In Her Own Words: Second Life Mac’s Paula Currie discovers life after Apple sweeter for herself, the equipment and students nationwide

October 23, 2020

In Her Own Words: Second Life Mac’s Paula Currie discovers life after Apple sweeter for herself, the equipment and students nationwide

By Ellen Sherberg, Bizwomen Contributor

As our communities reopen, women across America see their lives becoming more complicated as they juggle responsibilities at home and at work (which is often still at home), caring for coworkers, customers and family. Paula Currie was grounded when the pandemic hit. Then her company and her career reached new heights.

Like most people, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the initial shutdown of the economy took place due to COVID-19. I was at a school district in West Virginia, getting ready to fly to California for a leadership meeting for a company I had joined just a year earlier.

My company, Second Life Mac, buys back used Apple devices from schools and businesses, then refurbishes and resells them. I joined the company after spending a number of years at Apple, Inc. as a sales executive for education.

I’m often asked why I would leave the world’s largest and most respected company to join a relatively unknown small business. What happened with the pandemic crystallized that I made the right move.

Honestly, I never had any plans to leave Apple. I was successful there and really enjoyed and respected my colleagues. There’s a saying that no one really leaves Apple. That’s true; Apple employees are fiercely loyal and committed to each other.

Someone I respect a great deal had recommended me to a recruiter looking to fill a position at Second Life Mac. I decided to do the initial call as a favor to her, and ended up talking with the founder of the company for well over an hour. In fact, I started the call as I was driving to my home outside Columbus, Ohio after visiting a school district in Cleveland, and after 10 minutes I decided to pull over because I was so excited about what I was hearing.

I was absolutely enchanted by the vision of the founder to build a company that did things the right way. I was no stranger to Apple buyback companies, and understood very well that this immature market was going through growing pains that often hurt school districts. The founder’s desire to build a world-class organization that did what was best for schools was refreshing.

Then he said something that blew me away: while his vision was crystal clear, he admitted he didn’t have the background or knowledge to execute it on his own. It’s not often that business leaders admit that they don’t have all the answers, and I found that incredible. We agreed to meet in person, during which time we spent three hours discussing how I could leverage my knowledge of Apple and education to help him build this dream. I was hooked.

That brings me to the pandemic. My trip to California never took place. Instead, the leadership team spent a day on video chat covering all the topics we planned to discuss in person. At the end of the call, as we always do, we are asked to rate the call on a scale of one to 10. I gave the call an eight.

I was frustrated that the topic of the pandemic didn’t come up in a substantial way. My experience working with schools told me that this was going to be a huge shift for them. I’ve always been a big proponent of 1-to-1 technology in schools (one device per student), and the distance learning resulting from the pandemic put this issue on the front burner for every school.

Moreover, I knew that schools planning to refresh fleets of iPads and MacBooks would be challenged like no other time. These refreshes are crucial for teachers and students to have up-to-date software and devices, and often are planned well in advance. In order to refresh devices, districts rely on the ability to sell back the old fleet to fund a portion of the new investment. With students learning from home, it would be difficult to collect used devices. Plus, it was unclear at the time if it even was safe for administrators to handle devices that were turned in.

If Second Life Mac was to live out its mission of doing what’s right for schools, I felt we needed to help schools figure this out.

The result was the creation of the first and only touchless, drive-through process that allows parents and students to quickly and easily drop off used devices and get new ones. Social distancing is maintained and administrators never have to handle used devices. The feedback from schools has been one of relief.

When I attended the first Touchless Trade-in, ironically at the district in West Virginia where I initially learned about the pandemic shut down, I realized that I truly was at the right place at the right time in my career.

I was able to mobilize my passion for digital learning without the constraints of a large company with many layers to navigate. Seeing this idea quickly come to life just when schools needed it most has been a dream come true.”

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