During our telephone interview, Jillian Traver is negotiating a narrow English country lane in her compact Vauxhall Tigra while chirping away about music festivals in Latvia and the rich craft of winemaking. She’s picking up her fiancé, fresh off work in London proper, at the train station and they’re driving to their very first home in a village outside the city. He hops in the car and greets me in British English that seems to have rubbed off on Traver.
Since moving to England more than four years ago to embark on a marketing career, she’s adjusted to far more than the left side of the road. But she always flies by the seat of her pants and it’s clear by her spirit and love for travel that she embraces adventure, even as she negotiates the turns of adulthood. Traver, who grew up skiing in small-town Connecticut and attended high school on Hilton Head Island, feels at home in the parish village of Kensworth, nestled in the hills outside London.
Workdays find her driving to her company’s headquarters in nearby Harpenden. Asset TV, with offices in New York City and London, is an online education and research platform for investment professionals. Financial advisers earn necessary professional development credits as they watch videos, and the investment firms who sponsor the videos hope these new advisers will invest with them. For three years, Traver has worked directly with the CEO to ensure the company thrives in the digital age. She creates marketing campaigns around the videos to get them exposure, and she was instrumental in implementing Asset TV’s digital marketing strategy before the company even really had one. She now oversees that fast-growing, highly profitable division. While she was at first focused on getting the word out about the training videos, she’s now taking advantage of data to give firms valuable feedback, balancing her time between managing her team and face-to-face meetings with clients. The biggest challenge, she says, is keeping videos appealing to financial advisers in training while keeping her clients, the big asset management firms, happy. Traver has carved out a valuable niche for herself and now has a seat at the director’s table.
While she may not be a lifelong Hilton Head Islander, she cherishes the formative years she spent there.
“I really enjoyed Connecticut because of skiing, but other than that, I don’t feel I was looked after as a student at Pomperaug High School (in Southbury, Connecticut),” she said. “Moving to Hilton Head, doing the International Baccalaureate program, having teachers like Mrs. Sturgis and Mrs. Fletcher, was the best thing that could have happened. Plus, it was so cool to me that I could leave school and go to the beach. I thrived there.”
When she wasn’t studying, she excelled as a lacrosse goalie, and summers found her working at her family’s fourth-generation electrical business up north. These days, she tries to visit her parents on the island four times a year.
After high school, Traver stayed in the South, studying French and international trade at Clemson University while working on a minor in political science. The summer after her sophomore year, she met Gerrard at a pool party on the island
“He practically stole my car,” she said with a laugh. She and Gerrard, who was on work-abroad year from England, hit it off and they quickly formed a romance.
It was at Clemson that Traver’s world began to expand. She traveled to Taiwan with Model U.N., a mock United Nations Summit for college students, where she won a diplomacy award representing Liberia, a country that rarely won the prize. Her commitments to mastering French led her to study abroad in Fribourg, Switzerland, where she took ambitious classes taught only in French.
“I took a culinary class where I misinterpreted a teaspoon and a pinch, so I used an entire sachet of expensive saffron,” she said. “It was the most amazing thing I ever tasted, but they were not happy.”
She also began a love affair with wine during a summer internship at Château Fonplégade in Saint-Émilion, France.
“I conducted wine tastings, I gave tours all around the château, I loved it,” she said. If her French wasn’t perfect, the two children of her boarding family corrected her with giggles.
Traver then moved to London, earning her master’s degree in marketing at the University of Greenwich with a dissertation on Champagne positioning in the U.K. market. “I really thought I was going into wine because that’s my passion and I spent four years working on that,” she said. But one thing led to another, and Traver landed a different sort of marketing job.
Adjusting to a more grounded new chapter has been challenging given Traver’s unrelenting curiosity, but even now, with a demanding full-time career at Asset TV, she has found ways to travel by any means necessary. “I have no problem saying yes to some crazy things,” she said. One weekend found her racing with a friend to Latvia, Estonia and Helsinki in three days, ending with a giant music festival. Another weekend found her and Gerrard on a coach overnight from London through the tunnel to France, the sun rising on a beautiful day of skiing. Traver is able to nourish her soul through these adventures, and buying a house near London hasn’t limited her vision — instead, she channels her passions into hotel-like renovations at the house with Gerrard, who works at Marriott's headquarters. Traver won’t let anything hem her in: “I’m always curious. I’m always thinking, ‘Oh should I get a Ph.D. in France? Should we move up north, should we go back to the States?’ It’s always in the back of my mind. I think I’ll always live my life that way.” One dream involves teaching college courses on wine. Another involves running a vineyard one day. Then again: “I’d love to live on Hilton Head again someday. And I know no vines would thrive there.”
As my interview with Jillian winds down, I see a young lady navigating the waters of adult life with a bright mind and an open heart. Her wedding with Gerrard is set for June. “We’re going to get married on Hilton Head, where we met,” Traver said. “It’s come full circle for me.”