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Learnings from my time as a Customer Support Specialist

If you’re reading this post, you’re either considering joining our team or you’re my mom and you clicked on the link I texted you. I’m going to assume you’re part of the former group and address you (Sorry, mom!). I’ve had a bit of a journey getting to Informed K12 and then growing here, and I’m excited to share it with you. Whether you end up joining our team or not, my hope is that something I share resonates with you and makes you feel like you’re not alone in your feelings during your job search. .

1) Tech startups don't have to be all young, white guys coding away.

Tl;dr Tech startups are a thing and it's more than what you see on TV. Take the plunge and explore it.

I grew up as a first generation son of immigrants in a rural farm town in the Central Valley. Growing up, I was constantly surrounded by people who looked and talked like me. When thinking about careers, my options seemed to be limited to doctor, lawyer, teacher, or (the vaguest title ever) "business person." These were the careers that I had visibility into, whether that visibility came from my parents or from television. Yet, when I finished college and began working in law, I suffered a crisis of confidence. I didn't want to pursue law, but I didn't know what other options I had. I hadn't prepared myself for anything else and I was scared of making a change.

Luckily, when searching for new opportunities, I came across the Customer Support Specialist role at Informed K12. I knew I wanted to do work that was both mission-driven and people-centric. I'd never considered tech or a start-up prior to this role. If I'm being honest with you, I had a very stereotypical picture of what tech and startup life was like. I imagined a group of young, white guys wearing a hoodies and jeans, rapidly coding away. While there definitely isn't anything wrong with this type of person, I knew I'd feel like the odd person out if I didn't look like that. I was drawn in by the idea of venturing in to something new, so I decided to dive into the interview process. Not to ruin the story for you, but I was eventually hired.  Yes, I was still a little nervous that I'd be the only Latinx person on the team. I’d been the only “brown person” at a couple different jobs and it really wasn’t something I was trying to do again. It was after speaking with our co-founders, Sarah and Qian, that it became clear to me that the company was not only aware of this issue, but actively seeking to become more representative. After this talk, I was hooked.

2) You get to eat more when you share food with less people.

Tl;dr If you like having a voice, building things out, and seeing your projects through, join a small team.

I've learned the title "Customer Support Specialist" can take on different meanings at different companies. At a major company, this can mean the job is mainly tasked with answering emails, chats, and calls. There definitely is an aspect of that as a Customer Support Specialist (CSS) here at Informed K12, but that's definitely not all your work is limited to. If you recall, I was the company's first CSS. I'm not one to shy away from a good brag, but the point of me highlighting that is to say there have been tons of opportunities to put my name on things and build them out.  I've been able to revamp our ticketing structure, initiate projects that have ended up with the creation of an entire new role, create a video library for our users needing help with common issues, and build out a training program for my replacement, all in a year! At the risk of sounding too much like a techie (I promise I haven't sold out!), a startup forces you to wear a lot of different hats. If you're someone like me who enjoys building things and isn't afraid of failing, then you can't find a better environment.

Remember how I said I felt a lack of representation when I started? Well,  joining a small team made my voice that much louder. Our leadership is fortunately part of the minority (no pun intended) of execs that highlight Diversity&Inclusion as company priority and as a company value. Our CTO, Qian, was actually one of the first non-LGBT people I came out to, and the feeling of being fully accepted at work for the first time was a key reason I decided to come out fully a few weeks later. Through these talks and interactions, I've been given the support of the team to run with D&I issues. I'm glad to say we've increased our representation in the past year and I'm excited to keep the momentum going. However, the chance to affect change in the company so early into my time here and as early into my career as I was wouldn't have been possible at a larger company.  

3) You can make a difference AND make good money.

Tl;dr see title above.

I came to Informed K12 because I needed to be renewed. Like a lot of first-generation students, I fell into the trap of thinking that I needed to make as much money as I could in order to make college be "worth it" and to start financially helping my family. After all, you go to college to make money. My family has sacrificed a lot to help get me through school and I owed it to them to repay their sacrifices.  There were plenty people out there changing the world, so I’d let them take care of that while I focused on getting paid. If I wanted to make a difference I’d go volunteer somewhere or go join the Peace Corps, right? WRONG!  Making a good living and making an societal impact are not mutually exclusive.

Not only was I able to make a good living as a CSS at Informed K12, I was able to see the impact of my work every day. A big part of CSS work is knowing who you will be supporting. At Informed K12, this group includes everyone ranging from Parents to Superintendents. Needless to say, its a wide range of people. Yet, its a group of users traditional tech companies and startups have largely ignored. Being able to support them through and after the implementation of our product to their district has been awesome. Things can get busy and stressful sometimes at any job, but being able to connect with our users and hear/read about how appreciative they are of our product and level of service has made every day here worth it to me. I kid you not, I had a office secretary cry with joy about how many hours of work our product had saved her. Being able to support users like her has been the highlight of my time at Informed K12 and it's why I believe the CSS role is such a great entry to the company.