A Class That Changed The Trajectory Of My Life Forever

Cecilia Retelle, co-founder & COO of Ranku

Cecilia Retelle, co-founder & COO of Ranku

The fall semester was starting and I had to decide which ONE elective I was going to take to round out my master’s in education. I knew I wanted to do education policy but I honestly had no idea how to do that. I started perusing the course catalog at the University of Minnesota, which is basically the size of a 1995 phone book.

Finding the right class

Then I came across possibly the most interesting class I had ever read about—Education Policy and the State Legislature. Joe Nathan, known as one of the major founders of charter schools law, was the professor and the class sounded so interesting. Enrolling in that class no doubt changed the trajectory of my life forever.

The class was held once a week for 3.5 hours. The class was structured by having a guest speaker the first half of the class followed by discussion, lecture, or group projects.

The third week, a young woman came to speak from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. She talked all about her work as a “lobbyist” and what types of policies she worked on. Then, at the end of class she made a comment that still sticks in my head, “also, tomorrow is my last day at the Chamber so if you know of anyone that might be a good fit, please tell them.”

Immediately I knew I was perfect for the job!

Foot in door

I had applied to probably fifty jobs that fall. But, none of them was I obsessed with as this job—even though I didn’t fully know what it meant to be a “lobbyist.”

After a week of trying to figure out how to apply to the position that wasn’t even listed, I asked Professor Nathan after class if he knew anyone there that I could email. Rightfully so, he encouraged me to apply but also warned me that the likelihood of me getting the job was extremely slim because I didn’t have any lobbying experience.  He gave me an email for a contact he had over there and off I went.

My initial email to the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce was on October 7th.  The following day, bar results came out. Since I had passed, I sent another email “supplementing my resume with being a member of the Minnesota Bar.” October 9th, I got a response. Then the fun began!

The hiring process

My first interview with the team was October 15th. This was followed by two more interviews on October 30th and November 9th. By this point I knew without a doubt that not only was I the perfect person for this job but that I could also do it better than anyone else.

Then on November 17th, the call came. Tom Hesse who was my initial interviewer was on the other end. He said something along the lines of “we were really impressed with you BUT we have decided to not hire anyone at this time.” I was heartbroken.

I thought back to my final interview with the CEO and President. Did I say something wrong? What questions had he asked that I answered differently? The only one that I could think of was “What day does your coursework end?” I had told him the truth, December 17th.

After a few days had passed, I had my final class with Professor Nathan and told him what had happened. He encouraged me to apply elsewhere, but also helped me come up with another plan—that I will forever be grateful for!

Time to not give them an option

Looking back at my series of emails they really had no choice but to hire me. (joking) I’m also going to preface this by saying, you should only do what I did next if you know for sure you are going to kill it!