On this episode of the Teacher Career Coach podcast, I chat with former teacher and my good friend Mallory Mack. I find Mallory inspiring in so many ways and think her story of post-classroom success can serve as an example of what is possible for teachers looking for a career pivot. She has so much insight to offer as she shares her journey from being a burned-out teacher to climbing the corporate ladder. Listen as we discuss Mallory’s experience in various corporate roles, including her current role as a Senior Government Account Manager, that allow her to continue having a footing in education-based work. So, if you’re looking for an example of what’s possible beyond the classroom, be sure to tune into this episode.
Recap and BIG Ideas:
✨ If you are unhappy in your current position, trust your gut and say yes to new opportunities. You never know when it might change the trajectory of your career.
✨ There are so many opportunities out there for former teachers. Networking and asking questions from those you admire or feel inspired by is a great way to learn what is out there and hear about new opportunities.
✨ Due to the many hats teachers wear and the variety of situations they face, classroom experience is highly valuable in many roles across various industries.
✨ Similar jobs can have varying job titles. Don’t unintentionally back yourself into a corner by only searching specific titles.
✨ Use each and every opportunity as a learning experience that can help you land that ‘ideal’ job that is in alignment with your values. The most important part is that you take the leap and start somewhere.
✨ Entry-level positions are a great way to learn the ropes and get a foot in the door in a new industry.
Listen to the episode in the podcast player below, or find it on Apple Podcast or Spotify.
Saying yes to a new opportunity can open new doors, changing the trajectory of your career.
Daphne: Hey, Mallory! Thank you so much for joining us here today.
Mallory: Thank you, Daphne. I’m really excited to be here.
Daphne: Any listeners who are members of the Teacher Career Coach Course might recognize your name because, in the course itself, I’ve not only shared my story but yours as well. For everybody who hasn’t taken the course or who might not know your story, let’s start with a little introduction of who you are and what kind of experience you have in the world of education.
Mallory: I started as a middle school social studies teacher. However, I moved over to more of a tech role. We all know teachers wear many different hats, so when a teacher was leaving their role in computer applications and programming, the principal asked me to step in and take over. I had to do a lot of learning that summer to prepare for that role, and since that shifted my focus a bit to be more in educational technology, I think it helped lead me to where I am today.
After I left the classroom, I joined an educational technology company in a professional development role where I carried out training for teachers. Then I moved into a role in cloud computing. Now, I work in a different educational technology company in a different capacity, but we can get more into that later. So, that’s it in a nutshell.
Daphne: One of the things that I talk about a lot is how you and I stepped out of teaching at the exact same time, which was the summer of 2017. So, what was it that ultimately led you to explore your options and pursue jobs outside of the classroom?
There are jobs, like roles in educational technology or professional development, that serve as perfect next-steps for former teachers.
Mallory: I wasn’t a huge fan of being a classroom teacher, but I didn’t quite understand that at first. I just assumed everybody was a little bit miserable at work. When I moved from Arizona to California one summer, I left without having a job secured in California. I was applying to jobs there, but I just couldn’t really envision myself at the schools I was interviewing at.
So, I just started looking elsewhere. I was like, ‘Gosh, what else can I do? Am I able to do something like being a corporate trainer?’ I really didn’t know. So I just started looking on job sites like Indeed for positions I thought I could handle based on my experience. I looked for jobs that I thought they would want a teacher for. So that’s really where I started.
Daphne: I remember when you got the job as a professional development trainer for the educational technology company, and we had one of our first trading sessions together. We looked at each other and agreed that we didn’t really understand what the job was. You and I just really hit it off. I remember we talked about the interview process, and I was so jaded that I thought the job itself was a scam. It just wasn’t presented in the way that it actually should have been, but I’m so grateful that I took a chance on that position and trusted the gut feeling that it was the right next step for me.
Mallory: I had a similar feeling, and there were times where I couldn’t believe the job was real because it was such a perfect fit for someone leaving the classroom. I remember thinking it was too good to be true, and it was just a way to trick me into giving them my money.
