Career Story: Director of Education and Workforce Development

Kelly, 27, is a program director at a public education nonprofit in San Jose. Learn about how she made compromises to navigate the costs of her own education.

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My name is Kelly Peaton.
KELLY PEATON, 27
DIR. OF EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT SILICON VALLEY ORGANIZATION

I'm 27 years old.

I'm the Director of Education
and Workforce Development

at the Silicon Valley
Organization Foundation.

And my annual salary is $110,000.

The Silicon Valley Organization,

and it used to be called
the Chamber of Commerce,

so it's a business organization,

but it does a lot more than that.

So, we do policy and advocacy.

We do community foundation work.

We do economic development work,

and we do political action.

So, in my role with Strive San Jose,

I'm in the non-profit arm

of the Silicon Valley Organization.

And Strive San Jose connects
industry, businesses,

to our school district partners,

to connect students to work-based
learning opportunities,

to connect teachers
to externships in industry,

to help business and industry
give feedback on curriculum,

and to do everything
related to career pathways.

My main responsibilities are sort of

bucketed into responsibilities
for the program

and responsibilities
for the organization.

So program wise, setting goals
for Strive San Jose.

Setting metrics,
setting the strategic direction,

and making sure that our programs

are performing with the quality

and effectiveness
that we want them to.

On the organizational side of things,
KELLY’S JOB RESPONSIBILITIES:
-SETTING GOALS AND METRICS FOR
THE ORGANIZATION

there's organizational funding,

occasionally doing grant proposals,
-FUNDRAISING AND MANAGING
DONOR RELATIONSHIPS

reaching out to funders,
thanking donors,

and keeping those
relationships solid.

There's also coaching
and managing my team.
-COACHING AND MANAGING TEAMS

And then also doing all
the little things

that you don't think of when
you're directing a program,

like internal communications,
-INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL
COMMUNICATIONS

and then also doing
a lot of relationship building
-BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH
PARTNERS

with our partners,
school district partners,

as well as business partners.

You can succeed in this role

with a variety of different skills

because there's scope to accomplish

these things in sort of your own way.

But some of the skills that
I'd say are absolutely necessary

are project management, so being able

to scope out a project,
set intermediate deadlines

and accomplish those things on time.

Other necessary skills
are communications.

In the non-profit world,

you have to work with a wide
variety of stakeholders.

So for me, I work with everyone
from high school students,

to business owners, to funders,

and that requires
being able to communicate

with many different people,

who communicate in different ways.

Some of the mindsets
that are important to succeed

in a non-profit role like mine,

are definitely
having a growth mindset.

There are going to be times
when you make mistakes.

There have been times
when I've made mistakes.

And you have to not let
that stop you from going on,

or the fear of making mistakes

stop you from trying something new.

Something that I think people

don't think about
in the non-profit world

is that you fundraise for

the entire non-profit budget.

So, if my salary grows over time here,

it's because our fundraising
has grown,

and because the program has grown.

So, opportunities
for advancement in my salary

and in my role really come from

growing the program
and growing the program's budget.

How I got into this career
was definitely a process.
KELLY PEATON, 27
DIR. OF EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT, SILICON VALLEY ORGANIZATION

I did not start college thinking
that this is the direction

I wanted to go.
So I definitely started out

on an academic route.

I thought that
I would finish college,

get a master's
and then a PhD and maybe be

a college professor.

It was through my undergrad
experience and getting involved

in a student group that did
alternative service trips

that I became far more
interested in doing something

that involved social
impact with my career.

And many of my peers
were doing AmeriCorps programs

or Peace Corps or City Year
or Teach for America

which is what I ended up doing.
It was in the process

of doing Teach for America
that I became more committed

to education and closing
the achievement gap

as the central problem
that I wanted to attack

through my career.
And then it was through a process

of talking with other people
in the Teach for America

network and seeing
what they were doing.

Seeing what they'd done
after Teach for America,

doing informational interviews,

and then going on to getting
a Master's in Public Policy

on the advice of some of my mentors

and some of my friends.
And it was in getting

that Master's in Public
Policy that I learned

about different
opportunities and different areas

where I could interact
with the education system,

and eventually found
my way over to this job.

This job in particular
I got through my network.

So, I was getting my Master's
in Public Policy

and I was looking for
an internship opportunity

in-between the first
and second years of my program.

And I was going through
the traditional routes,

applying to different
summer internship programs

at different big businesses,
different big nonprofits,

different name brands,
but I was also sending out my resume

to my network, to friends
that I'd met from college,
MANY JOB OPENINGS ARE
NEVER ADVERTISED ONLINE.
NETWORKING CAN HELP
YOU ACCESS THE HIDDEN
JOB MARKET.

through Teach for America,
and letting them know,

"I'm looking for a summer
opportunity in these areas.

