What is a School Success Manager?
And how is School Success different from Customer Success?
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This week I’m talking about School Success roles, a fairly unique role to the edtech industry but which I post on the job board fairly regularly. I’ll share an overview of what makes the role different from similar roles in a larger Customer Success department, and I’ll share a tool I’ve been working on to help you analyze your skills in order to differentiate them from the other teachers who are applying.
What does a School Success Associate* do?
School Success Associates support and train educators to use a particular edtech product, program, or system. Typically the job responsibilities fall into two large buckets: client support and professional learning.
Client support includes being responsive over multiple channels (email, phone, Zoom) to questions teachers have as they integrate the product into their classroom. It also means creating knowledge databases, educator-facing guides, and other resources that streamline the support process and help the company manage a larger user base. One frequent soft skill this job requires is to be a “problem solver” — being able to figure out how to help someone do what she needs and wants to do and also seeing how that relates to other people.
School Success Associates provide a lot of support but the role is in the Customer Success department not Customer Support department. That’s an important distinction because the type of support provided is less likely to be technical (i.e. answering questions about passwords) and more likely to be around usability (i.e. offering a walkthrough of the product’s capabilities or helping a teacher adapt it to their classroom).
School Success Associates also facilitate professional development workshops and webinars. Post-pandemic these can occur in person but also virtually. Workshops typically focus on helping educators and administrators set-up the product, use new features, or adapt the product to their classroom/school. Most School Success Associates will also work 1:1 with educators or small groups as needed — for example to create relevant instructional content.
And, of course, both client support and training require ancillary tasks like tracking processes and data, evaluating results, and other project management responsibilities.
*As you probably know from your job search, job titles are often unique to a particular company. The School Success roles I’ve shared in the job board the past year have gone by the following names: School Success — Adoption Manager, Teacher Success Associate, School Success Associate, School Partnerships Success Manager, and Curricular Solution Architect.
What is the role of School Success in a Customer Success department?
School Success is the most immediate bridge job to the Customer Success department because it doesn’t require some of the more administrative tasks that CSMs regularly do (like handling contract renewals or upselling products). It’s a role where your SME expertise as an educator stands out because School Success Associates work directly with educators to help them use a company’s edtech product more effectively.
Some of the work they do may sound a lot like implementation work that Customer Success Managers do. So why is it a different role?
Before I answer that question, a big caveat: this is a general overview of the School Success role, and you will find variations in the real world as specific companies tweak job roles to fit their business needs!
Company size and stage (i.e. start-up, growth, mature, etc) have the largest impact on job roles. For example, a start-up might be all-hands-on-deck while a mature company can hire candidates to do very specific, tightly corralled roles.
We’re, of course, familiar with this same business model in our schools – some larger districts have attendance deans whereas a smaller school district may ask an AP to do some tasks from that role while other parts of the role may just not be done by anyone or are divided up amongst additional employees.
As you apply for jobs, understanding the key distinctions between different roles in a Customer Success department lets you recognize when a company has combined aspects of these different roles into a single position. That can help you tailor your application and include the right information (rather than too many irrelevant details or too few relevant ones) and can help you ask more relevant questions at an interview.
This is how the two roles are different
Just because School Success is a bridge job from education doesn’t mean it’s an entry-level Customer Success role. Customer Success departments are highly collaborative — usually they get a client from the sales team, then the implementation manager takes over, and then passes the client on to the Customer Success Manager, who will continue to work regularly with all of the other people plus product and engineering teams.
What this means is you’ll often see an educator move into CSM after a stint as a School Success Associate but you’ll also see CSMs move into School Success. (Newsela is a good example of this pattern — they added the School Success role and their first hires were internal CSMs. Then they added the educators to the mix.)
What makes it a good bridge role is that School Success Associates work directly with educators and schools to use the product in their classroom. Most of their time is spent communicating with educators. They need to be very competent project managers and have a deep understanding of their product, including its technical features. So your SME expertise as an educator is very valuable in this role.
But Customer Success Managers do have additional responsibilities that School Success Associates don’t typically do. Because one of their focuses is on upselling clients, they’ll often work with districts to find new ways to use the edtech product or platform — even working directly with product and engineering teams to custom design features. So they’re still working on helping districts implement and use the product but at a different scale than the School Success Associate.
How do I tailor my resume when I apply to School Success jobs?
One of the biggest challenges applying to School Success roles is differentiating your experience from other educators. When hundreds or educators are applying, you have to think carefully about how to describe similar tasks in ways that don’t just repeat the same bullet points as other educators.
But, as we all know, teachers do too much in our daily jobs! That means, you can describe any particular task in 2-3 different ways, depending on what you want to emphasize.
For example, you can talk about how you track attendance and grades in terms of data collection/processing/reporting or in terms of the technology you use to track it or to emphasize the project management aspects of tracking and evaluating.
So how do you differentiate your skills? You use my skills analysis tool!
I’ve been working on a skills analysis tool for School Success roles that allows you to identify the specific hard skills/experience you have as an educator so you know how to add the most relevant experience to your resume and can differentiate yourself from other educators.
You’ll take a short quiz — under 15 questions — and then the results will tell you which of the skills you have are directly relevant to school success roles.
I’ve created this tool by analyzing multiple job descriptions for School Success roles. I only included job descriptions that explicitly were looking for transitioning educators (with no additional industry work required). I also have an extensive skills bank of educator skills that I then aligned with the job descriptions.
What makes this difference from other quizzes you might have taken is that I’m not just focusing on skills like “I develop and lead professional development workshops.” I’m looking at, for example, the differences between leading workshops and doing a needs assessment before that workshop. (The former is a common experience teachers have; the latter, not as much.)
At the end of the quiz, you’ll be able to identify gaps in your skills that you can work on this school year or recognize skills you currently have that probably aren’t reflected anywhere on your resume.
I’m going to continue to refine this skills analysis tool so I would love to hear any feedback you have. (Feel free to add comments to this post or reply to the email with private thoughts.)
Premium subscribers will be seeing this tool regularly — I’m creating skills analyses for the major types of jobs you’re applying to (I’ve got program management and some role in L&D on the calendar!). And, as it grows more sophisticated, I hope to use it to help you determine jobs you should apply for and how to pitch yourself.
This newsletter — a deep dive into School Success — is the kind of content that I provide to premium subscribers two times a month. If you want to level up your job search, sign up today!