75 - Eva Papacostas: From Teacher to EdTech Account Manager
Teacher to Edtech Account Manager

75 – Eva Papacostas: From Teacher to EdTech Account Manager

TeacherCareerCoach

Evangelia was an ELA and ELL teacher for 7 years in NYC. In June of 2021, she landed an account manager role at one of her favorite EdTech companies. We chat all about her transition into sales, which was actually one of the roles she was certain she would NOT pursue in the beginning of her career hunt.

Listen to the episode in the podcast player below, or find it on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

From Teacher to EdTech Account Manager with Eva Papacostas

Daphne Gomez:
Hi, Eva. Thank you so much for being here today.

Eva Papacostas:
Hi, Daphne, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to chat.

Daphne Gomez:
We secretly chat, I feel like all the time on LinkedIn, but I have just been such a fan of your journey from going into the classroom and to becoming an account manager. And I’ve just been really impressed with how you have posted from time to time, some great advice for teachers. So I’m so grateful for you to come on the show and share your story. I really wanted to start off a little bit, just learning about your experience inside the classroom. What made you want to be a teacher and how long were you a teacher for?

Eva’s Background as a NYC Teacher

Eva Papacostas:
Sure. So I was a teacher for seven years. Can I say New York city? I was a teacher for seven years in New York city and I’m a certified ELA and EFL teacher. So I taught grade seven through 12, different populations of students. And I got into teaching because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. And I was really good at English. I liked school and I have come from a family of teachers. So that seemed like the obvious choice for me. I was also not a very motivated young person, so I didn’t do much research as I should have. So I went teaching, I did it for seven years. And in addition to being a teacher, I was also an instructional coach and the coordinator of student activities.

Eva Papacostas:
And I would say probably around year three, I started thinking to myself, is this something that I really want to do for the rest of my life? Because I found that what I enjoyed about my job the most was talking to people and problem solve and not so much the preparing for lessons and teaching the lessons to the students and then dealing with all of the other stuff that you have to deal with as a teacher.

Changing Direction

Eva Papacostas:
And I decided to switch schools to see if it was just the school or if it was the actual profession. I switched schools. I was in a wonderful school with super supportive administrators, wonderful students – I loved my colleagues and I still wasn’t happy teaching. And that’s when I said, okay, it’s not just the school, it’s the profession itself. Then that’s what led me to researching what else I can do. And few Google searches led me to the teacher career coach.

Daphne Gomez:
So when you were going through that transition period and starting to look outside of the classroom, like before you found my resources, did you have any direction that you knew you wanted to go in?

Eva Papacostas:
None. I had no idea – I remember literally Googling, like what else can English teachers do, or other jobs for teachers? I had spoken with a friend of mine who is a recruiter and she was like, “You can get into recruiting.” But that it wasn’t a good fit, it didn’t work out for me. So I was really lost in what else was available.

Transitioning into a Role as an EdTech Account Manager

Daphne Gomez:
So you ended up landing in sales as an account manager. Was that the first choice when you were going through all of the processes? So how did that work out?

Eva Papacostas:
Yeah, so I was actually totally against getting into sales. I wanted nothing to do with it because I had a really bad stigma about it. The stereotypical salesperson was what was on my mind and I did not want that. And I didn’t even entertain looking into it further because I was just so stubborn and I really started my… At first, I pinpointed and said I wanted to do professional development or professional learning and teach teachers how to use specific products for companies. And those roles are really hard to find because there’s so few of them. And because once somebody gets into that role, they stay in there for a long time.

So I was having trouble with that and finally decided to do some research as to sales, see exactly what it’s all about. I talked to a few people and I realized that I was 100% wrong in what I thought sales was. And that there’s two different types of sales. There’s new business sales, where you’re searching for prospects and maybe cold-calling and getting people to purchase your products. But there’s also renewal sales, which is what I end it up in, which is dealing with customers or clients that already have the product and just supporting them with their usage, making sure that they’re getting the most out of it. And most importantly, that they’re renewing it at the end of their contract. So my role as an account manager is pretty similar to that role of a customer success manager. So once I that, that was when I realized that sales was not this big, scary monster that I thought it was.

Insight into an EdTech Account Manager’s Role

Daphne Gomez:
So you are in charge of helping people renew their contract year after year. That’s what I’m hearing you say. And with that, for people who are curious, that just means like a subscription, almost like your Netflix account. It would be someone who works at Netflix reaching out to you right before the annual renewal and saying, “Hey, did you notice there are these really cool shows you may be interested in?” But what does that look like from like the ed tech perspective? What kinds of things would you do to reach out and make sure a customer was happy using your product?

