Raven Wilson once believed she would work as a teacher forever. But over time, her feelings started to change.
What she once considered a lifelong passion lost its luster, so she did what anyone would do in her situation — she started typing into the Google search bar.
“If you Google what a teacher can do, a lot of things pop up, such as training and instructional design,” Wilson said.
After doing some research, Wilson still wasn’t sure what kind of role she wanted, until someone suggested that she look into customer success.
“I was like, ‘Is that talking on the phone?’” she recalled. “They said, ‘No, you’re utilizing the skills you already have as a teacher and still making an impact.’”
Wilson was sold. After applying to countless jobs and networking with others in the industry, she eventually found her current role as a customer success manager at Ellevation Education. Now, she gets to pursue a career path in tech while supporting English-language learners across the country.
While making the transition from teaching to CS is entirely achievable for those who wish to do so, the switch isn’t always easy. In fact, Maggie Gillis was terrified when she decided to leave the education field. She felt like she was undergoing more than just a job change.
In truth, she felt as though she was starting from scratch. “When you become an educator, other career paths aren’t really presented to you, apart from administrative roles,” Gillis said.
Gillis didn’t want to be in administration. She wanted to grow in a different direction, so she started connecting with other former teachers — which is how she found Wilson, who gave her helpful advice about resume-building and exiting the education space.
When she decided to join Ellevation Education as a campus engagement manager, she already felt like she had a community there.
“Finding those connections was incredibly important for me,” Gillis said.
For former teachers, Ellevation Education unlocks countless connection points through both coworkers and the work itself. Sarah Al-Haj, who previously worked in a school district with 35,000 multilingual learners, felt particularly drawn to the company’s mission.
While Al-Haj was eager to empower learners as she used to, she was also weary of facing burnout again. “I wanted to find something that aligned with my mission, values and passions and also honored a work-life balance that I never had as an educator,” she said.
Like countless others, Al-Haj started searching for answers on the internet — and the rest is history. As a training solutions manager at Ellevation Education, she has found everything she has wanted in a career. And although she sometimes misses teaching, she feels comforted by the camaraderie among her peers.
“One thing everyone says about this company is that the people are incredible, which is true,” Al-Haj said. “Once you find your people, you’re like, ‘OK, I’ve got this.’”
ABOUT ELLEVATION EDUCATION
Ellevation Education is dedicated to helping English-language learners thrive. The company’s platform enables ELL educators to gain deeper insights into their students, streamline administrative processes, make informed instructional decisions and monitor student progress.
Transitioning to Tech
While Wilson, Gillis and Al-Haj may have been nervous about entering the tech industry, all of them were more than prepared to tackle this next phase in their career journeys.
Wilson is always planning ahead and setting goals for the specific school districts she supports. And when she’s not focused on strategy and organization, she’s doing what she’s always done — teaching.
“I may not be working with students, but I’m still teaching adults how to utilize a product,” Wilson said.
Once customers know how to utilize the company's product, Gillis helps them implement the technology. For her, having the chance to help school districts drive value for their students — especially when there are high concentrations of multilingual learners — is a direct correlation to what she did as a teacher.
Of course, there are still some nuances. For instance, rather than have an entire year to build relationships with those they’re teaching, trainers must forge strong connections within the course of a single training session.
This requires Al-Haj to humanize the data in front of her, which is something she often practiced as an educator. “Teachers don’t just look at students as data points,” she said. Leveraging this same philosophy helps Al-Haj recognize her customers’ individual needs.
To address these needs, Wilson approaches customers as if they’re a student’s parents who have questions about their child or the district as a whole. “I let them know their concerns are heard and valid and that I’m here to support them,” she said.
Creating a Sense of Community
Team members in Ellevation Education’s Partner Success Organization — which encompasses smaller functional areas such as the Campus Engagement team, the Customer Success team and the Professional Services/Training team — may have similar professional backgrounds, but they possess vastly different personalities. And, according to Gillis, that’s a great thing.
With members of her own team spread across the country, Gillis and her peers often take time after the workday to play games and get to know each other on a personal level. And considering so many of them were once teachers, it has been easy for everyone to cultivate a sense of community that drives support and progress.
“We’ve created a space of vulnerability, which is what helps our team move forward really quickly,” Gillis said. “I like to say we succeed fast and fail fast.”
“We’ve created a space of vulnerability, which is what helps our team move forward really quickly. I like to say we succeed fast and fail fast.”
To foster this feeling of openness, Al-Haj’s team holds weekly meetings, during which employees express their feelings through silly animal memes. “It opens up a fun conversation to share things, which makes people more vulnerable,” Al-Haj said.
This ability to build camaraderie isn’t confined to specific teams. Although Wilson and Gillis work on different teams within the company’s CS org, they often connect over Zoom to discuss both professional matters and personal wins.
Partner Success org members also get to see each other in person at least twice a year during companywide offsites. Earlier this year, everyone participated in an adult version of field day, where team members got to know many of their peers from other departments. The company is also planning to meet up in Boston in July, which Gillis is especially excited about.
“One of my favorite parts about Ellevation is the community we have and our ability to build relationships,” Gillis said.
EXCITING WORK AHEAD
While members of the Partner Success organization at Ellevation Education have a lot of exciting projects in the works, there are a few that they’re most excited to tackle. Wilson is especially eager to see the company roll out a new platform feature this fall. This new feature is designed to enable educators to streamline meetings and monitor progress while offering them deeper insight into what students need to succeed.
Al-Haj added that she’s looking forward to revamping the current approach to product training. By incorporating more inclusive, teacher-friendly language, the team aims to make it easier for school districts to understand the full weight of Ellevation Education’s influence. “We want to understand how we can continue to highlight the impact that we can have on teachers, students and families,” Al-Haj said.
‘Don’t Box Yourself In’
For Wilson, Gillis and Al-Haj, leaving the teaching profession was a wholly rewarding experience; one that opened their eyes to the opportunities that exist for those who decide to change directions.
Wilson wants educators who are considering leaving their profession to understand that they’re more than just a teacher. “It’s not your whole identity, so get on LinkedIn and connect with people,” she said. “Find out what other people are doing and how they did it.”
Once you have an idea of how other teachers found their way into a different industry, it’s easier to identify the first steps to take. Wilson also cautions against settling for the first company they find that aligns with their background and skill set.
“Don’t box yourself in,” Wilson said.
Gillis added that it’s important for teachers interested in entering the tech industry specifically to be confident in their abilities.
“I think teachers sometimes get really nervous about the technical aspect, but they shouldn’t worry about it,” she said. “Bring your best self and the knowledge that you have, and you can learn all the rest once you get there.”
For Al-Haj, the key to transitioning out of teaching is simple: “Know your worth.” She believes it’s important for educators to understand that they still have a place outside of the classroom, regardless of where their path takes them.
“Know that there are companies out there that are going to see and honor your strengths, abilities and knowledge that you have,” Al-Haj said.