Career Changer Spotlight
How a former PE teacher transitioned into account management at Teachable
It all started with a donut. Donut.ai to be exact.
Donut.ai is a Slack integration that was introduced across our team a month ago. It randomly pairs up two people who join the Teachable #coffee-break Slack channel and encourages them to make time to get coffee, tea, or even donuts together.
When you’re working alongside a rapidly growing team (with the headcount expanding 100% in the past year), it can be challenging to meet all the new faces popping up across all departments. By pairing two random people together every four weeks, Donut.ai was an exciting way to sustain the onboarding process well after the standard two-week setup.
My first pairing was with Katie, our inimitable Account Manager here at Teachable. She often features on our weekly Quickstart webinars.
Katie and I first chatted about work and our experiences living in NYC, but then the topic of conversation shifted to how we got our starts at Teachable and what career pivots we’ve made to get to this point.
This is where I first learned that Katie started her career as a physical education teacher in the outskirts of London and had embarked on other varied ventures before joining Teachable.
As I learned more, I was inspired by Katie’s positivity and trust in the face of moving to a different continent. Her career transition trajectory was so remarkable that I wanted to dig deeper and share these stories with fellow career changers.
Let’s face it: switching careers is challenging. Consider yourself lucky if you’ve done it and had an easy transition, because for most people, it means consistent hard work over a seemingly endless amount of time. It’s difficult enough to decide on what you want to do, let alone figure out how to get there when you have little to no experience in the field or the role you’re looking toward.
While changing careers can be a difficult process filled with rejection, anxiety, and uncertainty, it’s worth it to persist through that process of trial and error when you innately know it’s what feels right. Eventually, patience, trust, and persistence take over because you know you’re working towards something important.
If you’ve made the decision that you want a change, you’re on the path already. Now it’s a matter of getting to the destination.
If you can relate to this at all, I invite you to read the spotlight of Katie Scott.
In your own words, what you do at Teachable?
I’m an Account Manager and work with our VIP and Enterprise clients.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
I really enjoy when I’m face-to-face with the client, whether it’s talking via phone call or meeting in person, and just interacting with them about why they’re interested in Teachable and what they’re looking for. In general, people approach me with especially innovative and creative ideas and have a similar mind set. A combination of entrepreneurial drive, plus wanting to educate people in their expertise.
What’s an unexpected positive about being an Account Manager since you’ve been here?
Definitely hosting the webinars. When I was applying for the job it was mentioned, but I didn’t realize I would be so involved. I was rather nervous at first, my first practice without an audience was like the King’s Speech, but it has been a really positive challenge to try to take on. It’s great being able to interact with the audience while they comment in the chat. You get live feedback from people from all over the world and usual watch for a solid hour. That’s a long time to join a webinar on a Thursday afternoon, so always appreciate that.
One of the great things about working at Teachable is that a lot of our employees started out in a different industry before converging in the ed tech path. What did your life look like five years ago?
So, five years ago, I was just starting off as a teacher and in my groove, really enjoying it, but still living in my hometown of Reading in England. As a PE teacher, I was teaching ages 11–16, and doing mostly Euro sports, so football, rugby, tennis, cross-country, rounders, netball. Some very English sports in there.
I also focused a lot on life education — sharing how students can transition from school into a career or college, because I think it’s a really hard transition for everyone. I love teaching because you see the difference it makes to a kids, especially the tough ones.
Since you loved teaching, what ultimately made you realize it was time to move on?
I think the big thing is I’m fascinated by businesses and incredibly intrigued by all the exciting startups that are happening. I knew there was something exciting going on, both city-wise and job-wise. Plus, some of my most inspiring teachers I had growing up came from different background. A big factor was that I worked in the same town as I had grown up in. I was looking for a big switch, like moving to a new city which would take me out of my comfort zone and allow me pursue something else.
I also didn’t want to be pigeon holed into, “You’re qualified as a teacher so should stick to that.” I think everyone can learn something new. Ironic…we’re at Teachable after all.
