Our Culture

Hard-working and light-hearted. Passionate about student success. Obsessed with quality and professional growth. These are just a few of the traits we encourage and cultivate at Education First. Our vibrant culture is built on our core ideals: original thinking, collaboration, entrepreneurialism, authenticity and fun.

Click on the pictures below to get an insiders’ glimpse of our day-to-day lives at Education First.

Virtually amazing

Education First is a fantastic place to work. We want a workplace that is worth going to every day. With team members in more than 15 states, we work from home and we collaborate constantly. Our vibrant culture is built on our genuine care for our clients and each other.

We encourage every team member to bring her or his most authentic self to our work. What does bringing your authentic self to work look like? In a recent survey, 97% of our team shared they feel respected at Education First, supported to grow at their own pace, able to have a strong family life and personal life and are open to diverse perspectives. We welcome and challenge one another to bring our authentic selves to work each day because we believe it produces better results for our clients, for our team culture and for our individuals.

A day in the life of our firm

There is no typical day: Our team members have the freedom and the flexibility to determine the work schedule that will enable them to sustainably deliver high-quality work to their clients and collaborate with their colleagues. Some days that means working from a home office, while other days it means setting up in a coffee shop or preparing for a client meeting during a cross-country flight. In our virtual environment, Ed Firsters manage their own time based on project needs and in collaboration with project teams.

A sample week

Our day-to-day focus

  • How can we help our district/school leader clients build stronger systems to provide educators with more targeted and actionable feedback and support?
  • What strategic investments can we recommend to our funder clients that empower state and local leaders to identify and implement high-quality curriculum and assessments?
  • How can we help our nonprofit client build a strategic plan that addresses immediate needs and ensures long-term growth and sustainability?

Dynamic work environment

  • Every day has a lot of variety, brings new and different challenges and there’s no shortage of work to be done.
  • We don’t have static teams. We work with a variety of Ed First colleagues on multiple types of projects and our role isn’t always the same on all of those projects.
  • We’re constantly connected to others even though we are in our home offices.

Staying connected

Education First delivers with excellence by hiring unparalleled talent, nurturing a vibrant culture and staying connected. We use an array of collaboration tools, including custom project management and knowledge management systems that provide everyone with access to all projects, exemplar deliverables and professional development materials. We also have plenty of opportunities to joke and have fun through regular all-staff e-mail threads, fantasy sports leagues, regional get-togethers and our incomparable biannual retreats.

Staying Connected Infographic

More about our culture:

  • Cristina Muñoz

    “When I taught, my students committed to reach a high bar. I’ve found similar dedication to growth at Ed First. We partner with a colleague for ongoing support, build skills through PLCs and learn from one another at our retreats. I have never gained more practical and professional experience than I have from working with this exceptional group.”

  • Anand Vaishnav

    “I define my work as building capacity. Whether launching a nonprofit, working with districts on developing teachers, or helping states plan for the future, my work centers on enabling their success. We take their starting point and push them to think deeper to help those they serve and accomplish great things after working with us."

  • Bill Horwath

    “Ed First has been very intentional about creating a tight connection among staff despite spanning dozens of zip codes. I never hesitate to pick up the phone or use our online tools to collaborate with colleagues. And when we’re together in person, we make the most of the “face time” to strengthen those personal and professional connections.”

  • Jenn Vranek

    “I founded Ed First on the values I believe in: where colleagues are friends, have fun, are authentic, avoid hierarchy for its own sake, promote creativity, take risks, strive for excellence, and seek meaning in our personal and professional lives. Each of us at Ed First lives these values every day. I think we’ve created something truly special.”

  • Kelly James

    “In a virtual community you mostly ‘meet’ people on the phone and recognize them first by voice. It requires extra effort to learn about your colleagues as individuals. Ed First emphasizes that each one of us bring all that we are to our work. As a result, it pushes me to understand all aspects of diversity that help us better serve our clients.”

  • Heidi Guarino

    “At my first staff retreat three people I hadn’t met came up to greet me, brushed my hand aside and hugged me. “We hug here,” they said. I always remember that moment and try to pass it on to new employees. Our retreats are like a booster shot of Ed First energy and enthusiasm, and a great reminder of the extraordinary team we have built.”

Culture at Ed First by the numbers


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