Eric Gilreath is a self-taught IT director who advises up-and-comers to be prepared to get a lot wrong before getting it right.
“Don’t be afraid to break the wheel,” Gilreath said. “If you don’t break the wheel, you’re not going to make it any better.”
A true do-it-yourselfer is a rare breed, but Gilreath is proof they do exist. His self-motivation helped him break into the IT business, and he has thrived in the industry.
An Oklahoma native, Gilreath was working at the Southwest Times Record in Fort Smith 10 years ago as a graphic designer, a subject he studied briefly at a two-year college in Oklahoma.
He said he had always wanted to live in Fayetteville, so in 2009 he moved to the city and took a job with a now-defunct daily newspaper, working as an overnight prepress technician. Within a year, he was promoted to a systems administrator job, and following the merger of the paper with the larger Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Gilreath began his career climb. In January 2016, at age 26, he was appointed to his current job, becoming the youngest department head at the NWADG, a publication formed one year earlier with the consolidation of five regional dailies into a one regional newspaper.
Gilreath’s profession has been propelled by developing revenue-generating technologies and cost-saving automation initiatives. In 2013, he developed from scratch an advertising insertion order system. From there, he built a program to automate the prepress operations. Several of his systems are now being implemented in the parent company’s (WEHCO Media) other properties.
Gilreath went against the grain of earning a traditional education, instead taking the initiative to learn and research what he needed to know to advance his career.
“Google is your best friend when it comes to IT,” he said. “You can find a solution to any problem just by doing your own research.”
As the media company transitions to more of a digital mindset, growing the paper’s digital audience is going to become a bigger part of Gilreath’s daily focus. Projects to that end are what get most of his attention now.
He said he’s lucky to have an enjoyable occupation that’s also his greatest hobby.
“The most important part of what I do is to set the precedent for my staff and peers to not settle for good enough,” he said.