Daphne: Yeah, I think it had a lot to do with the job posting itself as well as the onboarding process. To help the listeners understand where these doubts were coming from a bit better, there was total autonomy, which was a shock. They started paying us right off the bat and paying as well. They trusted us to own the responsibility of the professional development materials. They trusted us just to figure it out.
On top of that, we started immediately and had all of these travel and food experiences paid for. They just believed we could do it. They said to reach out for supervisor feedback after the first few experiences and pushed us to grow and get better as time went on.
Mallory: It’s worth noting that that position was a contracted position. So, that might just be the nature of contracted or freelance work. You’re hired to be the expert, and they trust you to do your thing. Having come from such a micro-managed environment, I was in disbelief that no one would be coming in, watching me, and writing down every detail about what I was doing and giving it to someone higher up.
There is a lot to be learned about vast opportunities out there for former teachers. Networking and asking questions is a great way to learn what is out there.
Daphne: So what was it about your very first role that started to open up your eyes to more possibilities outside of the classroom? Your entire career trajectory has been so impressive over the past few years that I’ve known you. You have grown and become such a successful businesswoman. It’s such an inspiration that I want to be sure the listeners can hear it all.
So, how did that very first role in professional development open your eyes to other opportunities?
Mallory: Oh, gosh, that is such a good question. At that time, I just had no idea that role would take me in this direction in my career. I think some of the things that started to open my eyes to the possibilities happened when we were actually running professional development for a room full of teachers. Teachers would approach us and ask how we got that job because it was such a good fit for a former teacher.
I started to think about how I had so much more free time than I did when I was teaching. There was more flexibility in my schedule. I really enjoyed doing the trainings and helping teachers better understand and get more comfortable with the technologies. It was truly like a dream come true. That realization was the first thing that helped me know I was on the right path for sure.
I know we both struggled with knowing if we should eventually go back to the classroom after that first year. I remember thinking about if this was a stepping stone to a new career path or just a pause in my career as a teacher. I wasn’t really sure what other opportunities were out there, but what started to open my eyes to the whole world of opportunity out there was the other people we worked with.
We met other folks in the educational technology industry that did all different functions within the industry. For example, we worked alongside salespeople selling software and hardware. They always commented on how much value we brought to the industry, having had classroom experience. They validated my credibility and encouraged me to explore more sales and business development-type roles in the industry. So, once I had my foot in the door, the encouragement from others really pushed me to explore other opportunities out there.
Daphne: I love that you touched a little bit on the network component of that very first position that we had because that was a huge game-changer for me as well. And you know, there’s that saying about how your network is your net worth. It’s true. So, for any listeners who are thinking about leaving the classroom who know one or two teachers who’ve left the classroom that they stay in touch with, utilize those connections.
We got thrown into these positions, and our eyes opened to an entire industry of former teachers in a variety of impressive roles. There are so many former teachers who have worked their way up the career ladder of whatever path they chose to take. We even had some of those people rooting us on, offering to help us find opportunities to meet our career and finance goals. Once we started to pay attention to that, we were able to identify similar success as a real possibility for us, too.
So, I always recommend keeping people who inspire you and whose success and career trajectory you admire as close to you as possible. That can mean networking on LinkedIn or listening to their podcast that inspires you and reminds you that you’re capable of doing the things you want to achieve. Honestly, educational technology wasn’t a world that I would have pursued or understood on my own until I was kind of thrown into it and experienced and explored the industry.
Mallory: Yeah, I would 100% agree with that.
From more flexibility to opportunities to travel, corporate jobs come with totally different set of perks.
Daphne: Another thing that was a game-changer, at least for me, was the perks that came with the job. Some of them would be hard to give up. Do you want to talk a bit about some of your favorite perks of that job?
Mallory: Definitely. I mean, I know I mentioned this a little bit already, but I think the biggest shock to my system was the flexibility. I could wake up, go for a walk, stop at a coffee shop, and not open my laptop until nine-thirty in the morning. Coming from the classroom, that made such a difference in my quality of life.
When I was a teacher, I would have to get up and work out at four o’clock in the morning, then get to school and work all day. After the school day ended, I coached, which I’m sure lots of other folks do too, so I didn’t get home until like seven o’clock. When I finally got home I still had grading to do and needed to throw in some laundry or whatever.
