Handing off the Mic: Introductions with K12 Tech’s Sean and Mike


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  • Zach:

Hello. You’re listening to the K-12 tech podcast, bringing you insights into the world of education technology. Stay tuned as we discuss the past, the present, and most importantly, the future of technology in our schools. And it’ll like you’ll hear it. All right, we’re recording.

Hello. And thank you for joining the K12 Tech Podcast. I have been your host, Zack Marvel, and today we are doing a podcast handoff. We have Mike Hotseller and Sean Cardwell on and they’ll introduce themselves. But just due to us growing and my schedule being very inconsistent with us trying to get I guess I it was good for me to do a handoff with two staff members who are both subject matter experts in our boots on the ground, but have more of a consistent schedule to do this in a biweekly manner. So I’d like to introduce Sean and Mike.

Sean, aren’t you start kind of introducing yourself where you grew up, all of the good stuff, and then kind of what brought you to K 12 tech?

  • Sean:

Sure. Yeah. So I grew up. Well, my name’s Sean Cardwell. I grew up in a smaller town on the northeast side of Ohio. And I went to school at a public school made about 360 graduating class. We did not have 1 to 1 devices. Back when I was in school, which would have been nice, but we had computer labs. And then I went to school for teaching in 2007 at Dayton. And I graduate season 11 and was a teacher for four years after that.

Again, did not have 1 to 1 devices and would have been great when I was teaching the awesome resource but then decided teaching really wasn’t for me. Got into sales for the franchise of CPR, cell phone repair. CPR was moving in a different direction and not really doing franchise sales. So the I guess owner of CPR asked if I wanted to move into K-12 and work with schools again and they’re 1 to 1 devices time had Zack and move that direction in was that October of 2019

  • Zach:

I think it’s been at least three years because he came on with us before I moved Valpo

  • Sean:

Yup so in 18 or 19 I think it was 19 and have been working with Northeast Ohio, Pennsylvania and some New York school ever since.

  • Zach:

And that’s awesome. Like, yeah, you kind of were our first location manager we hired for a new for Cleveland. You were like started in in the thick of it. Like you were doing repairs, you were doing sales service, you were doing roots.

And you know that that location is obviously growing quite a bit since then due to your efforts. Mike. Mike, how about you introduce yourself and kind of how you came up through Keto Tech?

  • Mike:

Yeah. So my name is Mike Hotseller I grew up in Beech Grove, Indiana, a small little suburb of Indianapolis. My high school was pretty small, I think. Or my school district. I think it’s about 3000 students total. Um. In high school. We actually has a program called Repair Class Support Program was one of the first schools that offered that. So I signed up and we actually learned how to prepare our students Chromebooks. And then through that, I got offered an internship at K12.

I’ve started on as just a part time tech and just kind of worked my way up to where I’m at now doing sales. I actually led the support program for a little bit. Now I handle sales for Northwest Indiana, Illinois and part of Michigan for now. And then also, I believe, doing training for some new sales staff as well. Now I really enjoy K12. Like I said, the car has been really nice and I’ve put in a lot of effort and I feel happy to be here and getting rewarded for that.

  • Zach:

So yeah, like the great philosopher said, started from the bottom. Now you’re here. And yeah. So for those that don’t know, our new corporate headquarters in Valparaiso is in the process of getting done as of right now, Lord willing, eight weeks away. So, Mike actually moved up to Valparaiso to help with our sales training program there, but then also to be the rep for this area. So. Yeah. And you said your high school was pretty. Your school system was pretty small at 50 in my graduating class, and it was a public school.

So, yeah, I can I can relate with that. And your district’s big compared to where I went, but so really love having both of you guys on number one. Sean, you coming from being a teacher and actually being in the schools teaching and just seeing how students interact not only with devices, computer labs and stuff like that and knowing the environment. And then, Mike, you starting all the way from the bottom, you know, even pre internship, I don’t even know how you do that, but basically being a part of our repair support team at Beech Grove and then coming up and you’re a repair technician, then you’re a leading repair class support and then moving into a to a sales role. So one day it’s kind of important just to just for the listeners to know kind of your background and experience. Sean, can you kind of talk to a little bit of like what does a day to day look like with you working with your current clients and then working with new potential clients?

  • Sean:

So I would say the biggest thing is the day to day has changed dramatically from first opened in the Cleveland office to now. So when we first opened here, it was a lot of calls on the road. It was a lot of emailing, cold calling from the very beginning just to get the ball rolling.

Now that the office is actually, I don’t wanna say self-sufficient, but leads are coming in on their own instead of necessarily having to go out and find them. It is making sure that they’re responded to within 24 hours, if not sooner, in the amount of time you get like that.

Thanks for the quick response. Email is great. But you know, it’s it’s one of those things where the office is kind of taking its own little and almost becomes a little animal. So, you know, we come in at we work from 8 to 4 generally just because we try to match the schools hours as much as we can. And then from day to day, it’s figuring out when routes are going to go out. And if so, if there’s a school that’s on a route tomorrow, we need to get those devices done by today. And that’s still part of the like office manager part, but.

