From Elementary School Teacher to Product Marketing: Why I Decided to Pursue an Online MBA Program

Sometimes an unexpected turn can lead you to better places. Discover how Bethany went from school teacher to product manager while pursuing an online MBA program.
portrait of Bethany Little
Bethany Little
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I am a former fourth grade teacher who has transitioned into tech and am completing my MBA to advance myself forward in the tech space. I am a current master of business administration student with Western Governors University. I completed my bachelo...
Updated on June 26, 2023
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portrait of Cobretti D. Williams, Ph.D.
Cobretti D. Williams, Ph.D.
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Cobretti D. Williams, Ph.D. (he/him), is a scholar, writer, and editor. Cobretti's research and writing focuses on the experiences of historically excluded students and faculty and staff in higher education. His work has been published in the Journal...
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Growing up, I always had this picture of my job when I grew up and felt like I knew exactly what that would look like and what I wanted to do. Who knew middle and high school me would be so wrong?

As soon as I got into my "dream job," I began realizing this wasn't the dream I had envisioned. I decided to take the next step in my career seriously and make a decision that really felt natural, exciting, and fulfilling. This change led me to an online MBA program to continue moving forward in my career. And thus far, the lessons I've learned have been powerful and freeing.

The Dream Career I Imagined

My entire childhood, I dreamed of being a teacher. I've always loved children and had many family members who were teachers, so it was always something I wanted to do. While pursuing my bachelor's degree in elementary education, people would comment on my degree choice, reminding me how underpaid, undervalued, and overworked teachers are.

This caused me to question my career choice many times, but I stuck with it as I had no idea what else I would like to do or even could do. Eventually, I graduated with my teaching license and landed my first teaching position a few months later. I was so excited! I put hours and hours into setting up my classroom and getting everything ready for my first day.

This excitement began to wear off a couple of months into the school year as I started realizing how many additional hours teachers put in outside of their contracted hours. This includes the hours after school ends, at home most evenings, over the weekends, during school "breaks," and all the in-betweens. The job started taking time away from my husband and infant at home, and taking care of my household was being put on the back burner.

For the next few months, I kept going back and forth, trying to decide whether to continue to my second year of teaching. I loved my students and the relationships I was able to build with them, but the constant work was wearing me down. I began reading stories from other teachers who transitioned out of teaching and started researching different careers that they were able to get into. I read job postings and watched many YouTube videos on what different careers would look like.

At some point, I came across Real, a mental health app, that offered a career-focused course, and I decided to sign up. The goal of the app was to reflect on what would be best for your career happiness. During the course, they brought up something called "Ikigai," which is a Japanese term meaning "reason for being." This was an exercise that helped me narrow down my career choices into something that would better fit me and my needs.

I knew I wanted to solve problems in a creative way while also having autonomy in my work. This is where I began thinking about product management for software as a viable career option that would ignite my creativity and help me balance my life between work, family, and academics.

A New Job That Led Me to an Online MBA

After I finished the course on the app, I started applying for customer support jobs just to get out of teaching and into something else while I learned more about the career I wanted to pursue. I landed a customer support position for a company that has digital assessment tools for schools. This was the perfect transition job for me as it used my teaching experience and gave me a foot in the door with tech companies.

About three months into my new job, my love for the tech space started to grow, and I realized just how impactful customer voices are to the product and software. I loved the idea of being able to come up with solutions for real customer problems and help improve the software to fit their needs.

Now that I started seeing the possibilities of a career outside of education, I started looking into MBA programs. I felt like an MBA would give me the knowledge I needed to pursue product development, as well as other leadership positions within tech companies.

As I searched for MBA programs, I realized almost immediately that I needed an online degree program. With a two-year-old running around, a full-time job, and a household to keep together, my decision to choose an online MBA program felt like a no-brainer.

As I researched different online MBA programs, I noticed that some programs offered apps and other mobile options to do some school work on the go. This immediately stuck out to me as a huge plus. With a very busy schedule, I could easily get schoolwork done since I could read a textbook chapter in the doctor's office or on my lunch breaks, or even listen to the textbook read aloud to me while I cook dinner for the family.

The other very important aspect of my online MBA program was flexibility. If you're a parent or guardian, then you totally understand the unexpected changes in schedules that happen often. Some weeks are just crazy busy, while others — not so much. I needed a program that allowed me to get work done on my time and at times that worked around my schedule.

I ended up finding the perfect online MBA program for me at Western Governors University. Since starting the program, I have landed yet another new position as a customer enablement specialist for a tech company. I now conduct research on the different software use cases among different industries, identify solutions for these use cases, and help create product marketing materials for these solutions. This position has opened my eyes to what I enjoy and the possibilities that my MBA can help me achieve!

Sometimes the Unexpected Turns in Your Career Path Lead to the Best Places…

If there is anything I've learned while completing my MBA degree, it's that every step in my journey has led me to where I am today, and everything connects to something greater — even when you’re discouraged and it feels like you have no idea where you're headed!

My teaching experience grew my passion for data-driven decisions and my passion for creating innovative and creative solutions for problems. My customer support experience grew my passion for taking customer feedback and helping improve the product and customer experience. My current role has become a mix of all these passions and confirmed that these passions could coexist and come together in a product management role.

While my goal is to become a product manager, who actually knows where I'll end up? The path always seems to take on a mind of its own, and I've learned to embrace it with open arms as I continue learning and reflecting on my way through my career path.

Meet the Author

Portrait of Bethany Little

Bethany Little

I am a former fourth grade teacher who has transitioned into tech and am completing my MBA to advance myself forward in the tech space. I am a current master of business administration student with Western Governors University. I completed my bachelor's degree in elementary education with Indiana University and also completed a project management certification with Google. I work as a customer enablement specialist with a tech startup and can't wait to see where my MBA takes me in the future! My toddler and husband make up my time outside of my full-time job and schoolwork.

Little is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance Student Network.