When the weekends came, all of my time was spent planning my meals and getting things done, like going to the grocery store. I can so clearly remember not having much money at the time. I was always looking to see what was on sale at the grocery store and planning my meals around that.
Having so much more time and having the freedom to use my day how I wanted, and make way more money at the same time was like a shock to my system. That helped open my eyes to the world of opportunities in a big way.
The other thing that was so great about that position was all the travel that we got to do. We got to stay in cool cities and great hotels. Yes, we were there to do a few trainings throughout the day, network, and meet with teachers, IT directors, and other people in the industry. But we just got to know each other and sort of hang out and have drinks. It was just such a different experience. For me, that was invaluable.
Daphne: I also started to fall in love with the travel component of being able to have basically paid vacations, but with these people I worked with who I really respected and admired. Being able to spend time with them, learn from them, and have fun with them was really an invaluable experience for me.
Learn why “your net worth is your network.”
As we were working in that educational consulting position, you ended up leaving within that first year or so for a higher paying gig. Do you want to talk about that?
Mallory: Yeah. So one of the things that was really useful in growing our network in that position was having the chance to work with all different types of partners. We worked with a particular partner who offered professional services. They used us for education-based training because their main industry was not education, but they did sell into K-12. On the other hand, we were definitely experts in that space because of our experience in the classroom and connection to teachers. WE really helped build their relationships with schools and educators.
What ended up happening was one of the partners from that company moved to a new position with a different company. As he moved roles, he had a lot of influence at his new job and asked me if I would be interested in a position there. So I really got that opportunity from just being able to show others my skills and build relationships with them.
That’s how not only I got that job, but that’s how I got my current job. You can definitely make pivots with those connections and be recommended for new and different roles that way.
Daphne: We’ll circle back to that particular job in a moment, but I think you touched such a valuable point. Over the past five years, you’ve held three or four different titles at two or three different companies. A lot of teachers who are listening to this episode are nervous about switching careers even one time. And I know a lot of teachers explore job opportunities, read the titles, and aren’t quite clear on what it is or what it entails.
A lot of teachers get stuck thinking teaching is supposed to be a forever career, right? So, it’s difficult to understand that once we get into new positions in other fields, there are opportunities to leave without any stigma attached to it. Instead, everybody celebrates you and encourages you to take that new position. It’s totally different.
And then there’s the networking component. You’ve built such strong connections with people in so many different places that they would reach out to you and offer you higher-paying positions and encourage you to jump on the new opportunity and offer.
Mallory: Yeah, that’s exactly what happened. I think it’s important to point out that I wasn’t doing anything special. I wasn’t going way out of my way to find those offers. Just being yourself, being a specialist, knowing the information that you know, and having the experience that you’re pulling from helps. It all works out. It’s not that I knew anything special, or I was doing anything really special. The more that you get to know folks and just do a good job, the more doors will open.
Daphne: You are amazing, and I hope that you know that because it’s not just luck. You are highly professional and can be thrown into a variety of situations while holding your own. I think that that resonates a lot with people.
But yes, it ultimately comes down to the fact that companies are looking for culture and attitude fits. They can teach you the other skills.
Classroom experience is highly valuable in many roles across various industries.
Mallory: Yeah, exactly. And I think one of the reasons why that was such a natural transition for me was my ability to pull from my experience in the classroom. As mentioned, I was a middle school teacher and, in that position, you have to be really ready for whatever is going to come at you. Maybe you have an IEP meeting in the morning where there is a lot of tension and stress. It’s your job to mediate the situation and all the answers to the questions people throw at you.
It was challenging for me to understand how valuable that experience I gained as a teacher and dealing with those really sensitive situations without much guidance set me up so nicely for other opportunities. I was prepared in a way that a lot of others starting in those entry-level roles weren’t. I hope that by listening to this, folks can understand how much value that experience has in other careers as well.
Not every role is going to be a perfect fit. It’s important to find jobs and companies that are in alignment with your values.
Daphne: Okay, let’s go back and talk about the next role you took after leaving that first professional development role.
