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Changing Industries From Education to Tech: Insights from a Uniting Voices Alum

Many of our alumni go on to be teachers for the next generation, leaders in the tech industry or advocates for underrepresented communities. Today’s featured alum, Andrew Rayner, has done all three in his career already! He began as a middle school teacher in Boston, then joined Promise54, an education talent and organizational culture consulting firm. His career has since taken him from Meta to DoorDash, where he currently works as a Senior Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Business Partner in San Francisco.

We caught up with Andrew to find out how he made the transition from teaching to tech, how his experience as Singers’ Council President has helped him advance in his career and why seeing Beyoncé was transformative.

Uniting Voices: You were President of Singers' Council. How has that leadership experience translated into your career?

Andrew Rayner: The role of the President asks that you represent the perspectives of a variety of young people, which are particularly distinct by age. Being President was a reminder that the opinion of the 12 year old in Treble choir was just as important and valid as the opinion of the 18 year old in Chamber choir (and maybe even more so in some cases). Young people deserve to be listened to, and should take advantage of when they are given the mic to speak.

The foundation of my career is in education. Everything I do now is to try to make the world a better place for young people in the hopes of giving them more of a voice. That starts with listening to all young people and trusting that they are experts in their own experience. It was tremendous that Uniting Voices gave me a seat at the leadership table and trusted my experience. Now, I do that for others.

UV: What was your favorite memory from going on tour?

AR: There are so many...though top of the list has to be singing Chichester Psalms in Carnegie Hall in New York City, Bogoroditse Devo at Rockefeller Chapel in New York City, being asked for autographs at the World Expo in Japan, or singing Ave Maria unplanned on the waterfront at the end of a museum memorial tour—I can't remember where we were, but I'll never forget the sound of the last chord hanging in the air.

UV: How do the values you learned during your time in Uniting Voices influence how you approach diversity, equity and inclusion in the tech industry?

AR: I often tell people that Uniting Voices was the first place that I experienced authentic diversity. The organization strove then, as it does now, to be representative of the demographics that made up Chicago, and to teach and share music from across the world. I believe that diverse, inclusive and equitable organizations can be created and that the energy from those organizations can change lives because I experienced that magic first hand for 11 years with Uniting Voices. Not everyone agrees with that sentiment, and I have had to work with some of those people. I bring the hope and spirit of the music we made, and that the choir continues to make, into every strategy meeting and coaching session I have.

UV: As someone who has made a major career path shift, what is one piece of advice you would give to our singers and alumni who are starting off on careers of their own?

AR: Your artistry and dedication to your craft are special sauces that you can bring to any role. Learn to talk about your skills and experiences in adaptive ways that translate into the language of the role you want to go into. For example, your experience as a performer could set you up to be a great teacher, facilitator or moderator because of the importance of presence in front of your audience.

UV: Before you entered the tech industry, you were a middle school teacher. What is your favorite memory from teaching?

AR: While watching the excitement of learning go off like a light bulb in a kid's mind was thrilling, I really enjoyed monitoring recess and playing four square with the kids. I started off dominating these sixth graders, but they got really, really good!

UV: What is your favorite musical event you've attended in Chicago in the past year?

AR: I was fortunate to see Beyoncé in Chicago this past year! I’ve seen Beyoncé before but it was transformative to see Queen B put on such an incredible spectacle inspired by the legacy of the Black LGBTQ community and music as a member of the community myself! We were moved closer to the stage because our outfits were so on point