A photo of Anne Tillery talking to staff.

Pyramigo Profile: Anne Tillery

An Interview with our Managing Partner

Posted: Jun 24, 2015

Every day we’re excited to come into the office. Not many people can say that. But we can, because we know the work we’re doing matters. We believe we can change the world. Each of us has a different story to tell, a different story about why doing good in the world matters to us. We thought we’d share it with you. Get to know the Pyramigos!

Let’s get to know Anne Tillery, managing partner at Pyramid. Born and raised right in the heart of Seattle, Anne found a home at Pyramid shortly after its founding. 

So, Anne, how would you describe yourself? And feel free to interpret that question however you like.

I think of myself as someone fundamentally focused on service, trying to make a positive contribution. I spend a lot of time thinking about how big picture issues are connected to individuals and to the natural world, keeping an eye on the wide horizon, the long-term, while staying grounded in the present. That means starting with deep listening, creating spaces for people to think together, hopefully moving compassionately and mindfully in my life.

How did you arrive at Pyramid and the work that you do?

Out of college, I really wanted to work in literary criticism. I had no idea that pretty much everyone who works in that world lives in New York, and that they all have trust funds. That was a bit of a wake up call.

I ended up spending a couple of years working on political campaigns, which was a fast way to learn the skills of our trade—strategy, fundraising, field work, media relations, and how they all relate to each other. While it was a wonderful immersive experience, I realized quickly that politics isn’t where my heart is.

About the time I was having that epiphany, I ran into John at a fundraising breakfast and he asked me if I knew any writers. I said, “I write!” I was really eager to jump ship from political campaigns and so that's how I got started at Pyramid. It was roughly a year after John founded the firm.

Was there a moment for you when you decided to stick with Pyramid for the long haul, after initially joining the team?

I would say there's been a series of moments that have anchored me ever more deeply here over time. Originally, it was very much about the wins we had with our clients. I got a lot of energy out of that.

Over time, I've come to appreciate and value being able to provide right livelihood, supporting people in doing the work they are passionate about.

Another reason is because for me, it's never been static; it's been like having 15 different jobs over 20-plus years. I started by doing a lot of media relations and organizing on conservation issues; then I got interested in qualitative research and began doing more in healthcare with that; after that was storytelling and branding with arts and culture clients.

That doesn’t surprise me—there’s so much overlap between the kinds of work we do, and the causes we work on.

John talked about that in his Pyramigo Profile. I think it’s actually been a defining aspect of the firm since we began—to work across issue areas and bring unlikely allies together in service of a particular goal. Years ago we worked with the Save our Wild Salmon Coalition which brought sport and recreational fishers, the tribes, and conservationsists together to cooperate rather than compete. I think that's ultimately what will determine our fate as a species and as a planet: whether we divide or come together. I’m hopeful it will be the latter.

Anne with Nicole Vandenberg, Pyramid's first employee and current publicist for Pearl Jam, in the early days of Pyramid.
Anne with Nicole Vandenberg, Pyramid's first employee and current publicist for Pearl Jam, in the early days of Pyramid.

What drives you outside of work? What would you say you're most passionate about personally?

I love spending time with my daughter Sophia, who is 14. Being a parent has been one of the most transformative things in my life. And I love being outdoors, in wilderness, practicing yoga and meditation, and the thing I spend more and more time doing is teaching mindfulness, which I do outside work as well as weave into my Pyramid work more and more.

How long have you been practicing and teaching?

I've been a pretty serious yoga and meditation practitioner for 25 years and I've been teaching meditation for several.

I think I heard that you're teaching a mindfulness class at Pyramid, right? How has that experience been?

Yes, it's been fun. I think being more aware, more mindful, really helps make us better at our work. We listen more intently, make more meaningful connections with our clients, stay more grounded in the work, amd manage daily stress and change better.

It's awesome that you're able to connect and share a passion you have outside of work by bringing it to Pyramid. So where could I find you when you're not working, for example on a Sunday afternoon?

You'd often find me at a meditation retreat up in the mountains of Colorado. Or you'd find me swimming or hiking in the Northwest, or maybe out in the backyard tending the herb garden.

Nice. Have you always lived in Seattle?

I have. I was born here. I grew up in a little house on the beach, with the woods on the other side. I think growing up there is what rooted me in the natural world.

That's amazing. And you travel so much, it probably feels like you live a little bit of everywhere.

[Laughs] I do travel a lot. 

Has anyone recommended a good book recently or do you have a book recommendation?

Wendell Berry's A Timbered Choir, which is a collection of his Sabbath poems, is beautiful. The collected works of the Persian poet Hafez, called The Gift, and I’ve been reading a translation of the Bhagavad Gita that my uncle had, which has his handwritten annotations on most of the pages.

Do you get a chance to read a lot of poetry?

I do—I collect, write, and read poetry.

Mostly on the plane?

Mostly late at night and early in the morning after meditation. I find it really renewing. I read so much for work, that it's a way to stay connected to a different reality when I don't have time to read fiction or non-fiction.

That's a great suggestion.

It works for me!

My last question is: What should I ask you that I haven't asked you yet?

What do I think really matters in life?

What do you think really matters in life?

Having a purpose that transcends your own interests, being kind, being present. Loving what is without attachment, without expectation.

That's lovely. Thank you.