For years she had gained experience in restaurant management, only to have that path utterly halted by the pandemic in 2020. While navigating the impact of the COVID-19 curveball that left her entire industry facing unemployment, she found herself seeking more stability.
That search led her to enroll in a 10-week tech sales bootcamp. Here, she learned that she had been building valuable interpersonal skills for years in her prior roles. This rang clear in her strong communication skills, work ethic, coachability, and authenticity in building relationships.
Today, Audrey is soaring as a Business Development Rep (BDR) at ChartHop. With her personal skills and commitment to training, she was able to break into tech quickly. She graduated from Flockjay during Halloween 2020 and got hired in January 2021!
This Flockjay alumni sat down with us to share more details about her career journey into tech sales, including the challenges she had to overcome to find herself where she is today.
Keep reading to learn how Audrey changed careers during a pandemic.
Pivoting from College Classes to Restaurant Management
In college, Audrey was managing a lot of passions while seeking stability. In her own words:
“I have a lot of passions, including helping others and sugar! The sad part is that I couldn’t make a career out of those things and make the money needed to support me and my family. I felt the only option for stability was to keep pursuing restaurant management because it was convenient and I was good at it. Sometimes we don’t get to have it all, and college doesn’t make it easy to finish and work full time.”
She had already gained experience working as a busser and a server in college, so becoming a Restaurant Manager seemed like a natural next step.
Audrey eventually got promoted to a position where she was making $55,000 per year, albeit at 65 hours per week and 6 days a week. But things were looking good. This was her career now.
However, when she returned to work from taking some well-deserved time off, she realized that restaurant management may not be for her. She wasn’t welcomed back with grace, and began to question her opportunities for growth in the industry.
“When I came back, the restaurant was in complete chaos and I got reamed for it. I saw my manager’s true colors at that moment and realized that she was unethical and selfish. I dealt with it because they offered me a salary and health insurance, which I never had. At that point, I had just convinced myself that the service industry was the only career path for me.”
For the next year, Audrey went above and beyond at work — doing inventory, payroll, scheduling, hiring, training and running a wine training program — but she still couldn’t get a raise or a transfer. This was especially frustrating since she had been working at the restaurant for six years and her boss wasn’t willing or excited to help with her growth within the company.
This is when she finally hit her breaking point and left the unhealthy work environment she’d been in. Around this time, her partner had got accepted into a music school in San Diego. Soon after, she packed up her bags, moved, and got a restaurant management job in her new city.
Then, COVID-19 shut the entire restaurant industry down.
How were they going to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads? A question that rose to the forefront for hundreds of thousands of Americans forced to face the impact of an industry-halting pandemic. What now?
Navigating Personal and Professional Growth During COVID-19
Audrey was fresh on the heels of an exciting new journey and felt crushed when the pandemic engulfed her industry in uncertainty. Audrey and her partner had no choice but to get creative, remain flexible, and work together to envision and implement a new plan. One that required putting everything they owned in storage. That takes resilience.
“My partner had to leave music school. I got laid off from my job and no one was hiring. We didn’t have enough money and had nowhere to go, so we moved into his parents’ camper, then to our friend’s spare bedroom with our three cats. It was tough.”
During this arduous process, Audrey leaned on her art as a positive creative outlet and had the gift of time to go inward and intentionally think about what she really wanted out of her next role.
Her restaurant management experience had armed her with tons of incredible skills, but the unstable nature of the industry led her to experience self-doubt and depression.
Eventually, her and her partner were able to secure a temporary Airbnb in San Diego, allowing him to finish up music school. From there, they relocated back to an apartment in Denver to navigate their next steps as the pandemic continued to unfold.
Finding Flockjay through a Craigslist Hunt for Opportunities
With an increasing awareness of how previous restaurant environments had negatively impacted her mental health, Audrey was eager to feel better. She knew it was time to break up with the restaurant industry if she wanted to prioritize her mental health and grow professionally. Unsure how to execute on this desired career change, she got curious and began researching.
Audrey was surfing Craigslist for new job opportunities when an ad stopped her in her tracks. It was for Flockjay, a 10-week tech sales bootcamp, on a mission to provide people from diverse backgrounds with the training, confidence, and community they need to break into tech. No fancy college degree was required, and it mentioned a deferred tuition option that allowed students to join for $0 down and repay tuition after they are hired and earning at least $40k annually. This information resonated with her, but it was the first time she’d heard of career bootcamps as a real option for people with her background. Could this opportunity be for her?
“I was thinking to myself, ‘This is insane. This makes no sense.’ I even told my family about it and they were like, ‘Okay, this sounds scammy.”
But Audrey’s interest was piqued. She decided to ask her friends who were working in tech sales about their careers and got positive feedback. After conducting more research and realizing that Flockjay was legit, she decided to chat with one of our Admissions Advisors, Mo.
“Once Mo saw that I had studied Human Development in college and recognized that I was super passionate about it, she told me that Flockjay could help me get a job in EdTech or at a company that collaborates with nonprofits. I could pursue a job at a place that aligned with my personal goals, not just your typical tech company. And that’s what sold me. There were way more opportunities out there than what I originally thought coming from the restaurant industry.”
She decided to join our seventh batch of students and become a Flockjay Tech Fellow.