If you know of anything, let me know."

And I was actually getting
a little disappointed

cause I was getting rejections back

from some of the big
names I was applying to,

but one of my friends
out here in California

sent my resume to the then
Chamber of Commerce

who was looking for
someone exactly like me.

They were looking for
someone with experience

in education, experience
in policy, because they were

looking to expand what
they were doing in education

and workforce development.

And so when my friend shared
my resume with the Chamber

they were like, "This is
who we're looking for."

And after a quick phone interview,

we were like,
"This is a perfect fit."

And so I came out here
for the summer to do

an unpaid internship,
though I did get funding

from my university to help cover it.

And then it was through
my performance

in the internship
that I got my job offer

at the end of the summer.

They asked me
to come back and work here

as the Director of Strive San Jose

and sort of carry on the work
that I'd started over the summer.

The growth opportunities
in the nonprofit space

are interesting.

If you're in a very sort of
established nonprofit,

then there might be
a traditional career ladder.

I'm a program director,
so moving up would be

the executive director
of the entire nonprofit.

But otherwise
if you're in a smaller nonprofit,

like we are at the moment,
your growth opportunities

come from growing the program,

increasing the scale
and increasing the funding

for more positions
and basically to fundraise

your own pay raise
and your own bonuses.

My aspirations
are to continue working on

the opportunity gap,
the achievement gap,

in the American public
education system.

So for me what that means
is continually

upgrading my skillset
and my knowledge

of the education system
and the efforts at play.

And always looking for
the opportunities

and the leverage
points that I think

are going to help me
impact the system.

And actually close achievement gaps,

close opportunity gaps.

So my aspirations
are to continue working

in this field
and hopefully see change

over my lifetime.

People who are interested
in my field,

I definitely recommend getting
as much personal experience

as possible.

Doing Teach for America
and spending two years

in the classroom,
I didn't realize how valuable

that would be in terms
of really understanding -

sort of understanding
maybe why things

haven't changed
in education and getting

a more in-depth
understanding of the system.

So definitely if you're working
in the nonprofit space,

if you're working
in the social impact space,

there's no substitute
for personal experience.

So I definitely recommend that.

Probably one of the things
that I wish I'd had

more experience with
and a broader skill set in

is data analysis
and data visualization.

So I mean very specifically
being proficient

in Excel, learning tools
like R or Tableau.

Basically being comfortable
with data and statistics

because these are powerful
tools for answering questions

about the effectiveness
of your program,

if what you're doing is working,

if it works better
for some people versus others.

That's one skill set
that I sort of continuously

try and upgrade,
but wish that I'd sort of

done more of that in undergrad maybe.

And then other parts
of being successful in this role

and preparing yourself
for something in this role

is definitely community engagement.

I think often people
sort of have this idea

that they're gonna
come in and save things

and make everything
better and it's really

just not the case.

You have to come in and think

that you're committed
to helping solve the problem

but that you're going
to be working

with a group of other people
who are committed

to helping solve the problem.

And that other people
are the experts in their own lives

and in the systems
they're operating with.

So coming in with that mindset
that you're not there

to save anyone, you're not there
with a brand-new solution

that's gonna fix everything
and make it better.

You're there to get in
and do the work with them.

My name's Kelly Peaton.
KELLY PEATON, 27
DIR. OF EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT, SILICON VALLEY ORGANIZATION

I'm Director of Education
and Workforce Development

at the Silicon Valley
Organization Foundation.

My annual salary is $110,000.

My relationship to money probably
comes mostly from my parents.

My parents were really
big on avoiding debt

and on me avoiding debt.

I think they'd seen friends
and family rack up

student loans or credit card debt

and it'd be really limiting.

So I'd say that's probably one
of my primary motivations

in relationship to money,
so I'm a big saver.

I basically try to save a lot,

but also I'm not particularly
good at budgeting.

I'd say probably one
of my pitfalls in terms of money

is that I don't necessarily
set up categories

and be really strategic
about how much I spend

on certain things each month
and keeping up with it.

I don't have any student loans.

Again, my parents were big
on me avoiding student debt.

Florida has a great tuition program.

It's called Florida Bright Futures,

and if you have a certain GPA
and do a certain amount

of volunteer hours, then you get

the Bright Futures Scholarship

which covers in-state tuition.

They also had,
my parents also invested

in Florida prepaid,
which is a savings plan for college

that they invested in
with the help of my grandparents.

And invested when we were very young,

when we were babies
and that helped cover cost of living

and other things related to college.

So, I graduated
debt-free from undergrad.

