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 Kayla Sheldon, a research associate in our Research and Insights Team. Kayla holds an M.S. in Cyberpsychology.
What was your favorite subject in school (K-12)?
I think within the first day of my 10th grade Psychology class, I knew that I wanted to study this topic for the rest of my life. I loved many subjects in school, but nothing had ever grabbed me quite like Psychology did. Learning about human behavior and thought processes has remained a burning interest ever since.
Who is a teacher from your student days that made an impact on you, and why?
I had a really wonderful English teacher in high school whom I still keep in touch with to this day. He is very passionate in the way that he speaks about his interests, and he encourages his students to do the same. Student creativity and individuality is at the core of all his lessons. Before this teacher’s class, I hadn’t experienced that level of autonomy in a classroom. It changed my perception of what formal education could look like.
What drew you to become an expert in research, particularly in tech?
At some point during my career in research psychology, it dawned on me that technology has become so ingrained in our everyday lives that studying the human psyche without considering the impact of tech is no longer possible. Research being done at the intersection of human behavior and technology is in its earlier stages and currently poses more questions than answers, but that is what drew me into studying it! It is very exciting to be at the forefront of this developing field.
What message do you have for young women who may be thinking about a career in EdTech?
To young women who are interested in pursuing a career in EdTech, I would like to say that this field is unique and endlessly fulfilling. In EdTech, you can be part of something that has a far-reaching impact for the generations beyond your own. I think that is an incredibly rare opportunity and something that I am proud to be a part of.
What’s the best way for young women to seek out mentors in science and technology?
In my own experience, there are many allies among us. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and guidance, especially from those that are on the path you would like to see yourself on.
How do we foster the development of the next generation of women in science, engineering, and product?
I think in order to further close the gender gap in STEM, it will be important to validate girls' interests at an early age. Representation of women in science, engineering, and technology needs to be broadcasted so younger girls know that there is a place for them in these fields if they choose to pursue it.
What does personalized education mean to you?
To me, personalized education means that my unique interests and style of learning have been accommodated for in order to create the best learning environment for me. An educational system that serves only one learning style is doing a disservice to every student outside of that predetermined criteria.
To you, what’s the difference between learning and education?
Currently, I believe learning is the act of discovering, taking-in, and applying new information in a way that best suits you, whereas education is more of an institutionalized set of practices tailored to the development of specific skills that are deemed valuable by a subset of officials. I hope one day when the system of education transforms, these two terms could become synonymous.
What impact has your role had on the success of GoGuardian?
I believe the impact of research takes form in many different parts of the company, but one area I am most excited for is collating and conducting foundational research with the company’s 5-year educational vision in mind so that we can charge forward with evidence-based knowledge.
Is there a particular individual in history who has inspired you? If so, why?
As someone who studies human behavior and has a fascination with the evolution of our psyche, I have always been in awe of Jane Goodall’s massive contribution to the fields of primatology, behavior studies, and biological anthropology. I see her as someone who unapologetically pursued her passion despite criticism and, in turn, made an immense impact.
Keep checking back for more interviews in our Women in STEM series!