Overcoming Mental Health Obstacles During Class
Shortly after joining Flockjay, Audrey and her partner’s unemployment benefits in Denver ran out. They were on the brink of eviction and had to turn to the weekly food bank for support. Audrey shared that when the food bank provided them with a big turkey, they were able to make the best of it and eat turkey soup every night.
To make ends meet, Audrey sold her car and watched her dad’s dog for $40 per night. During some earlier hardships in her life, she also resorted to assembling Ikea furniture for cash.
While working hard to regain financial stability and pursue a new and unfamiliar opportunity, the state of Audrey’s mental health remained an obstacle. Her depression was becoming unmanageable, so to pursue treatment, she flew out to California to get a brain scan.
Audrey was in the third week of Flockjay’s program during this time, and she personally still planned on attending class. But when she tried to dial in from her phone, she couldn’t get internet access. Feeling unprepared for a breakout session and overwhelmed by the hiccup, she admits having the urge to quit the program right then and there.
“By then, I was just so stressed out and upset. It felt like the final straw.”
However, Audrey decided to do her homework assignments for the week. And they motivated her to soldier on.
“I was in this hotel room by myself, waiting to fly out the next day, when I remembered that I needed to write a LinkedIn post. It had to be about tech, but I didn’t want to say something fake. But I also didn’t want to tell the world what was really going on with me. No one wants to hear that. At the end of the day, though, I just decided to be honest.”
What that honestly looked like:
After sharing that first LinkedIn post, Audrey continued to authentically thrive in Flockjay’s program, especially when it came to building a community with her other Flockmates.
Being this open and vulnerable changed Audrey’s perspective on adversity and helped her turn the corner. She felt validated and encouraged by the responses on her post from people who also suffered from depression. Feeling less alone, she persevered and made it to graduation.
Practicing Authenticity During the Interview Process
After hitting the 10-week mark and graduating from Flockjay, Audrey began the interview process. At this point, graduates work with dedicated Career Services Managers (CSM) for interactive coaching and tips on how to crush their interviews, make lasting impressions, and get hired by companies who support them. Part of this is knowing how to share your story.
For Audrey, the idea of sharing the various elements of her story with a potential employer initially felt daunting. So at first, she wasn’t forthcoming with sharing those personal details.
“I was struggling with how much to share and how to share it. So I just didn’t share at all and was like, ‘I am good at these things. I can do this.’ I didn’t really show them why or how I am good at those things, though,” says Audrey.
“Then I did a mock interview with my CSM and he said, ‘I wouldn’t hire you. You didn’t wow me. What happened to your story about being homeless during COVID and having nowhere to go? Don’t you think if you tell me your story that I’m going to believe you’re going to be a badass SDR and make money for my company?’”
From then on, Audrey felt empowered by her story. When she started practicing sharing it during her various interviews, she could tell she was impressing her interviewers. She felt like she was on the verge of getting hired, and she was right.
From Flockjay to Hired Sales Development Rep at ChartHop
After interviewing with ten different companies and landing five different final round interviews, Audrey received an offer to join the sales team at ChartHop. It was a full circle moment.
“I have a video of me dancing. I don’t know if I can even put it into words because it’s such a validating and relieving feeling, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s honestly unbelievable. After such a hard year in the restaurant industry, I almost couldn’t believe it when I got the offer to join ChartHop’s sales team. I felt a weird blend of shock and pride.”
Today, Audrey is entering her fourth month at ChartHop as an SDR, where she has hit or exceeded her quota for three months.
The collective flock is proudly rooting her on, because graduating and getting hired is not where the Tech Fellow journey ends. It is only where the Flockjay Alumni journey begins.
From Flockmates to Friends, The Career Support Doesn’t End
Building community and providing mutual support is such an integral part of Flockjay’s program. The power of the connections students make in the first 10 weeks of the program and beyond is something that cannot be understated during such a pivotal time of transformation and growth.
Audrey’s batch was no exception, exuding Flockjay’s value of flying farther and faster together.
“A group of friends I made in the program nicknamed ourselves ‘The Kingdom’ because we were like birds who came together. We would meet after class every Thursday and we could stay on for two, three hours and sometimes into the middle of the night. We would just support each other and talk about our lives and our biggest fears. These people changed my life.
Now, we’re all placed at different jobs and we still meet and have a group text. We’ll share sales tips from time to time, but what we value the most is our bond with each other. These people are so important to me. And they were my favorite part of Flockjay. Because without any human connection, you’re just getting information thrown at you, not getting reps in and making deep connections with others, which makes you better at sales anyways.”
Audrey’s Flockjay Alumni Journey and Community Involvement
Audrey has decided to give back to the Flockjay community by working as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for a recent batch of students going through the program. She has also been involved with Flockjay Identity Groups (FIGs), which are outlets for connection among diverse alumni groups. Audrey says:
“I loved the program for the connections I made and the empowerment I got from my trainers and peers. I decided to be as involved as I could and joined as a co-leader for the Womxns FIGS group, and also became a TA for Batch 12! I love to contribute to a positive environment that supports diverse and talented individuals to reach their potential and make money doing it. We all have different stories and I live to hear everyone’s stories. My life is greatly enhanced by the people I encounter through Flockjay.”
Wondering How to Change Careers? You Can Do This
Audrey’s journey from the restaurant industry to unemployment to tech sales took turns she never expected, and believing in herself has yielded results she never dreamed possible.
“I just feel so lucky,” Audrey says. “And blessed.”
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?