Making the Move: Teaching to Tech

For today’s Making the Move series, I am excited to share Yanira Sesniak‘s transition from the academic world into tech! Yanira is currently a Sr. Business Program Manager in the Data & AI space at Microsoft.

Yanira’s Background in Education

Yanira always loved school and finished her Bachelors program early, so she decided to get her Masters degree and go down the academic route. In her early 20s, she started teaching high school English in Phoenix, and never looked back. She loved being a teacher, and even as a mother, she reads to 2nd graders every week! Although she loved her job and the kids she taught, Yanira started facing burnout as an educator. This experience prompted her to look for a career that offered more financial stability.

Joining the Startup World

At a dinner with her husband and friends, Yanira started thinking about a career pivot while continuing to be an educator. Soon after, she started running online courses for community colleges and came across the concept of “customer success”. This spurred her to learn more about SaaS and find a tech startup that was hiring onboarding consultants.

Infusionsoft, now known as Keap, is a company focused on helping small businesses succeed through CRM, sales and marketing tools. In her new Customer Onboarding Specialist role, Yanira continued to follow her passion for teaching while doubling her salary. Instead of building out academic curriculums for students, she taught the “book of business” to customers. As she hopped in and learned about the CRM product, she started training people and building connections and confidence.

The Transferrable Skills of Teaching

Yanira declares that the skills that you gain from teaching are universal. These include communication, organization, teamwork, and creativity. Ultimately, a product and company do not dictate what you’re capable of—it is your strengths, discipline, and passion.

Here are the Transferrable Skills of Teaching

Skill 1: Empathy

Teachers are advocates for their students, and take the time to know every child in the classroom and their needs. When working so closely with students, they become aware of their tone, engagement, mood, and personality. This active listening builds empathy and understanding.

Similarly, an excellent Customer Success Manager (CSM) focuses on understanding their customers’ needs and where they are coming from. With high empathy, CSMs use a customer-centric approach to find solutions that will add value and solve their customers’ problems.

Skill 2: Ownership

Teachers are also accustomed to taking on high responsibility and run their classes like a book of business. To do this, they leverage skills in time management, organization, problem solving, decision making, presenting, sharing feedback, and coaching. At any given time, a teacher is a mentor, adviser, coach, manager, facilitator and project manager.

This type of ownership mentality is easily applied to the world of Customer Success. CSMs are expected to utilize decision-making skills and be held accountable for their customer’s progress. Time and time again, CSMs readily respond to change and their time management and organization skills keep them aligned to company goals and customer results.

Skill 3: Leadership

Great teachers possess a growth mindset and become trusted advisors to hundreds of students each school year. Teachers are natural leaders that quickly become master communicators of their space, managing 5-6 classes a day with 30+ students in each class.

Teachers are experienced leaders who want to see others succeed. In the same way, CSMs are there to ensure that their customers succeed through delivering value.

Tips on Career Transitioning

Career development is ultimately your responsibility.

It is important to take ownership of your own career development. Figure out where you want to go and create your own plan for growth. Once you’ve determined your goals, don’t wait for your manager to set up time with you. Share these goals with your manager, get feedback, and keep moving towards that goal. If you find that you’re reaching a ceiling or hearing “No”, then it is your queue to move on.

Relationships are everything. Your personal brand and success does not come from showing off what you do well. Instead, you offer the most value when you take the time to understand what is important to others and help them achieve those goals. Try to understand the “WIIFM” (what’s in it for me) through coffee chats and keep in mind that it is also gratifying to help others.

Prioritization is key. When starting any role, figure out the #1 north star—aka what is the #1 thing you were hired to do? Then, keep all of your activities as close to this priority as possible. Continue to build relationships, but feel empowered to say “No”. Every once in a while, re-prioritize what you’re doing because you may lose sight of your priorities over time.

There’s always a connection. When it comes to networking, take what you know and find it in what you’re interested in. For example, if you’re interested in working at Microsoft one day, find a program or product that Microsoft offers to teachers and find a way to meet people in that space.

Tip: If you’re looking for somewhere to start, check out Latina Techies which is run by Microsoft employees!


Thank you so much to Yanira for your passion and energy in sharing your journey with the world!