March is National Women’s Month, or Women’s History Month, in the United States. For the month of March, we will showcase 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 Elizabeth Dadanian, Head of People for GoGuardian, putting her in a unique position of managing a large team of tech professionals. Prior to GoGuardian, Liz worked in accounting, consulting, and leadership at Toyota, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and ZestFinance.
What was your favorite subject in school (K-12)?
I always liked school and enjoyed learning, so I didn’t really have a favorite subject. I found that how engaged I was with a subject had more to do with the teacher than with the subject I was studying. If I really liked the teacher and felt that he/she was invested, then I was too. I can say that I really enjoyed math and english. I enjoyed math because it was a chance to be good at something that no one really expected me to be good at. And english, because I was always so blown away at what a skilled author could do with words.
Who is a teacher from your student days that made an impact on you, and why?
Mr. Bartel was my seventh and eighth grade science teacher. He had high standards, but he also knew how to make learning fun. He required everyone in his science classes to enter the annual science fair. Because of him, I actually went all the way to the California state level twice and won. Winning something like that as a young woman can have a huge impact on how you see yourself in the world and informs what you believe is possible for yourself.
Those experiences also taught me lasting lessons about setting hypotheses and then going out to test and validate the assumptions. The structured thinking we teach as part of the scientific method applied to so many areas of life and business.
What drew you to become an expert in business?
My dad owned his own business, so that was something that was a normal part of my life. I really enjoyed going in with him on weekends and during the summer. When I learned that there were jobs in finance and accounting that could help people manage their business better, I was hooked. I really wanted to dive in and figure out what that was all about.
What message do you have for young women who may be thinking about a career in EdTech?
The tech industry is one of the fastest growing sectors right now. Technology is driving so many new opportunities and new jobs. This is a great field to get into right now, and EdTech specifically is ripe for creating fantastic breakthroughs in the space of education.
How do we foster the development of the next generation of women in science, engineering, and product?
I think solving this problem is going to require a multi-pronged approach. Here are some ideas:
Intervention – bring girls into the conversation much earlier. Kindergarten isn’t early enough in my opinion, but it is a start. Girls need to know they have just as much analytical and computational ability as anyone else. They also need to become aware that there are a ton of cool jobs available for them when they graduate.
Role models and mentors – Girls need to see great examples of women who are succeeding in this segment.
What does personalized education mean to you?
Personalized learning is an education that is customizable to your particular way of learning and at your preferred pace. There are certain subjects in school I could have covered in half the time allotted, and there were other areas where I would have benefited greatly from slowing down a bit. I also think it would be great to have a series of approved courses from which to choose. That would have allowed me to explore my personal interests in the context of a formal education a bit more. I think these changes would have created even more engagement from me.
To you, what’s the difference between learning and education?
Learning is something we do from the moment we are born. We are constantly interacting with our environment and other people and making important cause-and-effect connections. It’s fun to watch babies learn how to crawl, walk, and then feed themselves. As adults, we learn at work, read books, take dance lessons, and adopt hobbies. All of these are daily ways we learn and grow. An education is a structured and standardized way of learning. This standardization allows us to have common experiences, a way to level set our understanding of things, and gives us a body of base knowledge from which to build on.
What impact has your role had on the success of GoGuardian?
I believe a good People team can help a business succeed on a number of fronts: 1) We help the business find and recruit the very best talent for the job. 2) Once employees join the company, the People team can help ensure that we have the right processes, systems, facilities, resources, rewards, and recognition to keep people motivated and to underscore that they have a home here at GoGuardian. 3) We are the group that is responsible for making sure that we don’t take our eye off culture.
Is there a particular individual in history who has inspired you? If so, why?
As a kid, I was always fascinated by Albert Einstein. I studied him the way a lot of other kids study their favorite superheroes in comics. Being the smartest person in the world seemed like the most wonderful superpower to me.
Keep checking back for more interviews in our Women in STEM series!