From Food Service to Earning a Salary in Tech: Elise Cox’s Upward Journey

From Food Service to Earning a Salary in Tech: Elise Cox’s Upward Journey

When Elise Cox, a current Technical Sourcer at Gusto and former Tech Fellow at Flockjay, became a mother in 1997, her focus in life became solely about providing for her child, even if that meant putting off her college degree and waiting twenty years to land a career in tech.

To provide for her three children and twin grandchildren, Elise had to perform a constant juggling act that could have earned her a spot at Cirque du Soleil. Not only was she working full-time as a Training Manager at Bojangles, she was also working part-time as a Sorter at UPS and taking accelerated classes at Georgia State University.

Working 16-hour days was barely enough to scrape by. When Elise first started at Bojangles, she made $12 per hour. Then she got promoted — and made $13.50 per hour.

There was a light at the end of the tunnel, though. Elise’s work ethic had impressed Bojangles enough to promise her an Assistant Unit Director role, where she would oversee the operations of an entire restaurant. She was getting her own store.   

But just as things were looking up, they suddenly came crashing down. Due to new city ordinance rules, the location was never built. She was stuck working her current job. 

“I was over there making $13.50 per hour yet doing everything that the Assistant Unit Director does, with no further discussions about compensation.” says Elise. “That’s when I decided that I was getting out”.

Elise’s decision to get out of the food service industry was one that would change her life forever, allowing her to pluck her family out of the depths of poverty and earn two promotions in just two years. But it would also set her on a path that would test her will and work ethic like none other had done before.

Breaking into Tech Through Flockjay

Prior to joining Flockjay, Elise had attended a LaunchCode Base Camp every January for the prior five years. Her best friend also started the program the first year and by 2019, was Chief of Staff at her tech company. She encouraged Elise to continue with LaunchCode because she recognized that Elise thinks like a software engineer and could tap into that to launch a much more lucrative career in tech.  

“I knew that tech was the avenue I needed to take to expand my career and my finances,” says Elise. “Not only to make a change for myself but for my children and then of course my grandchildren.”  

Despite Elise’s ability to think like a programmer, the act of programming didn’t come so  naturally to her. Fortunately, this same best friend caught wind of Flockjay, a tech sales bootcamp that could help her break into the tech space through her communication and relationship building skills, which she had been sharpening for the past two decades in the food service industry. 

After doing her research on Flockjay, she was sold. And so was Flockjay. She was accepted into their second batch of students.

Adding Another Ball to Her Juggling Act

On top of opening Bojangles at 4:00 AM from Sunday through Thursday, Elise now had to attend class with Flockjay from 8:00 PM to 11:00 PM, Monday through Thursday. With two to three hours of homework each night and a wake up time at 3:30 AM, she would only be able to run on two hours of sleep for three days straight each week for the next twelve weeks. 

But surprisingly, this wasn’t her biggest obstacle when she started the program. 

“After my third week, I was going to drop out. I didn’t think I was smart enough to be there,” says Elise. “Everyone in my batch already seemed to have experience in tech, specifically in inbound and outbound sales, and the only sales experience I had was in the food service industry and my dad’s custom automotive restoration business growing up.”

Needless to say, imposter syndrome had dug its claws into Elise. But during one of the last classes she planned on attending, a Slack message from Flockjay’s CEO, Shaan Hathiramani, sparked a crucial conversation that would pry those claws loose. 

“Shaan apparently saw a change in my demeanor during class,” says Elise. “He messaged me on Slack asking if I was okay. At first, I told him I was fine. But then I decided to take that moment to be vulnerable. So I told him the truth.”

Shaan immediately set up a meeting with Elise after class to talk things through and assure her that she did in fact belong in Flockjay. However, her mind was made up. The material taught in class was tough to retain, especially since she was running on such little sleep.