  • Zach:

It’s still.

  • Sean:

Kind of a different situation here in Cleveland as far as what roles are doing what. And then it’s emailing current clients to making sure that they don’t need anything right now, or if there is something they do need, how fast we can get it to them. I’m on the phone a lot, especially with giving tech directors my cell phone number. I’m always reachable, which is, I think, very important. And it helps build that 1 to 1 relationship that we look for versus being a large company that is going to just have an account number and a computer somewhere. But there’s also a lot of making sure that the techs are actually doing what they’re supposed to be doing when they’re supposed to be doing it. You know, there might be 15 easy LCD fixes sitting on the shelf, but that school doesn’t need their computers back until Friday.

But the four motherboard replacements need to be done by tomorrow. Well, let’s make sure that we get those four motherboards done before the LCDs, because you can do those in 20 minutes or however fast it takes. So it’s it is a lot of it’s still a lot of managing, but it’s also going out to schools in person. If you can figure out which building the tech director should be in at that time, they’re not always there, obviously, but just coming from the teaching background, I do understand that. From second to second every single day. Plans change from the school’s perspective, so it’s really hard to schedule things.

But when we do get things scheduled, generally it sticks to that schedule, which is good. I feel like at this point I’m rambling, but I would say that, you know, it’s just it’s so. Working for K 12 is actually a lot of fun because things do change all the time and it just it’s one of those adaptive. Places to be where, oh, you need this. And then next time you talk to them, they’re like, Oh, we actually need to cover 200 more computers. And you’re like, Oh, okay, well, we can get that for you. Like it, it’s just one of those like we can make it work forever.

The school needs whenever they need it. And I think that’s a really cool thing about being not necessarily a smaller company, but a tight knit company that works very closely with schools on a personal level versus a corporate level. And I think that’s really unique about K12 and it’s a lot of fun.

  • Zach:

Yeah, that is true. I mean, as a team, we are consistently in communication and we do use phone quite a bit. And the problem is, is every school is so different. So a quick email a lot of times isn’t going to cut it. We try to stay in really good contact with our schools and having that local meet up so we can see what the problem is on site and not just like, Oh, here’s some pictures and you’re kind of shoot in the dark, but we actually get our hands on it.

So Mike, for you, coming from the technical side, you know what? What kind of are you bringing to the table when you’re meeting with your customers? Obviously, you’re newer to this position, but your experience is pretty vast over five years.

What are you kind of doing when you’re working with schools? What does that look like day to day?

  • Mike:

Yeah. So coming from the technical side, I feel like with tech directors and just technology stuff in general at schools, I’m able to communicate and understand their problems a lot better, not just on the relationship side, but also just the tech side. I know a lot about devices and even today I actually had a school that asked about a certain device model and I let them know, here’s all the issues we have see with this device because I worked on it for three years.

So that’s a big part of it, just being able to actually understand every issue that the device might have and kind of preemptively work with that day to day with the actual staff at our offices. Since I do have a lot of tech experience, I actually will go on the floor and help them answer any questions they might have about a device and a certain repair. Because a lot of our staff, you know, we’re all still learning. That’s the big thing about this business is as technology changes, we have to adapt to it. And so I feel like I’m really good with that and just having a lot of experience. I can help our staff perform better and, and ultimately which helps the school. So.

  • Zach:

Yeah. You go to a lot of projects with us as well. I mean, specifically, like taking over the Lenovo ASP program and working on the Dell ASP program, ASUS ASP program, too. It’s just really important. I mean, that’s why now all of our location managers and sales reps that are being hired on, they actually go through two months of repair training, whether they’re going to be doing repairs or not because you need that knowledge. I mean, Shawn, you’ve been doing repairs on and off for three years. You know, like five years. And that’s how I got started ten years ago. Was doing is doing repairs now. Our employees won’t let me do repairs anymore. I’m not I’m not that I’m not that good anymore. But that is something that’s very important to us as a company, is to have that really detailed knowledge of how long does that take.

Those parts are scarce or hard to get. Those parts are easy to get and stuff like that. That’s important when talking to schools. So, you know, kind of going through this introduction and what this podcast about kind of getting into your expertise.

Shawn You know, you work, you probably have close to like 25 clients overall when you’re looking at the schools that have really good departments and are run well. What characteristics or attributes do you see that you really respect either in a tech directors leadership or just in the overall operation of their department?

  • Sean:

So I would say the two big things are communication and organization. The schools that we work the best with are the ones that we know we get there. Those devices are going to be in this place or in this box or whatever. And we even if the tech director is not there, because that’s happened a few times where they’ve had to step out for a minute and we get there right when they’re not there, whatever it is, we know that that’s the box we’re going to get.

