.

At Tahoe Mountain Sports, I promote the brand and products through my personal stories and experience in the outdoors. I regularly contribute to their blog and social media accounts with writing and photos.

GM:How did you get into this profession?   

RM:I learned how to code as an undergraduate and then worked as a teaching assistant for two programming classes at Cornell. I was both teaching and assisting students during lab office hours. I continued with programming in graduate school and my master’s thesis involved two programming languages and running optimization algorithms on a supercomputer. With these technologies, I compared different methods of determining how to best remediate groundwater contamination.

I eventually took at position at an environmental consulting company that didn’t involve programming, but I created and ran a department devoted to monitoring and research of soil restoration techniques in the Tahoe area.  Beyond the science, data analysis, reporting and grant writing, I learned how to build a team, manage projects, and market our work online.

With these skills, I was able to start my own web design, development and marketing company.

I taught my first ski lesson at Badger Pass, in Yosemite National Park.  I arrived there in 2003, more than a year after I sold most of my belongings and lived out of my car while I traveled on my own, throughout the US, searching for warm weather and climbing, but finding much more: volunteer opportunities, good friends, and a simple technology-free lifestyle. A job that combined my passion for teaching and outdoor sports was a dream that eventually led me to Tahoe. I continue to share that passion both through teaching skiing and as an ambassador for Tahoe Mountain Sports.

GM:Is there anything that you do differently than other people in your field/business?

RM:At McCullough Web Services, we don’t do anything cookie cutter. We work with small businesses and everyone comes to us with a different skill set and needs.  All of our services take that into consideration.  We design custom packages for all of our clients.  That means if they want to learn to add content to their website, we’ll teach them.  If they want to learn to write in a way that search engines can best understand, we’ll mentor and review their work. If they want documentation, video tutorials, or one-on-one-training, we’ll create it to match their learning style.  If they don’t want to or have time to learn anything, we’ll do it all for them. We provide a level of personal service that is typically absent in services that are available to small businesses.  I have always loved teaching and have found a way to incorporate that into our business in a way that enriches our clients’ experience with us and gives them the skills they’ll need later in their careers.

At Northstar California, much of the same applies.  I never teach the same lesson twice.  Just being able to relay the technical knowledge is not enough as an instructor.  A lesson is just as much technique as it is listening to your client, understanding their fitness level, mood, and personality.  It’s going far beyond what the skis do on the snow. I’ve shuttled endless amounts of gear from parking lots and condos, taken clients into the ski shop to get them set up with the right gear, and waxed skis in the middle of a lesson on a ski slope.  It’s all about what the client needs to have the best experience.

GM:What do you enjoy most about working in your profession/field?  

RM: At McCullough Web Services, it’s helping people succeed in following their passions.  We work directly with many owners, who have created their businesses and are passionate about what they do.  This is a completely different experience than working with an employee who may not be committed to the company vision.

At Northstar California, it’s seeing the smiles on people’s faces.  It’s watching kids do things they never thought they could do. It’s helping people come away with a sense of accomplishment that isn’t tied to their job or the stress of work.

GM:What is the most challenging part about your job?   

RM:At McCullough Web Services, it’s that technology is always changing.  I love learning new things, but finding a good balance between helping clients and improving my own skills is tough!

At Northstar California, it’s teaching the same quality of lesson as I would on a sunny day, on a rainy or snowy day, when I am soaking wet and freezing cold!

GM: For all the Empresses out there, what advice would give anyone who wants to get in your profession?

RM:This applies to both of my jobs: while technical skills are important, it is equally as important to be a good listener and a superb communicator.

GM:What was your first job?   

RM:Human Resources Intern at Putman Investments in Boston, MA.

GM:What are your hobbies?  

RM:Rock climbing, hiking, skiing, yoga, mountain biking, photography

GM:Do you have a favorite vacation spot?

I rarely visit the same place twice and hope to visit all 7 continents someday. Some notables from the past few years: Egypt, Patagonia, Tanzania and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Yosemite will always be special to me and I visit several times a year.

GM:If you had one moment in time to cherish for the rest of your life either professionally or personally what would it be and why?    

RM:The thank you notes from both clients and ski students.  It’s always amazing to be told you’re making a difference, but somehow it means that much more when it comes in the mail and is hand-written.

GM:Last concert or sporting event attended?

RM:Old Crow Medicine Show

GM:What did you dream of becoming as a kid?   

RM: An astronaut.  Christa McAuliffe was my hero.

GM:If you had enough money to retire right now, would you?    Why or why not?

RM:Not if retire means sitting around!  If I had more free time, I would spend it volunteering for the non-profits I care about and focusing even more on building the local tech community.

Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do you like about living/working here?   

I live in Truckee.  I came here for the skiing and like many people, never left.  We live in an incredible place of beauty and I hope to make it even better by enriching our environment and community. 

I split my volunteer time between Tahoe Silicon Mountain, a technology networking group that we’ve grown from nothing to over 400 members in the past 5 years, and the Truckee River Watershed Council, where I sit on the Weed Warriors Steering Committee.  I lead volunteer groups in invasive species eradication, watershed restoration projects and in various educational events, in the classroom and outdoors.

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