So what I like to do is I like to pull usage reports and see what schools or districts are using the product heavily. Maybe which ones need a little bit of nudging to start using the product, take a look and see maybe what their district or school goals are and figure out how my product can help them achieve those goals. And then make them aware of that. Whether it’s picking up the phone and giving them a call or sending them over an email anyway, to get into communication with them and letting them know, because a lot of times these schools, they purchase these products because they hear this is good. This is great. You can use it for science. You can use it for STEM, [inaudible 00:05:57] buzzword, but then they forget that they have it, or they don’t even tell their teachers that they have it.

So a lot of the times for me specifically, it’s about reminding the teachers, “Hey, you have this. I can show you how to use this. You can use it in this way.” And it really helps being a former teacher and being able to say to them, “This is how I used it when I was in the classroom.” And it just gives me more… It just makes it easier for me to build that relationship with them because at the end of the day, people buy from people. So if they can relate to you can talk to them, you can show them the value in something, they’re going to continue purchasing year after year.

Daphne Gomez:
And it really helps when you’re working somewhere where you truly believe that the product is a good fit for people…

Eva Papacostas:
Absolutely.

Let’s Talk about the Interview Process

Daphne Gomez:
… and it’s helping them save time. Did you interview for other roles like sales roles at other ed tech companies?

Eva Papacostas:
Yeah, I did. So I interviewed at quite a few companies and with my current company, I just felt that the company culture was just a great fit for what I was looking for. But most importantly to me, the product was something that I used on a weekly, sometimes even daily basis with my students. So it was really important to me to be able to speak to the effectiveness of the product, honestly. And I can definitely do that now. So I did interview with a lot of places, mostly for account management roles and customer success roles once I realized that was the direction I wanted to go in and it ended up working out for me to end up in my current company.

Assisting Teachers as an EdTech Account Manager

Daphne Gomez:
And you were talking a little bit about helping teachers see the value in the product itself, or being able to actually support teachers. That’s something that I actually did in my last role as a learning consultant is my role was to team up with the sales team and they would say, “Hey, whatever you can do to just support teachers, but in a way that helps them see value in what they already have. We’re not upselling, we’re not making them buy anything else, but it looks like they have access to all these tools so go see where they’re actually struggling and see if there’s anything you can do by using the tools to help them take things off of their plate.”

I worked in a capacity where the product that I was selling, there were ways that you could use it for productivity and helping everybody share resources and do things and simplify the teaching workload. And so that was something that I was able to do and felt good about doing it. It helps the sales team. It helps teachers, are you in charge of that or do you work with professional development trainers at your company and say, “Hey, so and so would like more on this.”

Eva Papacostas:
So we do have professional learning specialists who we bring in for specific webinars or professional development sessions, but from the day to day, if it’s a customer that’s like, “Hey, I don’t know how to use this feature of the product.” I am the one that will then send them a link and be like, “Hey, set up a time on my calendar. Let’s go on the call. Let me show you how to use this.” So we definitely use our professional learning team for more large scale presentations and more so implementation. Like when it’s for the new business side, for the renewal side. I would say it’s about half and half. Some of them want a full on PD session for their teachers, other ones just want here and there, like, “Hey, I forgot how to do this part. Can you hop on a call and show me?” So we definitely do work together with them a lot to collaborate and make sure that our teachers are getting all of the information that they need.

Upskilling & Networking to Land a Role as an EdTech Account Manager

Daphne Gomez:
When you were going into the interviews, did you use any resources or up skill even outside of the Teacher Career Coach Course to help you get prepared for sales positions?

Eva Papacostas:
I did a lot of LinkedIn learning courses, and I honestly did a lot of research on Google and talking to people on LinkedIn who were in the roles that I was aspiring to be in.

Daphne Gomez:
For anyone who’s listening, there’s a free trial for LinkedIn learning it’s teachercareercoach.com/linkedinlearning is just the easy way to get there. I really recommend going in and taking a couple of courses. If it is a role that you’re excited about like sales, courses themselves just help you with like that foundational knowledge. But with other courses you may actually need to build projects to get your hands dirty if it’s a different type of path. Did you feel like just learning about sales in general helped you be more confident when you were going into the interviews?