Mallory: I left that role for a high-paying job as a partnerships manager at a cloud consulting firm. Not only was it higher paying, but I had the opportunity to learn skills that I was interested in developing. Now, working in educational technology for about two years, I started realizing how valuable instructional knowledge is. But there’s also a lot of other stuff that you can learn.
There’s this whole other technical piece to the equation that I was interested in learning more about. The cloud, and SAS, are a really big piece of the whole equation. So again, I took that new job because it was higher-paying and there were skills I wanted to learn. However, it didn’t end up being a great fit for me. It wasn’t focused on education, which I learned was something I desired to help me feel grounded in my work. Otherwise, it just seemed arbitrary.
Daphne: If I remember correctly, it seemed like you had a struggle finding an intrinsic motivation with that particular position. It was a move based on financial gain, but you couldn’t really see how you were helpful, right?
Mallory: That’s exactly right. You know, that’s really important to me. Of course, people are motivated by different things, but for me, staying rooted in education is something I need to feel fulfilled at work. So yeah, I think I stayed in that role for about a year.
I did make a ton of great connections there, though. I also learned so much. Coming from that instructional piece where my job was to talk to teachers about curriculum and instruction and how to implement technology in the classroom, learning about this other more money-driven piece of business really set me up nicely for these roles that I have had now with my current employer.
Daphne: And so you moved over to company number three, which is where you currently are. What was your first position within this company?
Mallory: I actually worked in partnerships there as well. More specially, it was a strategic partnerships role, which was fairly similar to what I had done at the job before it. The difference was that the company I work at now is focused on K-12. Education. So, there was a similar function, but a little bit of a different focus.
Daphne: And let’s jump into your history working at that company because this has been your happy place. You’ve found a company that not only shares your values, but has also allowed you to continue to grow in your career path.
You can unintentionally back yourself into a corner if your job search is focused on too specific of job titles.
So let’s just dive into your very first position there. What was your job? Was it a partnerships manager?
Mallory: The title of the position was Strategic Sales Alliance Manager. Now, the company that I worked at prior was a service-based company. This current company is a product-based company, which means they make their own product. Now that makes a big difference in the kind of work that you’re doing and how you’re interacting with partners.
So when I initially joined this company, I was focused on revenue generation and had a counterpart in partnerships who focused on product development and research. So it was an important distinction in the position title to be called a Sales Alliance person. It makes a lot of sense to folks in the industry when they’re working with partnerships managers. It’s pretty common to have a dichotomy like that.
Daphne: Something I actually talk a lot about in the Teacher Career Coach course is the variance of titles you come across when looking for positions. A lot of people will kind of back themselves into a corner by only looking up specific titles. Unfortunately, there’s always going to be a variation of titles. Those postings are written by a hiring manager who’s looking to get the job done and the posting out there. They really aren’t as concerned about what specific title they think you’re searching for. You’re the one who has to know to dive into the posting and read the actual job description itself so that you know what you’re signing up for.
Now, we’ve actually been able to cross paths professionally with your new role. It’s another great example of how building relationships can open doors. As you were working there, there was an opportunity to work as an instructional designer and you actually brought me into that company to work alongside you. I’ve really wanted to focus on building my technology skills as far as creation and creativity go. So, it was a really great opportunity for me to learn a little bit more about your current company and to work with you again.
There’s no need to settle. Use each and every opportunity as a learning experience that can help you land that ‘ideal’ job.
During that time, I know that you started to explore how you were going to continue to grow in this company. I think where I’m the most impressed is just how open to new possibilities you are and how excited you are for these types of challenges.
Can you share what you currently do for the company?
Mallory: Yeah. So through that partnerships role, we brought on a consultant to help us with government relations. This was kind of a new area that we had not yet explored, so we didn’t know how to talk to state-level decision-makers. Nobody at the company did. So, we hired this consultant and it was my job to manage that partnership. It basically involved understanding how to talk to state-level decision-makers and help them understand how our technology will fit with any legislation that they were proposing or any budget allocations they had set.
