IMG_1167.jpgIn greater Seattle, where tech bros are a dime a dozen, Hannah Gacey defies the norm. It’s not just that she’s a woman in a male-dominated industry; she came to her tech career on a circuitous route. She “took the long road to IT”, as she puts it, receiving first a B.A. in English Literature followed by a Master’s in Industrial Organizational Psychology.  

She parlayed her psychology expertise into a relationship manager job at an IT startup before moving into a Teamster-represented managerial position at King County five years ago.

With her background in the humanities and a husband with a passion for the classics, it's no wonder that their “very statured” dog is named after the powerful Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus. During the pandemic, Auggie, as he's called, lay at her feet in her Kitsap peninsula home office tracking her every move.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Hannah and talking over her Teamsters job, the challenges she faces as a woman working in a predominately male industry, and the inspiration she drew from a recent Teamsters Women’s Conference in Seattle last fall.  

What were your impressions from the Teamsters Women’s Conference?

I’d never been to an all-women’s conference before. Normally, I go to IT conferences that are 70% men. It was inspiring to see so many women rallying around one central cause. Just to experience the pure positivity was incredible. Everyone was there to learn and to be part of something bigger. One of the breakouts I went to was on the history of women in the Teamsters Union. It was inspiring hearing about how women made a difference back then. I get goosebumps thinking about it.

At the conference, you and your Teamster Sisters marched on Amazon. What was that experience like?

I’ve never been part of an action like that before. As my first experience, marching on Amazon was powerful. I’ll never forget it. There were horns, chanting, the semi-truck. We were walking down the street and people were hanging off the side of the truck taking pictures. Everyone was waving signs. It was such a cool experience.

Hannah Gacey (center right) relished the powerful sisterhood at the Teamsters Women't Conference last year.

As a woman working in a male-dominated industry, what challenges do you face?

Coming from private industry to King County was a radical culture shift. In private industry, being a female in IT, you were cute to have around – you had this stereotype. At the County, it’s much better, but you still have plenty of everyday sexism. I’ve heard comments like, “Oh, girls are such better notetakers, so you need to take notes at all the meetings.” So that sucked. I wasn’t going to stand for that.

I try to make sure I have good relationships and that I’m standing my ground. My attitude is, “Don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions.” So in this case, the solution was to set up a notes rotation and to start sharing the note-taking love around.   

Your Union Rep, Maria Williams, says you’re a total rockstar at work and in your Union. Any idea why she would heap on the praise like that?

I was on our classification and progression bargaining committee. With my background in compensation analysis, it was fun to go through public sector contracts, researching comparables. It wasn’t an easy bargain. It went on for over a year.

We were trying to establish a better work-life balance. IT has a lot of after-hour requirements. COVID has made it especially hard for people in our industry. We’ve had to enable work from home or have hybrid schedules and close locations.

Why is having a Union important to you and your co-workers?

It’s important to have checks and balances. And it’s important to be able to group together and actually negotiate. Negotiations is about bringing up hard conversations that no one wants to have and to work through those together. If we have a concern that management doesn’t want to change, the Union can provide a backstop.

I have a 15-year old daughter. If she were interested in a career in IT, what would you tell her?

Don’t be scared to go for what you want. Don't let any guidance counselor or academic advisor tell you differently. I almost changed course in the middle of my college experience. I was all in on psychology then considered engineering because that’s where the jobs and money are. But my academic advisor was like, “You’re too far in, honey.” I look back on that and think, “Man, that wasn’t the best advice for me.” If you have the guts, the know-how, and the perseverance to go after that technical degree, do it!