Shaan did make one breakthrough with Elise, though. He was able to connect her with Kelly Schuur, Flockjay’s Head of Sales Training, to discuss the material that she found difficult to understand. But Kelly knew she had to have a deeper, more meaningful conversation with Elise in order to help her find the motivation to finish the program.      

“The conversation was nothing about the material at all. It was just a safe space for me to vent about my feelings of unworthiness. When I was able to release those inner whispers, it freed up space in my head to retain the material taught in class. It also gave me energy to stay up and do the homework after class,” says Elise. “Within two weeks, I was feeling motivated to complete the program.”

From then on, Elise put her nose to the grindstone, working her round-the-clock schedule and catching up on sleep all night Thursday and all day Friday. “I just kept telling myself it’s only X more weeks,” says Elise. “I can do this.”

Landing Her Dream Job at Gusto 

Two weeks before graduation, Elise’s interview process began. She interviewed with at least two to three companies per week and eventually landed a final round interview at Gusto, an HR, payroll, and benefits platform for small businesses.

With four interviews at Gusto and one of their take home assignments under her belt, Elise was more than prepared to crush her final interview. But when she joined the Zoom Call, she was hit with a jolt of shock. 

“Shaan, Kelly, and my instructor from Flockjay were on the call with my hiring manager. And that’s when they told me this was my offer call,” says Elise. “I was in tears.” 

Two weeks later, Elise and her family relocated to Denver, Colorado, where she would launch her new career in tech sales, triple her pay, and receive great medical benefits for the first time in her life. 

For the past two years, Elise has quickly climbed the ladder at Gusto, earning two promotions to two different departments at the end of each year. The first to the Customer Success team as a Customer Success Advisor and the second to the Invite (Recruiting) team as a Technical Sourcer. 

Surprisingly, Elise stumbled upon both of these promotions. When COVID-19 first shut down the economy, she volunteered to field PPP loan inquiries, which overwhelmed Gusto’s Customer Care team. Elise had been working in sales for the past ten months, but after helping the Customer Care team out, she was presented with the opportunity to interview for the newly formed Customer Success Team and earned one of the ten positions.

“Customer Success gave me the opportunity to build rapport with our customers, learn about their needs, and help them improve their overall people operations,” says Elise. “As the daughter of a small business owner, I felt that I would be of better service to the people of the small business community.” 

After working as a Customer Success Advisor and absolutely loving it for nearly a year, Elise attended a fireside chat with Roz the Recruiter, the current Director of Technical Recruiting at Zillow and former Head of Talent Acquisition at Warner Media. Elise had met Roz at AfroTech 2019, and she had left a lasting impression on her, sparking an interest in recruiting. That interest was rekindled after the fireside chat. And Elise knew she wanted to at least try recruiting one day. 

As fate would have it, Elise was recommended to apply for a Technical Sourcer position just a few months later. There were about 80 applicants gunning for the job, but she says her belief in the product, willingness to take ownership of her growth, and her vulnerability to be coachable and open to the changes in an ambiguous environment was what separated herself from the pack.  

As someone who has gotten promoted to two different departments in just under two years, you might think Elise has gone above and beyond in every facet of her work. But according to her, working to the best of her ability is what has helped her climb the ladder so quickly. 

“As a black woman, it’s common knowledge that we have always felt that we have to work harder than anyone else in the room,” says Elise. “Maybe that has some validity. Either way, I just did my best at each task, every day. And when I felt my best was not enough, I communicated that with my manager and worked to find a solution.” 

Elise’s Greatest Accomplishment

During the middle of Elise’s career in the food service industry, she remembers earning just enough income to pay her rent and utilities each month. 

Then, her daughter needed braces. They barely scraped by for the next two years. 

Flash forward to today, though, and Elise has the means to buy her daughter a piano so she can learn the instrument that she’s wanted to play her entire life, and plans to hire a Japanese tutor to teach her daughter the language that she’s been fascinated with since fifth grade. 