It ended up being a real passion of mine because I never really knew what I wanted to do. You know, I got my Bachelor’s in Political Science and then a Master’s in Education. I tried out teaching and it wasn’t quite for me, so this is the perfect intersection between my interest in government and political science and my passion for education. It’s been a wonderful fit for me so far and it’s been such a pleasure just to be able to learn about this area.
Another thing that I want to mention for your listeners is that I’ve worked in two different types of tech companies. One was a really well-established large one and the other was a startup that has since grown immensely. They were totally different experiences. I think one thing that I have enjoyed about working in the startup environment is that you have a lot of room to fail and learn and bring those learnings to the folks that are looking for them. Truthfully, that is what they’re looking for. They want to understand what does and doesn’t work. So, that has been a treat for me. The startup environment is definitely not for everybody and could be seen as stressful for many people, but I’ve really enjoyed it.
Daphne: One thing I’ve learned from working at startup companies is they offer incredible and unique opportunities to actually sit next to some of the most brilliant people out there and have conversations with them. I’m even talking about the engineers and the CEOs who are building these startups. Those are the opportunities where you’re going to have to actually see something built from the ground up, and you’ll gain knowledge that you can take basically anywhere you go after that experience.
Mallory: Yeah, that’s so true. I’ve definitely come across some of the most thoughtful people since I’ve been at this company. They have taught me so much not only about how we’re generating dollars, but also regarding thinking about those things from an ethics standpoint, an instructional standpoint, and a pedagogical standpoint. I love being around these folks that really care about students and have them at the center of their work. They really believe the products that we are creating offer true benefits to students.
Like I mentioned earlier, the second company I worked at was very monetarily focused and there wasn’t much of an underlying piece beyond that. So as you’re experimenting with different positions in different companies, it’s just something to think about. You shouldn’t ever feel stuck at a company that doesn’t feel like the right fit because you’re not stuck.
Daphne: You know how motivated I am by ethics in a lot of different ways. I think working for companies that value teachers and education, and working for companies that share your ethics and morals is huge. You’ll be so much happier once you find a fit that works for you.
Be open to opportunities. You’ll never know what is out there if you don’t take that initial leap.
So, now I want to go back all the way to the very beginning. When you first left the classroom five or so years ago, would you have known that all the stars would have aligned and you would have found yourself in the exact role that you are in today?
Mallory: Definitely not. I didn’t even know that it was a possibility. My view was so narrow as to what jobs were out there. It sounds funny, but it’s true. I had no idea.
Daphne: I think that that’s a valuable lesson that I want everybody to understand. I came in as an educational consultant or professional development trainer, and I learned some new skills like how to be a competent public speaker. I also saw all these branches of opportunities before me.
If I had wanted to go into sales, I could have made that jump. I could have gone into a high-level sales position or a role in customer learning. I ended up going into a role where I created the professional development programs because that was where I wanted my career trajectory to go. So basically, if you’re looking to get started, you just kind of have to get started.
Now, to keep it realistic, could a teacher with five years of experience and a master’s in political science be able to get the position you have today? You know, without all of that industry knowledge you’ve learned over the past few years?
Daphne: That’s fair, and you don’t have to be embarrassed about saying that. Honestly, I sometimes worry that people see those positions and apply for them with an unrealistic expectation or without understanding the requirements, knowledge, and experience needed.
There’s nothing wrong with taking an entry-level position to learn the ropes of a new role or industry. Once you have a foot in the door you can explore other opportunities.
I’m all about taking your shot. However, you also have to know that if the job posting specifies five years of experience within the specific industry, you might have to take a step back and start with some sort of an entry-level position to leverage yourself and learn the industry first. Then you can work your way up to that ideal role and those bigger career goals you may have.
Mallory: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. I would say that I could not do this job when I first left the classroom. Although my educational background and degrees would suggest that I might be able to, there was a lot that I needed to learn. So while it may not feel great to have to take more of an entry-level position, if you are looking to leave, I promise there are skills that you will learn and you might end up loving the position.
