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General Manager of Elevate Education USA
Rob studied Bachelor of Commerce (First Class Honours) majoring in Finance and Business Law
What’s your job about
The company that I work for, Elevate Education, conducts workshops and seminars in schools across the world. We organize with schools to send in speakers who are either still studying at university or have recently graduated, to show their students about effective study skills (note taking, time management, memory skills and exam preparation).
My role is General Manager of Elevate Education in the United States. As the company is in its start-up phase, I am wearing a number of different hats all at once! My major roles include creating and managing the strategic direction of the business (creating business plans, sales plans, marketing plans, etc.), managing the financials of the business (including the budget and P&L), maintaining a sales pipeline, managing the logistics of seminar bookings and managing the recruitment, training and ongoing coaching of both new full-time staff and new presenters. It’s really exciting to be able to manage so many different roles all at once, because it gives you a real finger on the pulse of every aspect of the business. Currently we have a team of 9 (with the average age of the team being 24), but with the rapid pace of growth at the moment, over the next 12 months we are going to be growing this number up to 30. Our office is in Hoboken, New Jersey, which is on the other side of the Hudson River to Manhattan, which means we can see all of the famous buildings every time we look out the window, which is pretty cool!
What is your background
I grew up in the northern suburbs of Sydney, New South Wales. I attended Knox Grammar School finishing high school in 2008, before completing a Bachelor of Commerce (First Class Honours) majoring in Finance and Business Law. I always thought growing up that I would most likely end up working for an investment bank, but the longer I went through my degree, the more I realized I was less interested in spending time building models in Excel, and was more interested in spending my time working for a company where I felt I was making a real difference.
I started at Elevate in December 2010 as a presenter in a part-time capacity. I had heard about the job through a few friends of mine who were already part of the company and thought to myself “I’m a pretty confident public speaker, I’m sure I could be able to do this.”
When I was finishing up my degree, the Chairman of Elevate sat me down and offered me a full time position as part of the business development team in the Australian office. I jumped at the opportunity, and relished the idea that if I performed well, then I might have the opportunity to start up my own international branch of Elevate (just as a fellow presenter in Team NSW had done in the UK).
I worked in the Australian office for 12 months before I began the due diligence work needed to open up the US business on the East Coast. This meant that I started travelling to New York every few months to meet with schools to discuss Elevate. I met with some of the most diverse schools that you can imagine; ranging from the Gossip Girl-style Upper East Side private schools, through to some schools in the lowest socio-economic areas of Harlem and the Bronx. After some necessary curriculum adjustments, I began the process of selling to schools and attempting to build the business. While initially there were a number of reservations that Principals and Superintendents had about outsourcing part of their curriculum to a 23 year-old Australian (I would have been equally concerned!), we started to very slowly grow a base of clients. Fast forward now to 2016 and we have over 100 schools that are loyal Elevate clients who are all having fantastic experiences, and we are growing now just as much by word-of-mouth than having to put the hard sell on schools.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Absolutely someone else could do my job! The make-up of our workforce is incredibly diverse, but the one thing that we will not compromise on is the values that are held across the business. If you want to success at Elevate, you need to have a passion for helping kids, you have a real interested in personal and professional development and constantly learning, and you need to want to get involved in all aspects of the business. Elevate is not a job that you will turn up to and only push Buttons A and B. You will very quickly get thrust with responsibility that in most workforces would be reserved for someone with many years of experience, but you will get from Day One, and you are going to want to have a real intellectual curiosity to swim!
What’s the coolest thing about your job?
The fact that within 5 years of starting at Elevate I have moved to a position where I now run an entire international business out of the USA. I don’t think I could ever have imagined starting up and running a business out of New York at the age of 23, but here I am!
The other awesome part of the job is that the company is brimming with young, intelligent, ambitious and incredibly charismatic people. You have to be if your job is to get up in front of a crowd and present day after day!
What are the limitations of your job?
At the moment, the greatest limitation of the job is managing the growing pains of a rapidly growing business. This does mean that sometimes you will be asked to perform duties that will take you off task from what you feel is your major responsibility. While there is not a culture of late hours or working on the weekends, sometimes this means you must put in the late nights during particularly busy times of the year.
Also, if you choose to work in customer service at Elevate, you will get very used to speaking with employees and teachers either on the weekend or before 8am responding to the very occasional urgent situation.
3 pieces of advice you would give yourself as a student
- Big companies are great, but if you are in them for the wrong reasons, you will quit within 3 years. I know too many people who have done this.
- Do not wear the 60+ hour work week as a badge of honour. Having to work past midnight shouldn’t be something you are proud of.
- Don’t wait until opportunities are handed to you, seek them out. Even if you may not think you are ready for a new role or responsibility, find out what you need to do to get there and remove the element of luck that it will fall in your lap.