Jordan Pedraza is Head of University Support at Handshake, a career development and recruiting platform for college students. Before Handshake, Jordan has worked at 2 startups and was a Senior Program Manager with Google for Education for 5 years in customer success, marketing, and operations. Jordan is also Past President of the Pomona College Alumni Association, served as a Trustee, and has volunteered with its Career Development Office. Jordan is passionate about empowering students and educators, social justice, and advocating for girls and women of color in technology.
1.) What was your most valuable student experience while at Pomona (sports, internships, extracurriculars, on-campus job, etc.)?
The most valuable part of my student experience at Pomona was serving on committees. As a student I served on the Teaching and Learning Committee and 2 Faculty Search Committees. These experiences connected me with more faculty, staff, and campus leaders I would have never otherwise met. Through these connections I obtained new internship and job opportunities that built my resume as a new grad. Committee work involves research, public speaking, event management, project management, communication, collaboration, and stakeholder engagement - valuable skills that helped me get future opportunities at Pomona and beyond.
2.) What is the most challenging aspect of your work? What is most rewarding?
The most challenging aspect of my work is prioritization. Handshake is a startup so that means we have to be very thoughtful about our use of time and resources. Every day, week, and month I have a long ambitious list of goals and only so much time outside of meetings to get things done, and it can be challenging to make difficult tradeoffs or move things down the list even if I'm very excited about them. Do I prioritize work on our customer conference or our troubleshooting guides? The most rewarding aspect of my work is the problems I get to solve. I love operations, working with data, and empowering people. Every day I have to figure out how to build the best systems, tools, and culture in order to develop the best team that supports our Handshake schools. I love digging into the questions and challenges our schools and my team faces and developing solutions. Last year I developed a new strategy for schools to submit support questions so we could capture more information upfront to help them more quickly and effectively. Nothing is more satisfying than making everyone's lives easier!
3.) What do you wish you’d known when first starting out in your career?
I wish I did more research on the possible functions, industries, and pathways that I could pursue. I still ended up in the right industry and function so there's no regrets there, but if I knew about other options I would have been even more informed and intentional about the roles and companies I chose to work with early in my career. The first 5 years of your career build a critical foundation and platform for future opportunities. It also just doesn't boil down to role or company, but what you actually work on, learn, and the impact you have.
4.) What is the most difficult interview question you’ve been asked?
The most difficult interview question I've been asked was "Let's say your team is 30% behind their target goal for the quarter. What do you do?" It's tricky to think of how I would address challenges like this on the spot. I've learned it's important to prepare and practice how you approach solving problems and have a clear, powerful example ready for when you turned things around. I now like to bring a pen and notebook to interviews or use a whiteboard to express my thoughts more effectively.
5.) Was your first job after graduating from Pomona related to your current profession?
My first job out of Pomona was Research Assistant Programmer at Mathematica Policy Research in Oakland, CA. I majored in Sociology and at the time I was still deciding if I wanted to go onto academia to become a professor and get a PhD. This role honed my analytical, data, project management, and communication skills that have served me in all roles and companies I've worked with since then. To this day I have to pull several reports, build custom dashboards, and interpret trends or insights to make a course of action. I'm very grateful I started out my career with this foundation.
6.) How do you stay up to date on trends within your industry? (books, professional associations, journals, conferences)
I use a variety of sources to stay plugged into my industry. It's important to think about different intersections, angles, and venues for information. For example I work in Support, in Education Technology, in the Bay Area as a Black woman and women of color. There are tons of different communities and outlets to learn and network. I'm in communities for Black women in tech, women in edtech, support in tech, community in tech, and SF Support Leaders just to name a few. I've also read several books on leadership and customer success (I highly recommend the First 90 Days and Harvard Business Review's anthology on Leading People!). I love reading the HBR blog too. I've attended some conferences such as NACE, Tech Intersections, Breaking Glass Forums, and CMX. Lastly I subscribe to a few outlets such as EdSurge, Medium, FirstRound, Diverse Issues in Higher Ed, and browse Twitter and Facebook for current news and trends.