Learning from Rejection

Eva Papacostas:
I think it did, but I think what helped me even more was the interview rejections that I had from other companies after having to create presentations for them and actually getting into it. I also think that I had a unique perspective because in one of my roles in my school district, I was on the other end of ed tech sales professionals, where I was the one communicating with them, letting them know we need this product. How much is this product? So I think that really helped me because I could see both sides of it, but I definitely do recommend taking some of those LinkedIn learning courses and just doing some reading and firsthand experience reading and talking to people about what they have done to prepare for their sales role and how they feel what’s their challenge, what’s their favorite part. And just really getting to know the people behind it.

Daphne Gomez:
Yeah. I was going to ask that is if you were strategically using your instructional coaching and your leadership to help you land your new role and with instructional coaching or for anyone who’s listening, who’s like a admin of some sort, anyone who’s part of that process of purchasing…

Eva Papacostas:
Curriculum for their…

Daphne Gomez:
… yeah, for their district, that is something you should definitely emphasize when you’re going into these types of positions, because it is a lot of the experience that they’re looking for at a tech companies, because you’ve already been part of the decision making process, you know the way that your ideal client would be thinking, the objections they may have or even how school district policies work.

Translating Skills from the Classroom into a Role in EdTech

Eva Papacostas:
Yeah, exactly. And I see that I did lean on that heavily when I was going through the process of interviewing. And I think a lot of teachers reach out to me at LinkedIn and they ask, “Well, how did you transition? How did you vocalize your experience, raise your resume?” And a lot of the times we, as teachers don’t realize that like all those things that we did are so important and should be listed on our resume. We think, that’s just part of the job. It’s fine they know we did that, but they don’t. And that is a huge piece of your experience that is going to help you move forward while you’re making these transitions.

Daphne Gomez:
Oh God, we are on so many resume writing calls where we hear the exact same thing. We have to pull it out of teachers that we’re talking to… [crosstalk 00:12:58] … they’ll say things like, “Oh, I don’t know if I should put it down. I just…” And then they say something that’s really impressive that they 100% should put down. I have a million examples of this. And we’re like, “Yes.” Even if you were not formally paid extra for it, because at any company, this would be something that you would feel confident putting down on a bullet point because you probably come with a pay raise that they asked you to do the budgeting for an entire fundraiser, or you are in charge of the grade level team. You’re managing all of your peers and colleagues, or you’re creating the resources to onboard new hires for the school district. All of these things are great bullet points to put if you’re going above and beyond in your day to day. When you were applying for these positions, did you feel like you suffered from impostor syndrome at all?

Let’s Talk about Impostor Syndrome

Eva Papacostas:
Oh yeah. I think I suffered from impostor syndrome until like six months into my role. There were days when I was like, “What am I doing? Like, who do I think I am? I am a teacher, I am not an account manager.” And I’ve been in my role for nine months now. And I would say like, I was still struggling with this until very recently. And it was really hard for me, especially in September when I saw my friends going back to school and I wasn’t going back to school. I was like, “Oh, what did I do? What is happening? I should be going back.” And I think that’s when it was really hitting me hard, the imposter syndrome. But now I feel so much more comfortable in my role. And even though I had the imposter syndrome, I never regretted it. I just was like, “”Oh my goodness, what is happening? What did I do?” I think I was just in shock and disbelief that I actually made this huge change.

Daphne Gomez:
It’s something that’s super common. I feel like I struggled with it for the first entire year of whether not… It wasn’t necessarily like whether or not I made the right decision because I could tell mentally I was doing so much better after I had the space to heal and be in a new, exciting environment. It was a very cool job, but just continuing to think, “Can this be sustainable? Can I still be this happy for a long period of time?” Yeah. A little bit. Do you feel like you are always on your toes? Like when is it going to come crumbling down and change?

Eva Papacostas:
Yeah. And I feel like that has calm down for me a little bit. I’ve become you more used to it and more accustomed to it. And it also helps being a part of a company and a team that truly values everybody who’s there, and that truly believes in the product and work to make teachers lives better. But yeah, there are times where I’m like, “This is my job. That’s crazy.” Like I don’t have to ask somebody to come watch my kids while I roll into the bathroom or you know what, “I’m hungry. I can eat a snack right now.” It’s just, it takes a little bit of getting used to the freedom.

Transitioning into a Year-round Position

Daphne Gomez:
Oh, so that’s interesting. Did you work through the summer?

