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?

From Shaking Cocktails to Selling Software: Cameron Macdonald’s Tech Sales Journey

From Shaking Cocktails to Selling Software: Cameron Macdonald’s Tech Sales Journey

Five months ago, Cameron Macdonald was the Bar Manager at Club Deluxe in San Francisco, cooking up new recipes for their cocktail menu, working weekends, and rarely, if ever, taking vacation. Today, he’s one of the top sales development representatives at DispatchTrack, selling delivery optimization software, getting weekends off, and earning paid leave for the first time in his adult life.

As someone who worked as a bartender for the past decade, pivoting to an entirely new career during a pandemic might’ve initially seemed like a pipe dream. But Cameron has proven that it’s more than possible to beat those odds. And now he wants to detail his adventure down the tech sales career path with other bartenders and service industry workers who might not be aware of the opportunity.

We sat down with Cameron to learn about his journey from bartending to tech sales. Read on to learn how he went from shaking cocktails to selling software with the help of Flockjay’s tech sales training program.

Dropping Out of College to Pursue Bartending

Cameron studied sociology at San Francisco State University to chase his dream of working at an NGO. But when his plans to work for an NGO in Papua New Guinea fell through, he realized that the only way he could make a good living with a sociology degree was by getting his master’s.

At the end of the day, Cameron knew he had fallen out of love with sociology and decided college wasn’t for him. Luckily, Cameron had a Plan B. He had already started working as a server during his sophomore year of college and knew he wanted to launch a career as a bartender because he loved experimenting with cocktails. But it wasn’t easy breaking through.

“My boss wasn’t willing to move me up because I didn’t have any experience. So to get some, I’d learn how to make drinks on the side and come in on my off days to help out,” says Cameron. “One day, one of my bar managers finally caved in and let me help out behind the bar. Then I got my shot after a bartender got fired for being drunk on shift during the World Cup. After that, I fell in love with the whole bartending scene, as a whole.”

However, despite his passion for creating new cocktail menus and building relationships with his customers, Cameron realized that, after a few years, bartending definitely has its cons. For instance, Cameron usually wouldn’t get home until 3:00 AM every night. His days off were also Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so if he ever wanted to take a weekend off to see his family or his girlfriend’s family, he would have to get his shift covered and forfeit his pay.

Another aspect of bartending that Cameron wasn’t a fan of was his lack of medical coverage, especially since a bare-bones plan cost him around $500 per month. “If I ever got seriously hurt, I would’ve been screwed,” says Cameron.

By the time Cameron hit his late 20s, he set a goal for himself to pursue a new career by the time he was 30. This decision was catalyzed by two realizations:

  1. There was no upward mobility in bartending, and
  2. He had to start using a Theragun massage device to knead the tendinitis out of his forearms.

“The thing about bartending is that you can either become a bar owner, which is very hard to do, or try to become a general manager, which is even harder to do because you’re just managing people and don’t even get paid for it,” says Cameron.

“There’s not a lot of upward mobility in bartending. It’s very hard to have a successful career, especially since it breaks down your body so badly.”

Breaking into Tech Sales through Flockjay

Cameron had been thinking about leaving the service industry for a long time, but when COVID-19 shut down the restaurant he was working at, he officially started his search for a new career. A mutual friend recommended that he try sales. When Cameron was applying to jobs, though, he had no bachelor’s degree or any tech or sales experience that he could tout on his resume. As a result, he didn’t land a single interview. “I got the middle finger from a lot of people,” says Cameron. Cameron knew he had to add some more experience to his resume, so he decided to enroll in a sales boot camp.

After trading a few texts and calls with some friends, he got in touch with a mutual friend who connected him with Flockjay.

“At first, I thought Flockjay was too good to be true,” says Cameron. “Then lo and behold, I go through the program and boom. I get a job in tech sales”

When Cameron was going through the program, he absolutely adored its community feel and support system. Not only did he appreciate all of the positivity that his fellow students brought to class but he also felt like they all pushed each other to succeed, in a healthy way.

“When you’re in the trenches with a bunch of like-minded individuals who are constantly pushing each other forward, it’s definitely something special. At first, I wasn’t used to how supportive everyone was and then you realize, this is how things should be. This is great,” says Cameron.