And then for my Master's,
I got a Teach for America

Public Service Fellowship
to the Harvard Kennedy School,

and that covered tuition

but it's a public service fellowship

so it requires that I work
for the government

or a nonprofit
organization like this one

for three years upon graduating.

And I really support these types

of public service fellowships.

Lots of schools
and universities do them

to make it easier for people
who are interested

in public service to go ahead
and get higher education

but still do these types of roles.

I also got an AmeriCorps
Education Award

as part of the Teach
for America program,

and that covered,
that helped cover cost of living

while I was doing my Master's program.

Annually, my take home pay
is $110,000.

So monthly that works out to $9,167.
KELLY’S BUDGET:
MONTHLY SALARY $9,167

So each month,
out of that comes taxes

and other deductions
totaling $4,326.
TAXES AND OTHER DEDUCTIONS ̴ $4,326

So part of that is taxes,
both federal and state

and California is a pretty
high-tax state.

But also out of that comes savings

to my retirement account

and I deduct the maximum that you can

into your retirement
account each year.

And also part of that is deductions

to a health savings account, which is

a tax advantaged account
that you can put money into

to pay for things like copays
and other healthcare

related expenditures.
But there's caps

on how much you can
contribute each year.

So, after taxes and retirement
and other deductions,

my take home monthly pay is $4,841.
NET TAKE HOME INCOME $4,841

So first out of that comes rent

and I pay $525 each month in rent
RENT $525

which is really great
for the Bay Area,

but I share rent with my fiancé

and we also have
two roommates so that helps

keep costs low.

Then utilities are $60 a month
for the electric bill,
UTILITIES $60

internet is $75,
and that also includes
INTERNET AND STREAMING $75

our streaming services
like Netflix and Hulu.

Then phone is $50 a month.
PHONE $50

The car payment which is also shared
CAR EXPENSES $560

with my fiancé is $560,
and that covers

the lease payment,
as well as insurance

and electric charging
because we have an electric,

not a gas car.

I have zero dollars in student loans

which is very nice.
And then my food bill

is pretty high,
it's about $460 a month,
GROCERIES $460

it's partly cost
of living, also partly

how much I like my coffee.

And then in terms

of entertainment
and restaurants,

I spend about $220 a month.
RESTAURANTS AND ENTERTAINMENT $220

So left over after all
of that is $1,958

and each month I put
at least $500 away
SAVINGS $500+

into a savings account,
so that leaves about $1,458

left over to get spent on
different variable expenses,

travel, gifts for people, and money

that doesn't get spent
goes into savings.

I'm not a big budgeter.

I've tried many times
but I'm not pretty good

at sticking with tracking
and categorizing my spending.

So sitting down to do
my budget was a bit

of a process.

I knew that I spent a fair bit
on food and restaurants,

but didn't realize quite
how much I'd been spending.

So that was probably one
of the big surprises.

One of the good pieces
of advice that I've heard

and is true, it's really
easy to raise

your standard of living
without you noticing.

It's easy to get used to monthly
manicures and pedicures

or get used to three-dollar
coffee every morning,

and to sort of have
your expenses rise    

without you noticing
and then feel like you can't

dial it back down.

So I'm glad that I had
that piece of advice

and to sort of not let
my expenditures rise

without me noticing,
and to also think

how I spend and prioritize it
around my goals.

Actually being intentional
around, well, I have a goal

of travel and seeing
my nieces and nephew,

so that comes first.

So taking money out of your paycheck

so that you don't,
it doesn't feel like a loss.

I think that that is probably
one of the things

that lets me not budget super closely

is that I automatically
save for retirement.

I automatically put money
into a health savings account.

I automatically
directly deposit money

into a savings account,
so that the money

that I actually see,
as money that I get to spend,

is actually like the money
that I have to spend.

All of the savings
and bills and things,

they happen sort
of without me seeing it.

And I try doing that
as much as possible,

like automating having
the money just go directly

into your savings account
so you don't even see it,

you don't feel like it's a loss.

When I was in high school,
KELLY PEATON, 27
DIR. OF EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT, SILICON VALLEY ORGANIZATION

I really wanted to go
to a small liberal arts school.

There was actually this one
that did the entire curriculum

through reading books
and having small seminars

and this was just my dream.

I wanted to be holed up
with a bunch of other nerds

just talking about books all day.

But my mother

really wanted me to graduate

from college without student debt.

And there were lots
of great universities in Florida.

I mean, they weren't what I wanted.

They were big schools,
big research universities,

there were a couple of smaller ones,

but part of it too
was that I wanted to go

to a big-name school as well.

But my parents were very insistent:

Florida has a great
scholarship program,

low in-state tuition,
and also great investment,

college savings investment plan.

