Lifelong learning is a never-ending journey that brings meaning to the lives of many. Contributing towards this lifelong journey, empowering students along the way, Jan Mills is playing a massive role in bridging the gap between students and education content through the innovative education systems and services of ClassLink. Jan is the Senior VP of Sales at ClassLink and has a proven history of working within the e-learning industry.
Founded in 1998, ClassLink’s mission is to remove barriers between students and impactful education content. Educators, students, administrators, IT staff, and even parents use its solutions to ensure learning opportunities are never lost and schools thrive.
In an interview with Insights Success, Jan Mills shares her journey and contributions to the e-learning industry through ClassLink.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at ClassLink. What challenges did you have to overcome to reach where you are today?
My career began as a classroom teacher and later a Director of Instructional Technology for Irving ISD in Texas. After 17 years, I left to begin selling Apple Computers in the DFW area to school districts. For the past 27 years, I’ve worked for various companies, including AlphaSmart, Renaissance Learning, Pearson, Edmodo, and now ClassLink selling ed-tech solutions into school districts across the US. In the beginning, I had to completely learn selling skills and strategies that I didn’t have as a classroom teacher. Now, I’ve also had to learn leadership and management skills as I have moved to lead sales teams instead of having my territory. And I find that I am always learning – often through mistakes! But I have a great (and forgiving) team that allows me to continue to learn while leading.
Tell us something more about ClassLink, its mission, and its vision.
ClassLink has developed a OneClick Single Sign-On solution that I believe is the best in the industry. ClassLink creates more time for learning, improves access to digital resources, and simplifies rostering and account provisioning as a company dedicated to education. Education leaders use our Analytics to understand technology usage better and make informed purchasing and training decisions.
ClassLink aims to empower educators to improve learning through innovative systems and services. A reliable partner for districts and school systems worldwide, ClassLink makes access easy so educators can give students the best education possible.
Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in your respective niche through your expertise in the market.
Because of my longevity in the market, I’ve been able to take new and exciting products to my long list of contacts and share with them what I’ve found. Having been in their position in my past, I think it has given me a better understanding of some of their problems, and if I have a solution for them that solves a problem they might have, they are usually open to listening.
Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?
It is more common now for every student in a school district to have a device and/or access a device at school every day. These devices are bringing more and more applications to students to help them in their everyday learning. Single sign-on solutions, along with the analytics they can provide, are vital in helping students and staff access their applications and personalize what tools they want to use in their classrooms.
If given a chance, what change would you like to bring to your respective industry?
If I had the power, I’d do two things to change education: raise salaries of educators and get legislators to decrease the importance of state assessments so that teachers can teach subject matter and not ‘the test.’ I believe the teacher shortage is only going to get worse and that is worrisome for me.
What, according to you, could be the next big change in your respective industry? How is ClassLink preparing to be a part of that change?
Education has been slow to embrace major change, unfortunately. Technology has been a big part of education in the past three decades and is slowly allowing teachers and students to show understanding in new ways. More and more tools are being developed for education, and ClassLink can help districts see which tools are being used and allow students and staff to access them easily without wasting instructional time. We want to continue to help schools learn what tools are effective so that precious time and money are not wasted.
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run and what are your future goals for ClassLink?
I am in the last few years of my career, so I am where I want to be. Leading one of the best teams I’ve ever been a part of has been the apex of my career. ClassLink will continue to innovate and grow, not just here in the US but internationally as well. Our CEO, Berj Akian, has instilled in all of us a desire to serve the education industry and he is committed to always finding new ways we can build our product to deliver what our customers need. It’s been exciting to see what has happened here in the last six years I’ve been a part of ClassLink, and I know it’ll continue to be one of the best companies in the industry to work for long after I am gone.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into your respective sector?
First and foremost, build or represent a product that you have a true passion for. It is so much easier to be successful if you are sharing something you know will benefit the person on the other end. If you haven’t been in the setting you are selling into yourself, spend as much time as you can trying to understand what problems they have and how you can offer a viable solution. Learn to ask good questions, to listen actively, to present and speak in public with skill, and think creatively about how to get your message out. Understand that quality support and care after the sale are as important, if not more important, than anything you will do. Eventually, your customers will be the ones to help make you successful because they will be willing to tell their friends and colleagues about how you helped them.