“Everyone was very open about how they felt about things and very considerate. That sense of community was great. It made me not want to fail because I didn’t want to let any of my team down. It was good pressure to push forward, knowing that we’re all in this together. That was something I truly loved.”

After graduating from Flockjay, Cameron’s Career Services Manager got him in touch with Flockjay’s hiring partners and guided him through every step of the interview process. This was super helpful since he had never interviewed for a job in tech before. Within a few weeks of graduation, Cameron landed a job as an SDR at DispatchTrack, one of Flockjay’s hiring partners.

How Life as an SDR Compares to Life As a Bartender

During his time at DispatchTrack, Cameron has enjoyed plenty of benefits that he never would’ve gotten access to as a bartender. One of these benefits is working a normal schedule and doing it from home.

“I have freaking weekends off. I can’t stress that enough. It’s amazing. I’m going to Tahoe at the end of this month. And I’m taking this Thursday and Friday off and getting paid for it because I have paid time off.”

“In a nutshell, I get to sit at home and get paid to hang out in my sweats and chill with my cat. It’s great,” says Cameron.

Another benefit that Cameron cherishes is not being exposed to health hazards at the workplace, especially since his parents are in an age group that’s at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. “I was working in the service industry up until December during COVID”, says Cameron. “And that thing sucks. It’s stressful. I was always worried if I got the virus. I mean, I wasn’t able to see my parents. Because what if I got it somehow and I came home and brought it? But now, that stress is gone. I couldn’t be more thankful for it.”

Out of all these new benefits, though, the one that Cameron relishes the most is having an actual career.

“Overall, this has been life-changing. If I want to bust my ass and make more money, I can do that. I didn’t have that before. That’s something that I’m thankful for,” says Cameron.

“I have an actual career. I have something tangible to achieve. I have a clear path. So once I eventually want to have kids, I’ll be able to support them.”

3 Reasons Why Bartenders Can Be Great Tech Sales Reps

According to Cameron, there are three reasons why bartenders can easily translate their skills to tech sales: They’re used to getting objections, they’re good with people, and they know how to grind.

1. They’re used to getting a lot of objections.

“When you’re an SDR, you’re the tip of the spear. But it’s like you’re also eating a face full of dog crap every day. You’re getting a lot of no’s, a lot of objections, and a lot of rejections. But in terms of bartending, that’s your day-to-day. People are always trying to send drinks back, and you have to adjust the way you talk to people and be on your feet at all times.”

2. They’re good with people.

“If you want repeat business, the only way you’re going to build up regular customers is if you’re a likable person. One of my favorite aspects of bartending was building those relationships with people. Relationships mean more money. And that translates perfectly to sales. People want to buy from people they like. You have to be a likable person. Nobody’s gonna tip you if you’re a jerk. They’re gonna pay you the $8 for their vodka soda and be like, ‘Alright, not dealing with this jerk again,’ you know?”

3. They know how to grind.

“Some days, you’re on your feet for six to eight hours at a time and you just got to push through it. For me, personally, working from home and making calls every day is easy mode compared to working the Warriors playoff game, especially when they’re losing.”

Switching Careers from Bartending to Sales

If you resonate with Cameron’s story, possess the traits above, and want to make a life-changing career move today, consider applying for our tech sales training program! In just ten weeks, you’ll learn about everything from sales techniques to sales software and also potentially land a sales job at one of the top tech companies in the world, like Salesforce, Zoom, or Gong!

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…)

Flockjay and the American Dream [Alumni Remarks]

Flockjay and the American Dream [Alumni Remarks]

Now that my time as a student at Flockjay is coming to a close, I have been thinking a great deal about the myth of the American Dream.

In its most current incarnation, the American Dream resides in the belief that anyone in our country, regardless of their background, can attain their own version of success in a society in which upward mobility is possible for everyone. It’s a vision grounded in our most sacred ideals as a nation: democracy, freedom, opportunity, and equality.

And yet, it is clear that we do not approach this dream on equal footing. Who, in fact, even has access to this dream? When we look upon American History, we know that our nation’s beautiful and self-professed ideals sit uncomfortably alongside the systemic and institutional oppression that we find in the very foundations of our country.

In light of this, I find that Flockjay is so much more than a tech sales boot camp.

