March is National Women’s Month, or Women’s History Month, in the United States. For the month of March, we are showcasing the incredible women of GoGuardian in our “Women in STEM” interview series. From engineers to product managers to researchers, these brilliant women share their journeys in education and science/technology, as well as advice to others who might follow a similar path.
Today’s interview is with Caryn Cueto, the product manager for GoGuardian Fleet. She is a former middle school teacher with a background in Bilingual Special Education and Human Computer Interaction.
What was your favorite subject in school (K-12)?
As a student in the K-12 public school system, I loved science, art, band, and humanities classes so much!
Who is a teacher from your student days that made an impact on you, and why?
Leslie. I honestly don’t recall Leslie’s last name because I always just called her Leslie. For context, Leslie was an affable elementary school teacher who happened to be a family friend’s cousin. When Leslie got wind of my struggle with reading in the English language in the first grade, she offered to teach me after school. We spent many afternoons bleeding into early evenings together until I was able to read my first Roald Dahl chapter book. Leslie’s extraordinary teaching ability single-handedly accelerated my academic career in my English and Literature classes and grew me into an avid reader. Once I conquered this skill, I spent every recess in the library cracking open new books and exploring a newfound world. Many of my summers were spent building blanket forts and reading hardcover books with a flashlight. Books quickly became my teachers and friends, all thanks to Leslie.
What drew you to become an expert in product and tech?
I don’t think anyone wakes up and decides they want to be a Product Manager. The title is still fairly new in tech. It’s a field that presents itself to a unique problem solver and thinker. Before becoming a Product Manager, I was a Middle School Teacher during a time when this country’s education system underwent a paradigm shift with technology and the adoption of Chromebooks in classrooms.
Naturally, I was intrigued by the level of engagement that my students had with these mobile devices. I began to hypothesize that if these devices could be leveraged for differentiated instruction, then my students would have a positive learning experience and improved educational outcomes. I constantly questioned and researched how I could test for that. It honestly kept me up at night.
Ultimately, my curiosity led me toward computer science and human computer interaction. Upon discovery, I trusted the leap was necessary. I just didn’t realize at the time that trusting my decision into the unknown would manifest into a career that I am endlessly passionate about today.
What message do you have for young women who may be thinking about a career in EdTech?
I think that EdTech is for someone who wants to make a high impact on humanity. It’s not glamorous and it’s not simple. A myriad of equations to solve for these problems have not yet been completely formulated because Education, EdTech, and Learning Science in general are all real-life incubators. The EdTech space is for someone dedicated to the mission of social change, willing to roll up their sleeves, and think outside of the box to build solutions.
What’s the best way for young women to seek out mentors in science and technology?
I suggest that they take in feedback from their peers and self reflect on the areas where they would like to improve, whether it be at school or in the workplace. In short, my advice is: Don’t be timid. Reach out to someone who has the tools that you’d like to learn how to sharpen for yourself! We are all constantly growing and evolving. It’s critical to find support along that journey.
How do we foster the development of the next generation of women in science, engineering, and product?
Make tech cool for girls because tech is cool for girls—thanks to some pivotal trailblazers like Kimberly Bryant (founder of Black Girls Code), Adriana Gascoigne (Girls in Tech), et al. These are only a couple of examples of female leaders that have spearheaded a legacy with their movement to not only bring the women that work in technology together, but to also empower the women outside of technology to pursue it academically and in their career.
With that being said, I believe that it’s herculean feats like these that have brought prominence in science, engineering, and product for women today and future female generations to come. As individuals, it means continuing to connect and support each other’s visions, goals, and learning in technology.
What does personalized education mean to you?
Student learning cannot be templatized! Diverse student thinking should be celebrated!
To you, what’s the difference between learning and education?
I believe that learning helps students build core knowledge, and education is the portfolio of learning environments where that knowledge is cultivated.
What impact has your role had on the success of GoGuardian?
I advocate for the core users of my product everyday. I believe that who I build my product for is the most important voice in the room. Representing the very real needs of my product’s users in conversations at GoGuardian continues to be an honor.
As a Product Manager at GoGuardian, I define the strategy and vision for products, from ideation to launch. On any given day, I could be working alongside UX designers to share generative research and sketch out wireframes on a whiteboard, syncing with software engineers on building out a supreme UX for our users and validating it with empirical data, or even confining myself to a room to run queries and calcify strategic business decisions. It really depends on where my product is at in its life cycle. Somedays, I speak to Marketing, Sales, Finance, Support, and QA engineers within the same hour! I’m highly collaborative and find it endlessly exciting to support my team and maintain cross-functional partnerships, while solving complex problems in an effort to get my products to launch and help millions of educators and students around the globe.
Is there a particular individual in history who has inspired you? If so, why?
As a kid, I stumbled upon Amelia Earhart’s autobiography in the library and was immediately inspired by her portrait next to an airplane. When I learned her story then and continue to lean into it now, I can only imagine the tenacity and perseverance that Earhart must have faced as a female professor, equal rights advocate, aviation pioneer, and author during a time when it was grossly unpopular for a woman to do so. I find Amelia Earhart to be a true visionary, and I respect and admire that about her today.
Keep checking back for more interviews in our #WomeninSTEM series!