Building Influence Show Featuring Mike Yates




This is Episode 03 from Season 01 Education. Season 01 contains eight episodes featuring guests who work in education. Each episode features a single guest, looking at their personal lives and careers, considering their perspective as a leader and creator. These interviews are candid and unfiltered.


Mike has made it his mission to transform the K-12 education experience. A bold and big goal but given his background and passion, I know we have exciting things awaiting us. Mike has won teaching and coaching awards but still, he strives to do more. In particular, he is bringing innovation to the learning experience by utilising adaptive learning software at Alpha, an innovative and independent school where he is based.

He is the co-founder of Guide, once a social e-learning app now a B2B SaaS platform. Mike is also working on the development of a school reinvention lab (21st century Learning Lab) to ensure that every student in Austin, Texas can receive a phenomenal education. A two-time TEDx speaker, Mike is host of the Schoolish podcast.

Building Influence - Mike Yates 02


Note that there is a small glitch at 22 minutes but it goes away after a few seconds.

  • I didn’t intend to be in education. In fact, my mom told me, “Never be a teacher. Never go into education”. Well, I ended up doing it anyway (02:41)
  • I made a calculated move to leave the system but what I did not anticipate was where I would end up which changed the trajectory of my career (03:13)
  • I want people to know that I am creative. I write poems, I dabble in graphic design, I sing, I record music… I just have all these things about myself that I have not been using because I have been busy building my career (04:31)
  • Took my love of sneakers and design and combined them with a partnership that we’re running now with a sneaker brand… design sneakers that tell the future of learning (05:04)
  • Key to building my presence is authenticity and not taking shortcuts and consistency, never backing off the messages that I believe and yet open enough to change my mind when the evidence presents itself. I want to learn out loud and in public and I want to be my authentic self online (06:50)
  • Whether you have 10 followers, 10,000 or 10 million, you should be you (09:11)
  • When I first started my journey in personal branding,  I used to be so afraid to post something and that no one would like it and then I realised that it’s not really about that (10:03)
  • I talk about dismantling the education system (10:19)
  • But then people would say, “But what if it’s been said before?” Everything’s been said before (11:00)
  • I post what I like, I post about what I want to know (11:48)
  • Go when you are ready to go. Do it when you are ready to do it. Don’t put it off but do it when you are ready to do it. My recommendation for people is always start yesterday (13:20)
  • For someone who is completely new to networking, I think one of the most important things is curiosity… about the other person you are trying to meet because sometimes it can feel quite self serving so really be curious about the other person. Secondly, I would say, consistency before you can really entrench yourself in your work (15:46)
  • What have I done to grow my network and get job opportunities? I am focused on adding disproportionate value to the other person with no expectation of help or value in return (19:06)
  • My first question: what do you need that I can give or help you with? I want to give away everything that I know for free. I don’t want to create a paid course, I don’t want to create a barrier (19:08)
  • I am building a personal branding community to help educators who feel stuck, to take control of their career and move to the next place or next school. I do this in a LinkedIn group and through LinkedIn Live (21:24)
  • To me I want 100 active followers rather than 10,000 stagnant ones. So every time I get a connection request, I literally go to their profile and check their posts and activity. I want people who are engaged, I want the conversations (23:33)
  • I am really clear about my messaging. I am not a motivational speaker, it’s not what I do. Everything that I post is about education reinvention, education reform. I don’t have buckets, it’s just the one thing (29:34)
  • But when I reach out to new people, I actually go outside education because I believe I can learn, I can glean new ideas from people outside education (25:43)
  • One of the best connections I made was with a guy named Mark Baldwin who worked at Tesla and he was interested in doing more in education. He was an engineer at Tesla but we had the most fascinating conversations where I learned things from him that I decided to use and build into school models (27:00)
  • I only reach out when I have a real interest in meeting or talking to that person and I’ve really followed through on that interest. If they have a podcast, I go listen to the podcast. Before I send a connection request, I engage with their content. I do it for months (before I connect) depending on who they are. I am truly interested (27:56)
  • I used to believe that no one is an expert but I now accept that people have expertise. I believe I am an expert communicator and the reason for this is just that I have more reps than most people. I started doing competitive speech and debate in Grade 10 (16 years old). I had a lot of success in that activity and went on to do it in college. So I don’t fear it anymore (29:47)
  • I consider myself an expert in school, in education. I went to school my whole life and then I became a teacher. I’ve literally been at school my whole life (31:32)
  • I was hearing this loud applause and for most people, that would make them feel comfortable but at that moment, I was like “This is crazy” but it all went away when I started speaking and that was the most important lesson I learned about public speaking: whatever nerves you feel, as soon as you open your mouth, it goes away (34:22)
  • Outside of magicians, I watch a lot of stand-up comedy… I realise there are these other professions that have elements of things that I need to learn so that I can go from being really good to being great (35:58)
  • I live in Texas and it is one of the most friendly places ever (37:49)
  • Failures, missteps: In this case, I left a really good school environment for more money and it was immediately the wrong decision (39:25)
  • I made a conscious decision two years ago to start claiming my intellectual property (43:35)
  • I have a blog that no one sees where I keep a copy of every article and newsletter that I write (44:20)
  • Be very clear about who you are and what you want to get out of this (46:46)



Mike Yates website
Mike Yates on LinkedIn

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