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Elevating Education with IT, an interview with Technology Lab's Leadership

Elevating Education with IT: An Interview with Technology Lab’s Leadership

Interviewer/Writer: Emma Tarp

Over the past five years, Technology Lab has experienced impressive growth by narrowing its focus to serving independent schools in the Southeast. With an approach that centers on simplicity and security, Technology Lab helps schools build an IT infrastructure and strategy that enables them to scale so they can focus less on tech and more on providing the best educational experiences for their students.

I recently sat down with James Pope, Chief Revenue Officer, and Josh Boyd, Founder & CEO of Technology Lab, to learn more about the company’s mission and impact on K-12 education.

Emma Tarp (ET): Hi James, thank you for meeting with me today. Could you give us a general overview of Technology Lab and your mission in the K-12 education sector? 

James Pope (JP): Yeah, absolutely. We’ve been around for about 15 years now, supporting independent schools. We currently work with about 215 campuses in the Southeast. As technology continues to evolve, it has become a big part of what students do day to day. Our entire business model is built around supporting schools and the overall education experience for students.

We provide everything from reactive services, like help desk support for teachers and faculty, to managing their networks. But, most importantly, we provide proactive, strategic strategies to prevent issues from ever happening.

That’s really important because many of these schools are growing year over year, grade over grade. That’s how a lot of the charter schools work— they’ll open a school and start with just one grade level, then the next year they’ll add another one, and another one until they get to like K-5 or K-12 or whatever the case may be. These schools need a constantly evolving technology strategy to make decisions with the long term in mind rather than making quick, short-term decisions that cost them more money and headaches two or three years from now.

At the end of the day, our goal is to elevate morale around the school. As you can imagine, the more technology problems these schools have, the lower morale is for both students and teachers. We want our schools to feel like, “Hey, if we are partnering with Technology Lab, they are completely forklifting this off of our plate so that we can focus on what we do best and make sure our students have the best educational experience possible.”

ET: Were you always focused on serving K-12 schools, or where did that focus and passion come from as you built your business?

Josh Boyd (JB): There was a boom in the school choice movement here in Nashville around 2010 and 2011. That’s when we got introduced to a couple of schools and did a good job for them. As you can imagine, they all know each other, so those school leaders would tell their peers: “you need to talk to these guys.” Within a short period of time, we became the go-to for many of these independent schools here in Nashville.

At that time, we were still taking on clients in the business and private sectors, but it was about six years ago that we saw a massive need for schools and started to realize that working with schools brought a lot more purpose to what we were doing. Besides, it’s a breath of fresh air for them and for us. School leaders truly want and need our help. They want an expert to come in and just take it off their plate, and I love that. You get to do what you do best. They get to do what they do best.

We realized that if we’re going to serve these schools at the highest level, we’ve got to focus solely on them, right? We can’t try to be the best at everything. So, we doubled down and decided to build and enhance our processes to only focus on schools. We started with about 15 schools; today, we support around 215 schools in the Southeast. So obviously we made the right decision. There was a huge need.

ET: And the community thrives on it! That sounds like a really great business model— to be able to corner that market but also nurture those working relationships that feel right.

You mentioned how you help schools make decisions so they can scale with the future in mind. Could you describe your average engagement with a new client and your typical approach to providing IT solutions for the schools you work with?

JP: Our approach is simplification with security. We want to simplify their IT environment so it doesn’t feel so daunting and there are not so many points of failure that can cause problems for them. We simply want teachers and students to feel confident in navigating all their technology seamlessly. But on top of that, we want to make sure we’re providing a level of security that is absolutely mandatory when it comes to the personal student and faculty data that is within their systems. Secure their data and ensure they’re not a target for cyber-attacks and things of that nature.

ET: Are there any particular measures you take that contribute heavily to your long-term success?

JB: Our motto is white glove service. That’s what drives us internally. Everybody in our company knows that we always want to go above and beyond what may be expected. Even if it falls in the gray area, right? We don’t want to just say, “Hey, that’s not our job.” We have the mindset that even if it’s not something we do, we’re still going to help our clients get the guidance they need to get that problem resolved.

And I think that the reason that our employees buy into that is because we provide white glove service to them, too. We spend a ton of time and money on ensuring our culture is one that people want to be a part of. We work hard to deliver great company benefits and employee perks. I think when you treat your employees well, then they want to go above and beyond.

ET: That’s incredible. Looking ahead, what key areas of focus and growth are you hoping to step into as you continue to evolve and serve your clients?

JP: AI is a hot topic, but it’s not ready yet to deploy without school guardrails. That would be a disaster. But we want to stay on top of it and continue to educate ourselves and our clients on it. Because if they’re not thinking about AI, they’re going to turn around three years from now and be way behind the curve. It is evolving that quickly.

With all of our schools, we’re helping them understand how they could use AI and start dipping their toes into the water. For example, maybe their financing team can begin using AI with some of their spreadsheet work.

AI isn’t going away. It’s only going to become more prevalent, so it’s important for these schools to explore what it can do and be ready when it is truly vetted to a point where it could really make a big difference in their school’s operations.

That’s one thing. Otherwise, we really want to stay in our lane as much as possible. While we want to continue to provide value in additional areas like AI, we mostly want to continue to enhance our processes and continue to deliver the IT management, support and strategy services that have helped so many other schools. At its core, that’s who we are and what we do. We don’t want to be everything to everybody. We don’t want to spread ourselves too thin to chase the next shiny object.

ET: Awesome. I love it. One last question: What advice would you give school leaders looking to improve their IT strategies and delivery?

JP: Sign up with Technology Lab! Or be willing to get a third-party technology assessment. We always do an IT assessment for schools on the front end; we don’t take on new clients without it. And most of the time, they are shocked when we come back with the results regarding gaps that they have.

So, even if they don’t choose to partner with us, the knowledge that they gain from a third-party assessment provides so much value. They aren’t in the dark anymore about their IT environment; at least they know the state of the situation, and they can make decisions that are best for their school.

If you’re interested in optimizing your school’s technology strategy, contact Technology Lab for a Free Discovery Call where we can learn more about your school, discuss your needs and goals, and determine if an IT Assessment is the right next step for you.