It is easy to imagine that Brooks Running is a busy place and the woman at the center of the maelstrom is the right hand of CEO Jim Weber — chief of staff Tamara Hills. Her 20 years at the brand shows some staying power, and why not? Most of us would find a position at a major running brand a dream job. My 20-year association with Tamara has been cordial and professional, her warmth and concern have served her well, and her ability to keep all of the “balls in the air” rivals the skill of those enviable circus performers. Running Insight presents a look behind the scenes of a top running brand.

How did you come to be at Brooks?

I joined Brooks in 2003 as corporate communications manager. I had previously worked nearly a decade in PR firms supporting several consumer businesses in various industries. The agency environment was fertile ground to learn and grow, but my goal was to someday work in-house for a company and on a brand that married my professional and personal interests. 

And Brooks fit that description for you?

Brooks was (and still is) that dream opportunity. When I joined, I was primarily responsible for public and media relations and all internal and executive communications. I reported directly to our CEO, Jim Weber, as the VP-marketing role was vacant. That arrangement offered me great visibility across the business and a feel for the rhythm of the Office of the CEO. In 2010, Jim asked me to join his office as chief of staff.

What background did you have in the running arena before working at Brooks?

I was an athlete in my youth — played softball and volleyball. When organized sports ended after high school, I picked up running to stay in shape. I could barely make it around the block in those first days. But my physical endurance grew quickly, as did my reliance on running to help keep my emotional and mental health in check. 

How did that help when you joined?

When I joined Brooks, I’d never worked in the running industry, but I was logging miles six days a week. I understood running, runners and the many benefits of simply moving forward — right foot, let foot, repeat.


What are your job responsibilities and the strengths you bring to your job?

I am often asked, “What do you actually do at Brooks?” The question makes me chuckle, but I respect it as the chief of staff role is still relatively new across mainstream business and no two chief of staff job descriptions are the same. 

So what is the description at Brooks?

As chief of staff I leverage my comms background daily as I shape and guide executive and enterprise communications. As well, I manage our relationships with our parent company, Berkshire Hathaway, and our Brooks Board of Advisors. This includes directing regular meetings, reporting and other engagements throughout the year. I also have an opportunity to sponsor and/or direct special projects that involve or originate from the Office of the CEO. Lastly, because of my background and tenure, I am often engaged in work related to Brooks’ values, culture and brand evolution.

How have your ideas been incorporated with your job responsibilities?

I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to influence and drive impact alongside other senior leaders from the moment I joined Brooks. Today, I am expected to unite people across the organization by helping to keep them informed, engaged, aligned and moving forward in service of Brooks’ purpose and strategic focus areas. Because I sit alongside the CEO and at the executive table, I get a full scope of what’s happening across the global business and can help shape our path ahead. 

What has been your biggest impact, your proudest moment?

My proudest moment occurred in 2018 when the Special Olympics USA Games came in Seattle. Nearly two years prior, the organization’s CEO approached Jim Weber and me with the opportunity to get involved. The USA Games had never taken place in a metropolitan city and was set to be televised for the first time on ESPN. It would welcome 4000 athletes and coaches, 10,000 volunteers and 550,000 spectators onsite and via ESPN. 

Wow, quite an opportunity — and challenge.

It was a huge stage to introduce our brand to others and celebrate the transformative power that Special Olympics and sports have on the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities. I was given the reins to develop a full partnership scope and negotiate terms for Brooks to become the USA Games’ sole partner in the athletic footwear/apparel category. I then assembled and led a cross-departmental team to plan and execute a robust program, including storytelling through marketing/media, experiential onsite activation/engagement, development of a limited-edition shoe and apparel collection that included a charitable giveback, and delivery of several hundred volunteers throughout the competition. It was an incredible honor to lead and participate in an effort that galvanized the entire Brooks organization and community around the power of inclusion in sport. 

What changes have you seen during your time at Brooks?

How runners find, shop for and purchase brands has changed dramatically with the rise of digital. Two decades ago, Brooks did not have an e-commerce site, social media didn’t exist and influencers were essentially limited to professional runners, coaches and the person working the floor of your local running store. Innovations in materials and manufacturing have been game-changing for performance running shoe production and performance. There’s so much fantastic product in the market today.

We certainly agree with all of that. Has anything remained the same?

What has remained constant over time – no matter what’s going on in the world – is the power of the run to improve and even transform people’s lives. For nearly 25 years, Brooks has been solely focused on introducing more people to this power. While our playbook has evolved, Brooks’ purpose remains steadfast. 

Brooks’ growth has been tremendous. What are some of the contributing factors?

Jim Weber talks a lot about constancy of purpose. If you change who you are and what you’re focused on as a brand, employees and customers will struggle to understand and follow you. Brooks has had incredible constancy of purpose. But purpose alone doesn’t drive growth. 

How do you feel that your perspective as a woman has influenced Brooks’ success?

It is a widely held belief at Brooks that inclusive, diverse teams create the best outcomes over time. As it relates to gender, as of the end of 2023, 52 percent of our total global team identified as women, and Brooks’ focus on developing women leaders has resulted in women holding 50 percent of the roles at the manager/supervisor level or higher. 

Impressive and inspiring. How about in the business as a whole?

In the running category at large, there’s also an even split between men and women in terms of participation. But instead of targeting runners in a gender-focused way, we find greater resonance and relevance when we engage people around running motivations, which transcend gender. As such, my perspective is heard and valued at Brooks not because I am a woman, but because I understand our brand and the transformational power running can bring to all.

How are you able to integrate your job with your personal life?

Balancing work and life can be challenging for many. But our brains, bodies and hearts don’t come with alternate SIM cards to swap in/out as we shift between work and home. So for me, the pursuit is not work-life balance, but rather a work-life blend. 

How so?

Every family makeup is unique and mine is exceedingly so as my oldest son has an ultra-rare neurological disorder that significantly impacts his global development and requires skilled medical support around the clock. From the moment he was born, Brooks has given me the flexibility I need to prioritize his care and appointments when necessary. While he cannot stand or walk independently, he loves to move through space with the breeze in his face. My husband and I dreamed of pushing him in a marathon someday. At 17-years old, my son has now completed nine full marathons as a rider-athlete. Many Brooks employees have joined us in these journeys, lending their time, energy and hearts to the effort. It truly takes a village and the team at Brooks is a pivotal part of mine.