I am grateful for all the hard and soft sales skills I have acquired through this specialized training. But I feel there are even more urgent gifts this program has bestowed upon us. Flockjay is, in fact, a transformative and emancipatory educational project. It has given all of us, from diverse walks of life, the tools to achieve upward mobility, and in turn, to also uplift our families, our friends, and our communities. It has taught us that our success stems from the camaraderie and solidarity we have found together.

As a nation, we are at a fragile crossroads. We can lean into our divisions or come together with the shared goal of prosperity, justice, and dignity for all. Flockjay offers a blueprint for working together to create inclusive and positive change.

The Mighty Ducks of Batch 9 have demonstrated how much we can achieve both individually and together when we cooperate, collaborate, and support one another. This group of students all come from distinct backgrounds, yet our true strength resides in our very differences!

As I look out upon the faces of my fellow students and teachers tonight, I feel pride. This is America. Here is a true representation. This is the America that calls to me. A place where we can all dream. A place where we can all achieve our ancestors’ wildest dreams. 

Oriana De Francesco is a recent Flockjay graduate. She is currently embarking on an exciting job search where she hopes to connect with organizations that provide meaningful solutions to real-world problems. She has a particular interest in the Fintech sector and democratizing finance worldwide, especially in emerging markets.

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 Hospitality to Sales: Anna’s Tech Fellow Story

From Hospitality to Sales: Anna’s Tech Fellow Story

“I can’t, I’m not qualified, I don’t have the experience, I just… I CAN’T.”

If any of this negative self-talk resonates with you, then please allow me to share my story of Flockjay: the 10-week online sales training program that transformed my life. Once a pessimistic hospitality worker, I’m now an educated tech sales professional embarking on a new career.

By design, every Flockjay student, or “Tech Fellow,” comes from a different place. A place not necessarily oriented around sales or tech. Different locations, levels of education, years of experience, and overall diversity are what make each batch of “Flockstars” unique.

Everyone has a personal Flockjay story: this is mine. (more…)

Writing My New Story

Writing My New Story

As a female immigrant without a background in tech, breaking into the tech industry would be challenging. But even though I had doubts, I was reminded of something I once read. “Don’t be afraid to start all over again. You may like your new story better.” I was ready to write my new story.

I studied hospitality and worked for more than 13 years in the industry. I enjoyed my work but after so many years, it had stopped being challenging and fulfilling. I wanted to make a change but I didn’t know what I wanted or how to get there.

Trying to find my next career, I decided to research tech bootcamps. I first heard of Flockjay around Christmas of 2018 but I wasn’t sure if it would be enough for me to break into the world of tech.

A few weeks later, while walking through San Francisco, I realized that everything in the city I lived in was changing at the speed of light, all because of tech companies. I remember owning my first smartphone, and how that changed my life. Now I was using apps like Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and WhatsApp, which I constantly use to talk with my family in Peru without having to pay huge phone bills.

Tech companies were changing the world around me and I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be a part of the generation that was able to connect people around the world. As Elon Musk once said, “Now is the best time to be alive.” I wanted to be part of the reason why.

Dunetka’s New Story

I scheduled an info session with Flockjay and Quenton was on the other side of the call. After talking to him, I knew Flockjay was the right next step in my journey to a new career. I filled out my application and waited to hear if I made it in.

When I found out I was accepted, I was so excited! Getting accepted was just the first step on the long road ahead of me. I committed myself to 200 plus hours of class in 12 weeks, all while keeping my full-time job. My schedule was crazy sometimes. I didn’t get much sleep because I had to be up for work by 3:50 am, but I really wanted to make it happen.

I didn’t know what to expect when I started class. Suddenly I was spending 4 nights a week at my laptop, meeting with my coaches who inspired me to keep going. Flockjay staff like Shaan, Kelly, Alex, and Quenton supported me at all times and kept me on track. Fireside chats every Monday from special guests motivated me and made me excited about my future.

My classmates became my friends as we learned new skills together. We practiced together, gave feedback, and lifted each other up when we faced challenges. Even when class ended, we kept practicing together to be the best that we could be.

Now I’m a Student Success Advisor at Flockjay, supporting our students as they go through training. I’m enjoying every moment of it. I make a difference, not only in my own life but in the lives of others. Being part of Flockjay has given me a brand new sense of purpose and made me profoundly happy. I received so much support and encouragement as a student and now I get to give that same experience to new students.

I really do like my new story better.


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?