Guild Careers: Paco Payne

Meet Paco Payne!

As part of National Career Development Month, we are highlighting some employees at Guild who have transitioned into different roles during their time with us. Check out their Q&As to see what they have to say about their career paths at Guild. Interested in joining our team? Visit

Current role

  • Senior Associate, Account Operations

Other roles held at Guild

  • Associate Manager, Student Success
  • Senior Student Success Advisor, Team Lead
  • Student Success Advisor
  • Guild Fellow

Tell us about your career journey and what led you to Guild.

I earned a master’s in higher education and worked at a university for several years. I wanted to make an impact on college students’ lives the way that people had made an impact on mine. As a first generation college student, the people and support system around me helped me persist and get through college. After a little time as a professional in the college world, I realized that I wasn’t making the impact that I sought out to make. The particular students I was working with had countless resources at their disposal, and frankly, they didn’t need me.

I found myself in Denver and was matched with Guild as part of a summer policy fellowship I was working on and pretty quickly realized that Guild was working with students the way I wanted to and was having the impact that I felt as a college student. I signed on full time pretty quickly after my fellowship and the rest is history.

What was the path like to transition into a different role at Guild?

The process has changed over time. But both times, as I’ve moved into substantively different roles, I had to tackle the learning curve of understanding a new position. What I’ve learned is that no matter how prepared I am or how ready I think I am, there is always more to learn.

When I moved into my current role, the learning curve centered on learning how to be an advocate for all students versus just one student or one direct report as I had in my prior roles. It takes time to finesse that skill but it certainly helped that I was able to lean on my prior Guild experience to inform it.

Luckily, in both instances, I had my new manager and role models around me to help me grow into the position. I’m certainly still growing now and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon, but at the time it was incredibly reassuring to know that there were supportive people around me. They weren’t always in the same role that I was in, but they understood the challenges I was facing as well as the strengths I was bringing with me. I’d recommend to anyone to find those supporters and mentors around the company.

How has your past work experience helped you in your new role?

I came to Guild with a good understanding of the college student, coaching, and higher ed from my time working at multiple universities and my master’s program. That really helped me get started at Guild and gave me confidence in working with students one-on-one. Over time I learned more about Guild, how it operates, how various cross-functional teams work together, and how some decisions were made, especially as it related to students. That understanding of Guild coupled with an eye toward doing what’s right for students has been tremendously helpful as I moved into my current role working with our academic partners. I feel more intune with student needs and am able to think about how the decisions we are making with our academic partners may impact students.

If I were to outline the skills that have been helpful I’d say:

  • Active listening — Hearing what is being said around me and putting that through the lens of what we need to do to complete a project or how it may impact a partner or student.
  • Flexibility — Being able to be nimble and going with the flow has allowed me to flex and work to support students and my team with minimal information or without a clear road map.
  • Empathy — At the end of the day, the actions we have will impact real people with families and dreams and goals. I don’t sit in an ivory tower, and I need to be both empathetic for our students, as well as for my colleagues that are doing incredible things to make Guild’s vision a reality.
  • Advocacy/Communication — Learning to advocate for what I need is inextricably tied to communication. I had to learn what I needed before I could speak to it. Once I could speak to my needs, I was able to speak to my teams’ needs and students’ needs.

What contributed to your success with landing a new role?

I had multiple advocates who helped me get where I am now. They’re the people I trusted to share my vision and that I looked to for advocacy, as well as the people who heard me advocate for myself. The saying, “it takes a village…” is as true here as it has always been. I didn’t get to where I am on my own. I got here with countless people’s feedback and advocacy. 

What are some lessons you learned along the way?

The biggest lesson I think I’ve learned is that mobility in the direction that one wants isn’t always available. Sometimes that dream position is open. Sometimes it’s not. On top of availability, you may not be prepared the first time that door does open or someone is better suited for the position than you.

What I took from that was to not give up hope, to keep trying, and to keep doing the best work at your current role that you can. It also doesn’t hurt to continue fostering and growing relationships with the people that may be your advocates and mentors.

Can you share more about what you do in your role now?

I currently serve as one of the Account Operations Associates for the Academic Partnerships team. Within that role, I support a medley of our academic partners and the Account Managers that run the accounts. I serve as a bridge of sorts between the academic partners and various cross-functional teams at Guild to help in the regular operations and support of the account. This might present itself as ensuring that coaches have up-to-date information about the accounts, assisting a student to determine their appropriate eligibility, and spearheading or supporting various operational projects to improve the day-to-day work with our academic partners.

What advice would you have for others who want to transition into a new role?

  • Talk to your manager, and make sure they have an idea of what your interests are, and so they can be an advocate for you
  • If there is a clear pull towards a certain business sector, don’t be afraid to grab virtual coffee with someone team to learn more about their day-to-day and their experience
  • Crush it at your current role! It’s much easier to recommend someone for a role if they are a rockstar at their current role! Conversely, it makes you stand out 😉
  • Be prepared but patient. The role that best suits you may not currently exist at Guild. As your chatting with various folks, see if you can get a feel if that role will ever exist and what that team is looking for in someone to fill it
Written by Guild Education

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