The Big Picture, New Perspectives, and a Promotion

The UP Education Network is a nonprofit school management organization that oversees in-district school turnaround in Massachusetts. Recruitment of talented, mission-oriented educators is critical for the organization’s success as it works to rapidly transform chronically underperforming district schools.

One of the organization’s key leaders in recruiting new talent is Tarah Mohika, who took a manager position with the UP Education Network’s recruitment team in 2013. Tarah’s supervisor at the time, Victoria Lautsch, encouraged her to participate in Education Pioneers’ Visiting Fellowship. Soon after Tarah finished her Visiting Fellowship in 2016, she was promoted to Director of Outreach and Partnerships at UP Education Network.

“I think Tarah’s EP Fellowship really helped her get the new job,” said Lautsch, director of selection and staffing at the UP Education Network. “It polished her presentation skills and got her thinking more about the big picture. When you’re stuck in a manager level, you get pigeon-holed and focused on what you’re doing. The Visiting Fellowship helped her gain a bigger picture and a new perspective, and helped her learn about the education landscape around the United States.”

The UP Education Network is a huge supporter of Education Pioneers – Chief Talent Officer Sheri Leo is an EP Alum and is very active in supporting the organization, and Lautsch enrolled in the Emerging Human Capital Leaders Initiative. Lautsch said the professional development offered by EP is key for education leaders who are not in a classroom or a school building.

“Adult learning is very important, but the only adult learning we usually think about is, what do the adults in our schools need to get better?” Lautsch said. “We’re only as good as the people around us, so if we stagnate, how are we supposed to support the people in the schools?”

We spoke with Mohika to find out more about her Visiting Fellow experience:

 EP:  What made the Education Pioneers Visiting Fellowship appealing? Were there other professional development opportunities you were considering?

 TM:  “What made it so appealing to me was the opportunity to build a network. At the time,  I worked with a lot of hiring managers, but I didn’t work with many people outside of my organization. I had recently transitioned from a role as an aide to a congresswoman. I had built a big network. So in my transition, I felt like I wasn’t continuing to grow my network. It was an opportunity for me to meet people in my new field — education — who were also interested in education reform.

“I hadn’t been thinking about any particular professional development program, and was curious about what was out there. I had just begun understanding all of the organizations and players in the education sector and I didn’t really know where to start. I kept hearing from others in my organization about the EP Visiting Fellowship as a great professional development opportunity.”

 EP:  “What new piece of information or perspective did you gain during your EP Visiting Fellowship?”

 TM:  “There were a couple. From a professional standpoint, I learned more about how to step back and learn strategies to look at my work from the big picture. We learned from current leaders in education organizations about how they take a big-picture approach, and we learned methods of mapping out problems when we are working to make change. For me, this was very helpful.

“Also, I knew I wanted to move up within my organization and take a leadership role, but I wasn’t sure what my next step would be, or what I had to do to get there. Part of the program provided an opportunity for me to pause, reflect, think about my goals, and find structured ways to get there.”

 EP:  “What would you say to other education leaders who are considering the EP Visiting Fellowship?”

 TM:  “They should take the opportunity. It is an awesome way to meet individuals who are like-minded, who are willing to engage in authentic discussions on education reform, and are willing to be thought partners. For example, I brought a real problem I was facing at work to a group of individuals in my cohort who didn’t have my expertise but were willing to give an ear and suggestions to implement and solve the problem. After the fellowship, I have been in contact with a few people in my cohort to talk about problems we are facing at work. I’ve really appreciated having thought partners.”

 EP:  “How did participating in the Visiting Fellowship expand your own network, and how do you plan to utilize the EP network in the future?”

 TM:  “My biggest takeaway is the network. I’ve been able to connect with people in my cohort since the fellowship, and EP does a lot to get Alumni together. I work full-time, but I’m also a mother and a wife, so it’s really important for me that when I’m engaging in networking opportunities they are purposeful and beneficial in maximizing the time I have to expand my network.

“In my leadership style, I really believe in learning and development and giving people opportunities. Now that I’m a hiring manager and as I progress in my career, I see EP as a source of talent for people who are mission-aligned and dedicated to education.”