Behind the Scenes
My Unexpected Journey to a Career in Edtech
Pictured: BrainPOPpers enjoying a team outing
Truth be told, I didn’t seek out a position in edtech. Call it living under a rock, but I’d been swept up in the bustling retail industry in the San Francisco Bay Area for a few years, and had just welcomed a pandemic baby during the height of the direct-to-consumer edtech boom. Thanks to a double layoff season in 2021 ushered in by COVID, an incredible opportunity to join the growing consumer marketing team at BrainPOP appeared after months of soul-searching, LinkedIn perusing, and manifesting my career aspirations.
I’ve learned something new about the edtech industry pretty much every day since I started working at BrainPOP, but I’ve mostly been discovering and uncovering more about myself than I ever thought I would at this phase in my career. You might take a new job to build strong teams, launch creative campaigns, and meet ambitious goals, but have you ever accepted a new opportunity to learn more about your leadership style or personal goals? (If the answer is no, maybe you should consider a career in edtech!)
When I think about the qualities I admire most in educators, I remember my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Tom. She was one of the best teachers I ever had. Her classroom was full of empathy. It was like a blank canvas on which we were encouraged to express ourselves—through art, reading, and even sewing. She infused creativity into every corner of the classroom, and taught each lesson through intentional play. Every child was seen and embraced for their authentic self. After nearly a year at BrainPOP, I’m convinced that significant personal and professional growth is a natural byproduct of a culture built by former educators and lifelong educators at heart.
I studied cultural anthropology in college, and I’ll be the first to tell you that “culture” has so many wild definitions, it’s hard to pin down what it actually means (especially in the workplace). While a simple explanation I like to rely on is the “shared set of values, goals, attitudes and practices that make up an organization,” the true expression of a company’s culture incorporates so much more.
Universally, I believe we all want three things from our work culture: We seek an environment where we are seen and accepted for who we are, supported unconditionally, and empowered to do our best work.
When you work in an environment driven by educators, culture is expressed in uniquely fulfilling ways:
- Your feelings come first. You are acknowledged as a human being who produces a work product (not the other way around).
- You are applauded for your strengths and supported for your weaknesses.
- You work alongside inspiring leaders who are as invested in your growth as they are in their own.
- You are defined not by your mistakes, but rather by the opportunities you create for yourself to grow from them.
- Honest reflection on the good and the bad propels you and your team forward.
- Giving and receiving actionable feedback is non-negotiable.
- Learning and improving together (a BrainPOP work value)—often in fun, playful ways—is embraced.
I’ve grown exponentially in my new role in this brand new industry. Personally, I finally feel psychological safety to bring my whole self to work. Professionally, I feel empowered to lead a team of budding marketers in our work to introduce BrainPOP to families, like mine, who are looking for engaging, enriching educational resources for their kids. I have the support I need to “know the goal” (another BrainPOP work value) and keep moving forward. That is invaluable.
Mister Rogers told us, when things are scary, “look for the helpers.” To that I add, look for the educators. They are busy building beautiful cultures to help those around them thrive.
Jessica Jalowiec is senior director, consumer brand and partnerships at BrainPOP.