Both: Everything is Teachable! (laughs)
But I genuinely think that. No matter what your age is, as long as you are open to learning, you can learn anything at any age with the right mindset.
Anyway, this was my loose agenda for moving away from teaching physical education, but I absolutely love teaching and sport — I think it’s the best thing.
So you had this idea that you wanted to work at a startup environment that was a 180-degree shift from where you were working at the time. How did you decide to move to move to New York, as opposed to looking at startups in London for instance?
I was originally considering London, too. But when I traveled to America, I went to New York and felt such a positive buzz. It’s incredibly fast-paced, which I love, and it’s more of a norm for people to push the boundaries and ideas.
Another reason why it wasn’t London is because I feel like if I went to London, people would have seen my qualifications as a teacher and placed me back in that field, and I might have defaulted back to that out of ease. But because I moved to New York, I’m sure my qualifications aren’t necessarily recognized here — so it forced me to find and pursue a completely different type of career. I don’t know how well-thought-out that all was — in fact it wasn’t.
Well it seems rather well-thought-out because look at you right now: you’re working at a startup, in NYC, in Union Square!
No it worked out impeccably well and I’m very, very lucky that it’s happened that way. I’m very chuffed.
What does “chuffed” mean?
Very pleased. Happy. I’m chuffed!
But after landing in NY, you had a few other jobs before finding Teachable, right?
There were definitely growing pains with it, not smooth sailing. I had an array of jobs starting with a football coach — or soccer coach, if I have to say that, although it hurts me to. I was trying to avoid teaching or coaching positions, but it was an opportunity that quickly presented itself while I was finding my feet.
I then completely remove myself from that field and was a barista for a while, also an office manager at one point and worked in a juice shop for some time. That’s how I found my next job, I was serving a customer in the juice shop and was speaking to them about their company they had just started. Long story short, that interaction stemmed into them hiring me on trial for one event as a Project Manager. After that event I was hired full time, luckily. It was great experience working next to a CEO at a very small company, although it still wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.
Sounds like a step in the right direction.
Definitely! I also had another step which was in sales position at a startup that provided marketing solutions for the financial industry. That was a fun and intense environment, a lot of pounding the phone and getting rejection after rejection, which is certainly a valuable learning experience.
A group of us unfortunately got laid off from the sales team, which was very sudden and quite a movie moment. At the time it felt terribly, but in hindsight it worked out well. I randomly started consulting with the clients I was still in touch with. During this period I started looking for another source of income or passive income because I knew eventually sourcing new consulting clients or projects was going to be challenging. That’s how I found Teachable. It seemed clever, clean and simple, so much so that I wanted to be more involved with the company itself. I tried to do as much research as I could, see who I knew, and who had any connections to get my foot in the door.
So you heard about Teachable before you even saw the Account Manager role?
Yes, I found Teachable and started researching how I could create my platform and have income whilst consulting. But the more I learned, it seemed the idea was great and the morals of the company as a whole were aligned with mine.
So I went to the Careers page and was looking at what I could do — quite frankly I would have scrubbed the floors if it meant I got a foot in the door. But, Account Manager really stuck out to me because it was client-facing and had similarities to previous experiences.
You mentioned once before that as soon as you saw the Account Manager position on the Careers page, you were all in.
Oh I turned into a freak (laughs), I was obsessed with getting involved somehow. I didn’t want to have start knocking on the door and following all employees on social media… but I would have if no one answered my application.
What was your strategy while applying to the role?
At first I was talking to my friends, checking Linkedin to cross-check what connections might arise. One of my good friends knew someone who worked here, so I asked them to put in a word for me. I thought as long my application got noticed, I’d have my foot in the door, and then it could be a yes or a no. Otherwise I’d keep knocking on that door.
What advice would you give to someone who comes from a different background but wants to apply to Teachable?