For Elise, this is her greatest accomplishment. Not running on three hours of sleep before every class. Not landing a job at one of the hottest startups in the country. Nor single-handedly taking her family out of the depths of poverty in just twelve weeks. Because there was only one thing motivating her through it all — her children. 

“Before Gusto, I couldn’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t in survival mode,” says Elise. “But those days are over. Now, I can comfortably supply whatever we need.” 

Your New Career in Tech Sales Starts Now

Sales is the best kept secret in tech, and Flockjay will show you the way. With online classes and live instructors, Flockjay teaches you everything you need to know to be job ready in just 10 weeks. Ready for a career change?

Announcing 10 #FlockjayHeadStart Contest Winners

Announcing 10 #FlockjayHeadStart Contest Winners

Last week, we launched our first official #FlockjayHeadStart equipment contest in alignment with our mission to empower upward mobility. Today, we are excited to share who our 10 winners are. These incoming Tech Fellows will receive a premium laptop, headset, and Visa debit card to help cover four months of internet access.

We’d like to thank and celebrate each person who entered for taking a chance on themselves and sharing their story. Our admissions team thoughtfully considered each submission and our decisions were not easy! As a reminder, winners were chosen based on their overall application, video submission, and need for equipment access.

Without further ado, please join us in celebrating the following winners of our #FlockjayHeadStart equipment contest! You can watch each of their video submissions to learn more about them. 🎥

#FlockjayHeadStart Contest Winners

Congratulations to the following winners of our #FlockjayHeadStart contest, listed in no particular order. As with every student, we are so grateful for the opportunity to be a footnote in the story of your career journey.

We look forward to taking flight with you and watching you soar!

1. Aja Al-harbawi

Hear from Aja, who is excited to embark on a new career path. With a background in retail, she didn’t know it was a possibility to join a program like Flockjay’s and admits she’s been hindered by a lot of factors on her journey. She says, “I want to flourish and gain exceptional skills and impact peoples lives. Flockjay told me that I can actually succeed. I have been hindered by a lot of factors, as my parents have passed away. I lost a lot of support.”

Watch Aja’s TikTok entry.



♬ original sound – Aja Al-harbawi


2. Charlene Smith

Charlene says that she’s always loved communicating with people and has previous experience in different sales settings such as cashiering, waitressing, coaching, and teaching. “As a coach and as a teacher I’ve always loved the idea of selling a dream or an idea or a skill set. I’m excited to see how Flockjay can teach me how to better my ability and skills so that I can go out into the workforce and scoop up a great job in tech sales and become the professional that I want to be, and that I know I can be, with the right training and experience.”

Watch Charlene’s TikTok entry.


Excited to see where this journey takes me- ready to spread my wings and fly! 🦅 hehe #FlockjayHeadStart

♬ SUNNY DAY – Matteo Rossanese


3. Teyarra Alexander

Teyarra wants to join Flockjay’s bootcamp for two core reasons: career advancement and new skills. “It’s nice that you can have a job you can stay at for years and be able to advance and also gain new skills while on the job.”

Watch Teyarra’s TikTok entry.



♬ original sound – Ilikelucid


4. Stephen Baker

Stephen admits he has been interested in Flockjay for awhile now, and has applied in the past and not gotten in. He also opens up about his battle with addiction recovery. “I have 125 days sober today and for me, that is a miracle. If I could win this to get a head start, I believe it will help me settle in a career that will give me the driving force to remain sober. I know that a lot of people out there suffer from addiction and I know that they are consistently striving to better themselves as I am doing right now. That is what it would mean to me.”

Watch Stephen’s Instagram entry.

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A post shared by Stephen Baker (@jastman420)

5. DeAaron Waters

DeAaron brings the energy when he shares the news of his career change! Be sure to read his caption below for more details on why he entered the #FlockjayHeadStart contest and is passionate about a career in tech sales. Watch DeAaron’s Instagram entry.