Even if not, once your foot is in the door, there are so many opportunities that will open up. You’ll also have a better understanding of what those other positions actually do. For you, Daphne, you were looking to leave the classroom, and you had an interest in educational technology. However, there were certain technical skills that you didn’t have, like building a website, making a podcast, and making the instructional course. You learned and grew with each experience. You just have to do it and just give it a try.
Ask for help when you need it. You’d be surprised how much you can learn from others if you just ask.
One of the things about you that is so inspirational is that you ask the right people for help. Honestly, I think people get so hung up on the fact they need to have everything perfect and ready to go, but that’s not the case. Having that expectation for yourself just limits what you’re able to do, and you’re going to be stuck. Instead, just start and just do it.
Daphne: This is the perfect segue. Many listeners might not know this, but you and I basically sat down and talked about how I wanted to build a course and a community to support the type of teachers who would come up to us in our early days of doing professional development training. I decided I would go for it, and my first attempt was absolute garbage back in like 2018.
That was before I learned all the technical skills and before I started being able to scale and hire human resources consultants and resume writers. I remember stressing about making sure all the packages were put together perfectly for teachers. You were there to help me decide whether or not this was an excellent opportunity to help support teachers or if this was something that I would be shamed off of the internet for even trying.
Mallory: And leaving teaching is such a stigmatized thing. Even still, there is some criticism from people who think teachers should stay in their positions and just be miserable.
Daphne: Basically, you’re pretty much the co-founder of the Teacher Career Coach community. Inside the course, we talk about salary negotiation and that all came from you. We got drinks and I asked you to tell me everything you know about salary negotiation, which we could do an entire podcast about, but it’s inside the course.
I didn’t know about salary negotiation, and you didn’t know too much either, but as you were considering these new roles, you reached out to people who were pretty skilled in the matter. I don’t want to put you on the spot, and we don’t have to talk numbers, but you’ve done some very impressive things when it came to creating your own contracts and getting salary raises upon entering into these new positions.
I’ve had course members who have used the methods you’ve actually shared with me, and they’ve landed positions that they said that they used all the calculations and everything from the course. They were able to negotiate 10,000 more than they were planning on.
So, I just want to thank you so much for helping create everything that we’ve done together and just being a wonderful friend, and supporting me through all the ups and downs of creating this community and course.
Mallory: Oh my gosh, it has been such a treat knowing you. I don’t think we’ve ever even gotten to say this to each other, and I’m so happy that we have this space to do it. Growing in this way with you and just seeing how you’ve steered your career since that first job we had together is so wonderful. I’m constantly bragging about you and the company you’ve grown with this platform and just how much you genuinely care about this project and your audience. So, it was a delight to be here. I hope it was helpful for folks.
Daphne: Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your wisdom here today. It was such a great episode. I know people are really going to learn a lot.
Mallory: Thank you.
Where to start
If you’re just beginning to think about leaving teaching, brainstorming other options is a great place to start. But if you’re like many others, teaching was your only plan – there never was a Plan B. You might feel at a loss when it comes to figuring out what alternatives are out there.
Start with our free quiz, below, to get alternative job options for careers that really do hire teachers!
Taking the First Steps to a New Career
If you’ve already taken our quiz, it may be time for the next steps. I want to help you get some clarity in the options available to you. To know EXACTLY what you need to do (and not do) in order to get your foot in the door.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see teachers make is that they try to navigate this process alone. Often, they put off “researching” until the very last minute. Which sets them up for a very stressful application season – trying to juggle teaching, figuring out a resume, researching jobs, and hoping to nail down some interviews before signing next year’s contract.
You don’t have to do this on your own.
If you are considering a career change from teaching, I have a resource that can help you today. With the help of an HR expert with over 10 years of experience, I’ve created a guide to support you in the early stages of your transition out of the classroom.
In the Career Transition Guide, I’ll walk you through the factors to consider and answer those first-step planning questions including:
- A compiled list of over 40 careers that teachers can transition into
- An overview of how to read job descriptions
- How to evaluate the risk of leaving a full-time teaching job for the unknown
- Example translations from classroom-to-corporate resumes
- A checklist of everything you’ll need to do for your career transition (so you know you aren’t missing anything!)
- and more…
Take the first steps on your path to a new career now for only