I think it’s really important to say why you want to work here, do research on it, and also reflect on what you’ve previously done and see what experiences can that relate to the position. Even if it’s different, what projects have I done that would help in a position, the company — and build off that in terms of what you want to do.
Prove that you’ve got the mindset to jump in with the company’s goals. Explain how past experiences or projects show that you’re adaptable and capable of helping the company. Or maybe you’ll say that you’re 10x better at webinars than me! (laughs)
I think it’s finding your story and strengths, honing that, and saying why you want to be at Teachable. How your skills can help Teachable with its long-term or short-term goals, probably long-term would be better.
How did you leverage your past roles — say, as far back as your PE teacher days — to prove you were the right person to be the Account Manager?
With my background as a teacher, I felt immediately connected from the name. Teachable. But more than that, it was the values of the company in helping people, channeling the entrepreneur’s spirit into something positive like starting their own business. Teaching is similar where you’re trying to help a child to be their best self and challenge them. It’s the mentality: let’s try to work through problems and difficulties.
As a project manager, it was my organization, plus seeing a project through from start to finish, and interaction with clients that related.
And with sales, I learned how to talk to clients from a different perspective. With Teachable, it’s not an aggressive sales pitch, as the Teachable product speaks for itself, which is nice.
So that’s a bit of how I was looking at each experience and tailoring it to the company and position.
Job changing can be a grueling process and it requires so much patience and trust. How did you keep your spirits up while making this transition?
I’ve been really fortunate and lucky to have my friends and family. Prior to moving I knew some people and they introduced me to their friends, and so forth. There’s so much opportunity. Like you said, it’s a grueling process and there will be times where you’re down, but you kinda just have to pull your sleeves up, chin up, stiff upper lip and get on with it.
I do believe that if you’re being positive, whether you’re working at a juice shop or as a project manager, you’ll attract the same type of people around you. My journey wasn’t linear, but I have been lucky and I do attribute a lot of it to keeping my chin up.
Incredible. Where did you learn this from?
Mainly I’ve learned this stuff from my parents. They also have some great sayings, like “Don’t let the bastards get you down.” That’s a really solid one. That just means there will always be people having a bad day or trying to ruin yours, so don’t let them. There are some really good sayings my mom and dad always says. I’m sure I have a list.
I’d love to hear some of your other mantras!
I’ll get the list!
- “Everything happens for a reason.” You have to spin things in positive way, even if it’s shitty.
- “Grab the bull by the horns.”
- This is one from my grandma: “It will be all right in the end.”
- “No rest for the wicked.” Classic.
- A quote I just say all the time is “Challenge accepted.” Whatever it is, fine. I’ll find a way for it to happen.
- “Life’s a bitch.” Solid one!
Excellent. Switching gears, what advice would you give to someone who wants to make a career change, realizes where they are right now is not a fit, but doesn’t know where to start?
Oh, that’s really tough. It’s definitely difficult. I think it’s just to dabble in anything and see where it takes you. Think of it like you’re building a portfolio of experience. If you wanted to be more outgoing or challenge yourself, you could go to a improv class. If you want to be involved in sports, join a local team and meet people also into sports. If you want to write, start writing a paragraph a day. If you want to be accountant, do some freelance work in that field. Basically, if you’re interested in something, just talk to other people about it and dip into it. Dabble.
I do think that’s one of the misconceptions about people who change careers. From the outside, it seems like a sudden overnight epiphany or an almost mystical transition. But it’s really a series of smaller realizations over time and consistent work.
Definitely! And it is constant work. But if it’s something you’re interested in, it will become easier and the bigger picture will come together.
What are some of the other things you’ve dabbled in?
All sports I’ve dabbled in. Art. I went to a few live drawing class — loved them. It’s a two-hour Meetup (Oh my god, I love Meetup). Dabble in that all the time. Really, anything. If someone asks me if we want to go, say, kayaking, I’ll say yes. I try to rarely say no if I’m not busy.
Both: Challenge accepted!