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  A post shared by The Big Dope Energy Podcast 🎙🔥 (@dearrow)  


6. Sean Davis

Sean sat outside of the Washington Monument to share why he’s excited to join Flockjay’s upcoming class. “I’m a Flockjay rock star. I will be going into the tech sector and learning something new while I’m here in Washington, D.C.” What a natural Flockstar!

Watch Sean’s Instagram entry.

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A post shared by Bsavvy (@2bsavvy)

7. Kairo Dilla

Kai has a background in computer science and is passionate about helping others. He says Flockjay’s values align with his morals. Last year he discovered the sales career path and sought out opportunities to apply. However, “Without the proper training needed to be a successful sales representative, I was faced with rejection every single day. It became so bad that I had to depend on unemployment to barely scrape by, but luckily I was offered an overnight position at a rehab facility a few months ago. Working at a minimum wage job, I don’t have the necessary resources to fund the tools needed to succeed in a tech sales career. Winning this contest will definitely give me that #FlockjayHeadStart.”

Watch Kairo’s YouTube entry.


8. Alice Okunola

Alice says that, “Joining Flockjay is a great privilege for me. The education is going to provide me with the tools, the knowledge, and the understanding of what is expected of me as a tech sales representative.” She noted that launching a career as a tech sales representative is going will provide an avenue to help connect customers with the right products and problem solve. She also wished success upon her fellow contestants, and we’re all about community!

Watch Alice’s YouTube entry.


9. Kendra Brockett

Kendra is excited to join Flockjay’s upcoming class because of the support gained through live video classes and career services like expert interview help to land the job. “Flockjay is where it’s at right now!’

Watch Kendra’s YouTube entry.


10. Alejandro Valdivia

Alejandro is looking for a career and has been working at his current job for years now and feeling stuck. “I would really love to join this program. Something that really caught my attention is that they want to promote minority groups. I’m a Mexican American Latino born and raised in San Francisco, so having a program that wants to give you those tools to see you succeed sounds amazing to me. I love the fact that there’s zero tuition initially, so you can join the program without having to worry about paying that money up front. Sometimes that’s the reason why a lot of people don’t take on challenges, because financially they can’t cover the cost. So having this opportunity to join the program and then pay later is amazing. I think a career in tech would change my life. There’s a lot of potential for me to grow and tools for me to learn and I’m very excited and very motivated.”

Watch Alejandro’s YouTube entry.


On a Mission to Empower Upward Mobility for All

Congratulations to our winners and thank you again to all who joined the #FlockjayHeadStart contest! At Flockjay, there is nothing that brings our collective team more joy than working in support of our mission to empower everyone with the promise of upward mobility.

We also aim to promote diversity and inclusion in our application and training process, in the hiring partners we work with, and in our own company. We seek to include and highlight applications from underrepresented, underserved, and non-traditional backgrounds. We do our best to reduce implicit and unconscious bias in our screening and training processes. This includes working with candidates individually to find the best formats to showcase their strengths. Read our Flockjay Manifesto to learn more about our commitment to DEI.

Interested in applying to Flockjay and launching a new career in tech sales? Awesome! See resources to help you learn more and determine if Flockjay’s 10-week tech sales program could be right for you.

To read real student reviews and follow us across social media platforms, click here.

Your New Career in Tech Sales Starts Now

Sales is the best kept secret in tech, and Flockjay will show you the way. With online classes and live instructors, Flockjay teaches you everything you need to know to be job ready in just 10 weeks. Ready for a career change?
From Number Crunching to Tech Sales with Pedro Morfin

From Number Crunching to Tech Sales with Pedro Morfin

Pedro Morfin, a former Tech Fellow at Flockjay and a current SDR at Gusto, an HR platform for small businesses, recently sat down with us for an Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) interview. As someone who successfully pivoted from finance to tech sales, we talked about everything from Pedro’s Flockjay experience to his day-to-day at Gusto. Plus, he shared parting words of advice for wherever you are on your journey to tech sales. 

Read on to see what this alumni had to say. (more…)