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

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