Ep 11: Marina Reyna: Humble Beginnings Grow Foundation for Tech Success

Diva Tech Talk recently sat down with digital leader, Marina Reyna, a senior IT project manager at Optum Technology, subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group. Currently supervising a team of eight people, Marina is a master multi-tasker, passionately interested in the growing healthcare market, and a strong advocate for managing one’s career in a dynamic and active fashion. 

Marina did not start out in the computer industry.  Her undergraduate bachelor’s degree at Eastern Michigan University was in marketing and communications, and her initial career roles at Young & Rubicam and MARS were as an account executive handling major advertising customers for those agencies. But when she moved over to Wunderman/Team Detroit, she experienced a revelation.   “I had my ‘ah-ha’ moment,” Marina says. “I needed a career change to stay competitive; I needed to ‘go digital.’” Wunderman/Team Detroit gave her that chance, and she has never looked back.

Like many women, Marina has balanced her career with family responsibilities. At the time she took the leap into the digital space, she was a single (divorced) mother of two, with no incoming child support. She looked at the technology field as potentially more secure in terms of fulfilling her family’s monetary requirements.  

“Financially, IT has opened doors that allowed me to advance my career and provide better for my family,” she says. “But I can honestly also say that, without technology, I would not be the woman I am today.”

Subsequent to Team Detroit, Marina kept growing in a variety of roles (Account Supervisor, Senior Project Manager, Senior Engagement Manager) at other upcoming agencies (Doner, Organic and BrandLabs), which offered unique opportunities for her to marry her growing expertise in digital techniques with her love for campaign management and customer service. At Organic, as an example, she focused solely on digital work. 

She is proud to have launched Organic’s first internal iOS native application (called BizWords). She also led the development of Hilton Garden Inn’s first mobile application, and Kotex’s redesign of both their desktop and mobile websites, for which the agency won two coveted Effie awards.

These stints prepared her for her current career. “At Optum Technology, we manage big data, analytics …and help reinvent the healthcare Internet,” Marina explains. “My team is very important there. We are keeping marketing dollars inside supporting UnitedHealth Group and its other subsidiaries, as an internal digital marketing agency.”  In Marina’s opinion, her Optum team’s value is simple. “We help the company pay off their bottom line and maximize their dollars.” To do that, she has had to become a change agent. “It’s fun but it’s a challenge,” she admits. 

Marina considers one of her core strengths to be her communication style. “I can easily walk into a room, and build rapport.” Even more importantly she characterizes her leadership style as “servant leadership.”  In talking about her team, her approach has always been “what can I do for you to reach your goals.” Finally, she emphasizes that integrity is key to her success.” I lead by example, and I expect other people to do the same thing.”   

Marina is very proud that in her tenure at Optum, she has reduced her team’s staff attrition from a very high rate to 0% in the first year by “rebooting.” As she reorganized and re-focused the team, Marina encouraged members to concentrate on several key principles: “Servant leadership, accountability, trust, commitment, respect. Keep your promises and deliver!”

As a woman in technology, Marina says she has learned “I need to be smarter, faster, detailed and always pay attention. And make good core relationships in every situation. Treat everyone the same.  Be fair; be consistent.” Marina also credits her Latina culture as another element in her success. “I am proud to be a Mexican American. I have a strong faith. I am focused on family, and my culture. Those three things, combined, have helped me develop a very strong work ethic.” 

The mother of a college age daughter, Marina goes on to say “I was very fortunate in my mother. She grew up as a migrant worker, picking whatever fruits or vegetables were in season in the hot climate; then returning home to whatever makeshift farmhouse or barn they could afford at the time,” she says. “Having her come from very humble background taught me that you can do anything you want in this country. The only way to do it is to work hard, believe in yourself, and don’t give up.”

What advice would Marina give other women entering or evolving in their careers? “Be courageous; be curious; and be knowledgeable. ‘Own’ your space. Know your voice. Come prepared.” 

In terms of technology careers, Marina is very pragmatic. “I think technology is a moving target. You don’t have to be a software engineer, or a graphic designer. Find out what makes you tick, and what you have passion to be,” she says.  And most importantly “don’t be afraid. Don’t let the word ‘technology’ intimidate you. View it as a tool to sharpen that skill set and help you get to that next stop. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!”

Marina Reyna is a Senior IT Project Manager at Optum: http://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/businesses/optum.aspx

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