And so if I went to a public
university in Florida,

I would be good to go,
I would have tuition covered,

also living expenses.

It was just a deal
that was too good to turn down

in my parents' minds at least.

Me, being an 18-year-old,

who just wanted to go
read books all day,

I was not so jazzed about it.

I was actually so sort of like
upset that I was like,

"Fine, I'm only going to apply
to one school in Florida,

and that's it."

And so I just applied
to the University of Florida

because in my mind, I'm like, well

that's the best school in Florida

so I'm only going
to apply to that one.

I wasn't super excited
to be going off to college

to a big school, a football school.

I didn't even
like football at the time.

And when I got on campus,

I wasn't the typical
freshman excited to be there.

But what people
don't realize about a big school

with 50,000 people

is that, amongst those
50,000 people, you can find people

who you connect with.

I found my nerds.

I also found things
I wasn't expecting.

I got involved with
a service organization

that really made me
change course in life.

We did service trips
during spring break.

So instead of going
to Cancun or Miami,

I went to North Carolina
and helped build fences

at a tiger preservation.

Or I went to South Carolina
to help do legal work

for migrant farm workers.

Great experiences.

The best part,

and the part that I didn't
realize going into it

that my parents were
so insistent about,

is that I graduated
without student debt.

And the reason
that my mom always gave

over and over again,

about why she was so insistent
I go to a state school

was because it gave me more freedom.

When I graduated from college,
I could take a job I wanted.

Not a job that I needed
in order to pay off

these student loans
that were gonna be coming due

right after I graduated.

And when I was younger,

I didn't appreciate
what that freedom meant

because I had always
been financially free,

dependent on my parents.

But it meant that I could
take a position

like Teach for America,

where I was making a teacher's salary

and I didn't have
student loans to pay off.

My name is Kelly Peaton.
KELLY PEATON, 27
DIR. OF EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT SILICON VALLEY ORGANIZATION

I'm 27 years old.

I'm the Director of Education
and Workforce Development

at the Silicon Valley
Organization Foundation.

And my annual salary is $110,000.

The Silicon Valley Organization,

and it used to be called
the Chamber of Commerce,

so it's a business organization,

but it does a lot more than that.

So, we do policy and advocacy.

We do community foundation work.

We do economic development work,

and we do political action.

So, in my role with Strive San Jose,

I'm in the non-profit arm

of the Silicon Valley Organization.

And Strive San Jose connects
industry, businesses,

to our school district partners,

to connect students to work-based
learning opportunities,

to connect teachers
to externships in industry,

to help business and industry
give feedback on curriculum,

and to do everything
related to career pathways.

My main responsibilities are sort of

bucketed into responsibilities
for the program

and responsibilities
for the organization.

So program wise, setting goals
for Strive San Jose.

Setting metrics,
setting the strategic direction,

and making sure that our programs

are performing with the quality

and effectiveness
that we want them to.

On the organizational side of things,
KELLY’S JOB RESPONSIBILITIES:
-SETTING GOALS AND METRICS FOR
THE ORGANIZATION

there's organizational funding,

occasionally doing grant proposals,
-FUNDRAISING AND MANAGING
DONOR RELATIONSHIPS

reaching out to funders,
thanking donors,

and keeping those
relationships solid.

There's also coaching
and managing my team.
-COACHING AND MANAGING TEAMS

And then also doing all
the little things

that you don't think of when
you're directing a program,

like internal communications,
-INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL
COMMUNICATIONS

and then also doing
a lot of relationship building
-BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH
PARTNERS

with our partners,
school district partners,

as well as business partners.

You can succeed in this role

with a variety of different skills

because there's scope to accomplish

these things in sort of your own way.

But some of the skills that
I'd say are absolutely necessary

are project management, so being able

to scope out a project,
set intermediate deadlines

and accomplish those things on time.

Other necessary skills
are communications.

In the non-profit world,

you have to work with a wide
variety of stakeholders.

So for me, I work with everyone
from high school students,

to business owners, to funders,

and that requires
being able to communicate

with many different people,

who communicate in different ways.

Some of the mindsets
that are important to succeed

in a non-profit role like mine,

are definitely
having a growth mindset.

There are going to be times
when you make mistakes.

There have been times
when I've made mistakes.

And you have to not let
that stop you from going on,

or the fear of making mistakes

stop you from trying something new.

Something that I think people

don't think about
in the non-profit world

is that you fundraise for

the entire non-profit budget.

So, if my salary grows over time here,

it's because our fundraising
has grown,

and because the program has grown.

So, opportunities
for advancement in my salary

and in my role really come from

growing the program
and growing the program's budget.