Eva Papacostas:
I did. So my last day of school was on a Friday in June and I started my new job that Monday and I was nervous. Everybody was like, “You’re crazy. You’re not giving yourself a summer vacation. What are you doing?” But I had to take the opportunity. I wasn’t going to turn it down because I wanted the summer vacation. To me that wasn’t as important as this new role. And honestly, Daphne, I didn’t even think about it. Once I was in it and doing it, I really didn’t even think about a break or having a summer or having winter break or anything like that because I didn’t need it.

Daphne Gomez:
Yeah. There’s a episode that I did of the Teacher Career Coach podcast, all about whether or not you should stay for your summers and that’s going to be dependent on level of burnout. But I felt like I did not need it because I was so burnt out that my summers off I was slogging to get to the very end of every week. I was barely able to make it to any break. I could only focus on the break itself and I constantly felt like I was drowning and that was the first time I could come up and like gasp for air.

Eva Papacostas:
Yeah.

Daphne Gomez:
And so it feels good to have a break when you’re kind of miserable 24/7, but not every teacher is that miserable. So if you are not that miserable, if that does not describe you, then yeah, you might really regret your summers off. But if you think working a regular 9:00 to 5:00, a 40 hour work week is going to allow you space to heal and be healthy and happy year round, you’re not going to value that time off in the same way it’s going to be worth the pros and cons. Did you find yourself like, even though you were working through the summer healing a little bit?

Finding Autonomy & Growth as an EdTech Account Manager

Eva Papacostas:
Yeah. So I have to say, I wouldn’t say that I was miserable teaching. I was fine. It was whatever and I didn’t want that. I wanted more myself and for my life. But I did find myself healing in a way that I didn’t know I even needed to heal. I found myself questioning things a lot and I found myself, “Wait, am I allowed to do this?” And asking my manager for every little thing and she was like, “You’re fine. You don’t need to ask me all of these things.” So it’s weird because while I wasn’t miserable, I think I didn’t realize what of…

Rewind. While I wasn’t miserable, I don’t think I realized what the profession was doing to me until I got out of it. And then I saw this whole new world of wow. Now work is a part of my life. My life is not just work. And that was really huge for me because like I said, I wasn’t miserable. Could I have stayed teaching? Sure. I wouldn’t have been happy. I would’ve been fine, but I think that’s also something to point out too. Just because you’re not miserable in a job, doesn’t mean you should stay. If you want some more, go for more.

Daphne Gomez:
Yeah. There is a type of person that isn’t miserable, but also very much suffers if they feel stagnant and there’s not room for growth in a way that excites them.

Eva Papacostas:
That’s exactly how I was. Yep. And that’s exactly the perfect way to describe me. I was fine. But to do anything more, I would’ve had to go back to school to become an administrator. And I had no desire to do that.

Daphne Gomez:
Yeah. I feel like that’s who I have become as I continue to want to push myself to learn something new and exciting every few years that scares the poop out of me and that’s not something that I thought about myself when I was put in a position where I felt small, where I felt like I didn’t have the autonomy to make scary decisions or anything that I didn’t have to – I couldn’t even start a spelling test in my classroom. I should have run it by my admin before even changing and putting a spelling test in my classroom. So once I was given the space to breathe and grow and realize that I had autonomy, I realized I was the type of person that did feel unhappy if I didn’t continue to like push myself and grow. And I think there’s a lot of people who can feel that also. But not know it until they’re given the opportunity to be in a position that’s scary and uncomfortable where they grow.

Eva Papacostas:
Yeah. And I think that that definitely describes me to a T. I remember like the first time I had a performance review with my current manager being asked, “Where do you want to go? Where do you see your career?” And I was like, “What do you mean?” I had never thought about it before, because I never really had the option. As a teacher in my I specific district, it was like you’re teacher, unless you become an administrator, like you’re teacher, you could take on other activities, other roles, but you’re still getting paid your teacher salary and you’re teacher. So having somebody invested in my career and in my wellbeing and in my growth is something didn’t know that I wanted. And I love having that now.

Room for Growth as an EdTech Account Manager

Daphne Gomez:
With your role that you’re in right now, it sounds like there’s room for growth. Are there different types of roles that are available to you beyond becoming an account manager that you could pursue if you wanted to?

Eva Papacostas:
Yeah. So the nice thing about my company is that it invests a lot in its employees and makes you aware of positions that may be coming up or positions that you may be a good fit for specifically for account managers. There’s a lot of avenues account managers can take to become leaders within the sales team itself. They can maybe start thinking about sales enablement. And this isn’t just for my specifically, but like in general. Like, like from account management to go into sales enablement or to go into maybe director sales roles, there’s definitely a lot more room for growth within the account management field than there was for me in the teaching field. And that was something that was really attractive to me.