We’re going to leave the ones that we have repaired in this place, and then we’re going to go. I mean, it’s a very quick two minute in and out situation. The other thing, too, is the communication rate. So again, I like to get cell phone numbers from tech directors because I will text them or have one of my techs text them on the way and just say, hey, we’re on our way. You know, here in Ohio and northern Indiana and Michigan and all these other places, you never know what to expect during the winter months specifically.

So you never know if there’s going to be a delay like it’s going to be 20 minutes wave. It’s going to take me an hour to get there in December. I mean, it just it happens sometimes. So to be able to have that communication and just say, hey, look, I’m stuck in traffic, I’ll be there, I’m going to look like 30 minutes versus ten like. So the communication, the organization on the tech director’s part and then the communication and organization on our part. I feel like when those two things match up, they match up really well and make our job in their job a lot easier.

  • Zach:

Yeah, I would agree with that. Like, wholeheartedly. We are, we are set it and forget it kind of business. And I’ve talked to a lot of, you know, tech directors over the years that I tell them like, hey, this is a learned business, meaning it just gets better and better every year. It’s an investment on the school’s part and like even big districts like Amnesty, when they don’t even think about it, they just know, hey, every every these days, each week, these people are here to pick up these devices and this and the schools that I have seen that buy into that we take away all their headaches when it comes to that side. But a lot of times if they’re disorganized and like, oh, that’s today and like they’re trying to get stuff together, it just they don’t get as they don’t get everything out of it that they could have.

So, you know, Mike, kind of same question. Know. Go ahead.

  • Sean:

Well, I’d say I would also say even with holidays, because obviously schools practice a lot more holidays, whether or not your public or Catholic schools acknowledge a lot more holidays than businesses do on the most part. So even with that, like, most of them land on either Monday’s or Fridays. So it’s really good to have that communication open where if you have a school that or three or four schools that are out on a monday or Friday to be able to say, Hey, I’m assuming you guys are off or Hey, are you guys off?

We can get those to you either the Thursday or the Tuesday, or you have to be able to change the scheduling instead of waiting an entire another week in order to get those people their devices back.

  • Zach:

Yeah, I agree, Mike. Kind of same question. Your clients in departments you’ve worked with, what characteristics do you see that are like, okay, these people are doing an exceptional job.

  • Mike:

Yeah. So it’s going to sound repetitive, but pretty much everything that you guys already mentioned that those are probably my number one and number two especially MSD Wayne. That’s a great example. So with them, when I took over handling MSD Wayne, we actually began going there twice a week to all 19 of their schools and their warehouse and each, each one, every secretary at all the front offices know exactly who we are. Um, they always have a section labeled K12 tech. When we walk in, tubs are always there. We just set it down. Um, and that’s the big thing is we don’t have to actually go through the tech staff, we can go through the secretary of the front office and they know exactly who we are and when we come in. I mean, that’s the communication on the tech department side, letting them know that that I would say, like I said, I don’t want to sound repetitive, but those are probably the biggest factors that just make everything smooth. So.

  • Zach:

Yeah I think I think the biggest messages tech directors and leaders that that rely on their relationships. Right. So schools are like you know what K-12 tech takes care of our 1 to 1. Repairs in this company helps us out with our networking and they’re in there. Owning that for us is really when we see the most value is hat. And typically those people are very organized and communicate very well because they don’t have to communicate often. I think that’s the hardest thing is, is when there’s a problem and we’ve emailed the school, hey, just let you know this is going on. And then two months later we get an email, it says, Well, what’s up? What’s going on with this? It’s like we we emailed you twice about this two months ago. So really seeing those schools that just communication is so key in the biggest thing is if you have good communication, you don’t need to communicate very often. And I think that’s the big key. It’s good communication. So, you know, kind of with this podcast, that’s what we’re trying to get out of it is, you know, number one, getting experts on. I’m excited Shantel is going to be back on next week.

Really, really respect her and her leadership and just kind of her journey in her career. And Mike knows Chantelle as well, having her on. She’s, you know, got a lot of experience with Google and just kind of talking with them and getting wisdom from them so that we can learn, but then so also can learn like not one, not all districts are created equal in their capabilities or budgets or anything else. And really as a as a a collective gaining wisdom and insight to to make departments better every day. And as a company, I it’s one thing I think I pride ourselves on is we learn, we learn, and we’re getting better every single year, you know, with the chip shortage and everything, you know, getting through that with our clients and letting them know, hey, like this, really struggling to get these parts specifically, but this is our ETA and we’re working on it.

And then tech directors, you know, helping us through that time and has has been super, super valuable. So basically that is this this is a handoff if you are interested in being a guest on the podcast Sean is Sean Cardwell is heading it up in his email is s Cardwell at K 12 tech repairs dot com and we’re going to be doing this biweekly now instead of you know do do two week back to back and then none for a month. But with them having a little bit more of open, open schedules, it’ll allow more to get more guests on.

So appreciate everybody listening. Have a wonderful afternoon or morning, depending on when you’re listening and we’ll catch you on the next one.

  • Sean:

Take care.

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