My path to Vista College Prep (VCP) was somewhat circuitous, but I’m grateful every day to be here and always eager to share this happy—if unlikely—story.
I first became aware of VCP through a webinar series I joined in 2015 while serving as dean of operations at Excel Academy in Boston. I had previously taught in a Title I school in Phoenix through Teach For America before moving back east, so I was excited to reconnect with the Phoenix educator community even though I had moved home to the Boston area. After the webinar, VCP’s director of operations and I were eager to keep the collaboration going, and I was excited to learn more about the impressive academic gains among VCP’s students. At the time, I thought the connection to VCP was more coincidental than anything; I appreciated the opportunity to share best practices and stay in touch with a community I loved and respected.
Fast-forward to 2017, I had been in my role at Excel Academy for nearly six years. We had successfully founded and scaled a high-performing middle school in a Title I community in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and the experience was one I wouldn’t change for anything. Nonetheless, I felt hungry for a new adventure but frustrated by my total lack of vision and inability to discern my next career move. A generous colleague offered to serve as my career counselor of sorts and his guidance was invaluable—both as an accountability point for me to actively drive my search forward and as a sounding board helping align my outward search with internal reflection (i.e determining what I really wanted). Our meetings largely revolved around tactical steps (organizations to research, connections to make, etc.), and fortunately, involved friendly conversation too. One such conversation included a mention of his family trip to Scottsdale, my response about loving Arizona, and his lightbulb moment which resulted in connecting me with Julia Meyerson, VCP’s founder and executive director.
Even after the initial connection, the road forward took unexpected turns. VCP hadn’t planned to bring on additional leaders at the time, so they offered to connect me with similarly-minded schools in the Phoenix area who could all benefit from some additional capacity. Through a series of phone calls, email conversations, and meetings with a few self-employed friends, I founded a one-woman education-focused consultancy that supported district and public charter schools—including VCP—with their operations systems and art programs. I prepared to move west (again).
During the course of that year, VCP offered me the role I’ve held ever since: our first-ever director of talent, which allowed me to combine a love of system building and “people ops” as drivers of organizational health. Although I didn’t have a traditional interview experience, per se, tried and true networking best practices served me well. I strengthened my understanding of authentic connection, effective communication, ability to demonstrate a consistent track record of strong results, and most importantly—a deep and sincere love for my work.
Like many of us with the great fortune of loving our career paths, I agree wholeheartedly with the famous words of Steve Jobs, who says, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Working in education, I have the opportunity to engage in work that is deeply personal, motivating, and fulfilling every single day. Even better, I get to do it in the context of a highly collaborative and supportive organization with hungry, smart colleagues who are deeply committed to our work, closely aligned on how we’ll accomplish our goals, and eager to give and receive feedback that empowers us to reach those goals more strategically.
As a bonus, along my journey, I even got to partner with my friend, colleague, and fellow Hamilton alum Evan Warnock ’14 (a Buffer, to complement my Tumbling After experience) in leading the student chorus at Excel Academy-Chelsea, which was an unimaginably joyful experience and hopefully a fun and meaningful one for our kids as well. Carissima!
For any Hamilton students and alumni looking to enter the education sector, I recommend:
- Start with a clear and compelling resumé that features specific, quantifiable accomplishments (in any field), strong verbs detailing your unique contributions, and a clear, readable format.
- Strike a balance of confidence in your abilities and humility that acknowledges all you are open to learning—ensure this tone informs every interaction during your search.
- Acknowledge the transferability of the skills you’ve developed by pursuing a liberal arts education: never underestimate the power of effective communication, problem-solving, and a track record of achievement in any field. You may be surprised to see just how well they will serve you even in a sea of fellow high performers.
- Understand that it’s never too late to make a change, whether it be a pivot to a different function within the education sector or an unadulterated leap.
I send the best of luck to all my fellow Hamiltonians and an open invitation to connect if I can ever provide help or support to our student and alumni communities.