When Taking a Pay Cut Balances Out

Daphne Gomez:
So do you feel comfortable sharing whether or not you had to take a pay cut for this position?

Eva Papacostas:
Yeah, sure. So I actually am making a little bit more than I was making as a teacher when you factor in the commission, honestly speaking the base salary is slightly lower, but I never realized how much money is taken out for things like union dues and teacher dues and other things that I didn’t realize. So for me personally and my lifestyle, it worked out even better for me.

Daphne Gomez:
And then after with the commission, you said it is a little bit more, have you seen at your company that there’s a frequent pay increase? Some companies say like once a year we give a specific number and usually this is a lot faster than it happens in like a teacher salary schedule.

Eva’s Advice about a Starting Out in a Sales Position

Daphne Gomez:
What would be one piece of advice that you would give to someone starting out in like a sales position for either an ed tech company or even like a software as a service company?

Eva Papacostas:
You’re not going to know everything and it’s okay. A lot of teachers are experts in what they do. And it’s really scary to transition into a new role. After you’ve been doing something for three, four, five, 10 years, you’re going to be frustrated and you’re going to know everything and you’re not, and it’s okay. Have realistic expectations for yourself and know that there’s going to be people there that are going to support you and that are going to want to help you and answer your questions. It’s not going to all fall on you.

Daphne Gomez:
I love that there’s so much training and onboarding that goes on at companies, especially the ones that are well established, have a large amount of employees. So they’re there to support you and mentor you. And they understand that there’s going to be a learning curve there, no matter what, if you don’t have the formal experience going in, and many companies are willing to take that chance as long as you show that you’re the type of person who learns on their own time and loves learning and growing, which many teachers. Do what do you feel like is a big, common myth you’ve seen out there about your job or field of expertise?

The Common Myth about Commission-based roles

Eva Papacostas:
A common myth that I see is that a lot of people think that sales roles are just commission based, which is something that I thought. And that’s not the case in my experience that you do get a comfortable based salary and then there is commission included in that. But if you’re not looking at sales roles, because you’re scared of it being just commission based that is completely inaccurate, you will find roles that have base salaries.

Daphne Gomez:
I have heard that. We actually talked about it a lot on episode 57 of the podcast. It’s all about why a career in sales isn’t scary? We talk about that is such a common misconception is that it’s just going to be commission based. Eva, because you are a graduate of the Teacher Career Coach Course, I’d love to ask. What do you feel like the Teacher Career Coach Course did to help you actually land this position?

Eva Papacostas:
Showed me that I have options. And it showed me how to translate my resume in a way that would make me attractive. It showed me that I actually have done things that are valuable and that would be an asset to various educational technology companies. And it also provided me with a community, a standing board to be able to talk to people, having similar struggles, similar challenges, and have somebody to commiserate with.

Daphne Gomez:
Yeah, there’s so much need for people to bounce ideas off of one another and say, I’m struggling here and I’m struggling there. And that’s really why I made like the private community space. Because LinkedIn is, as we both know, not really the right space to go through those types of challenges. I see you even as a former teacher, there are a lot of former teachers who hop in the private community and answer a couple questions – I love that you’ve still stayed engaged with those people and the people that you’ve met in there and continue to help other people. I want to ask a tiny question about yourself. What did you learn about yourself during this entire process?

Eva Papacostas:
I’m I think I learned that I’m smarter than I thought I was. I feel like I was very stagnant and I didn’t have the tools or the resources to challenge myself and grow. And the course made me think about things differently and made me see myself and think about myself differently and made me realize that I am somebody who can add value to a company. And that my experience as a teacher is going to help me add value to all company as well.

Daphne Gomez:
Do you feel like it helped prepare you at all for the ups and downs of the career search itself?

Eva Papacostas:
Yeah, absolutely.

Daphne Gomez:
I feel like going into it blindly and not how bad it’s going to suck. It’s always the… [crosstalk 00:30:06] … worst part. 100%.

Daphne Gomez:
Eva, thank you so much for coming on and sharing about your journey, about your role in account management. It has been great to get to know you more formally and just learn a little bit of about your story. So just thank you so much for in the time to be here today.

Eva Papacostas:
And thanks for inviting me Daphne. I was really excited for my first podcast. So thank you so much for having

Daphne Gomez:
Well, thank you.

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