Hi everyone! We hope that you’ve checked out our new website– we hope that you’re loving our new UI and aesthetics. (We’re currently offering 20% off, and free shipping on all orders!)
For our first new post on our site, we’re bringing to you an interview with Mabel Zhuang, Learning Team Coordinator! Mabel studied Instructional Technology & Media (technology integration) in grad school at Teachers College at Columbia University, and is currently the Learning Team Coordinator for a technology education company.
Wonderland Organics: Where are you currently working?
Mabel Zhuang: I’m currently at a tech start-up in SF for business analytic research. While my title is Learning Team Coordinator, I focus on finance/controller, basically business strategy or finance-related. My company’s small enough (around 50 employees), so it’s been great getting to know my fellow coworkers. We’re not stringent on 9-5 workdays, but I try to get in early, around 7 or 7:30 am, mainly because we work with a lot of East Coast districts. It’s been pretty nice in the summer, since so many of them are out of school for the season.
Wonderland Organics: What would you describe as a good work/life balance?
Mabel Zhuang: Making time for yourself. It’s great that people are passionate about what they do, but sometimes Bay Area culture consumes you in your work. Personally, I value balance: at a point in my life, I didn’t have it, and I was burned out. Now, I’m good about making the time for what I like to do. For instance, I go out for 30 minutes, have lunch, work out. On the weekends, I check my work emails minimally. These days, I prefer to relax, have fun, and overall be social.
Wonderland Organics: We love this! Hopefully our readers will take this to heart. Tell us a little about the start-up you were working in.
Mabel Zhuang: I was previously toying with the possibility of doing an online science lab, to make it more affordable. After working on it for a month, I discovered that I didn’t have the time or energy to maintain it. After abandoning the idea, I reached out to the previous start-up that I interviewed with.
Wonderland Organics: We’re glad that you ended up finding a job that you truly loved! So what is it that you focus on currently?
Mabel Zhuang: My current company focuses on research-based framework on our platform, helping schools understand this framework, and how technology applies to learning. All of the research is done by MIT, Columbia, etc., and is several decades old. But in one sentence? We help schools measure the impact of technology on learning.
When we collect data on teachers, students, and parents around technology and learning, this data gets input into our platform. With the platform, school leaders can log in and see what is going on in their schools and districts. They can also look at skills, whether the students have access to tech in the classroom and home, the kinds of technology, do they use it, and what types of devices are available. In terms of environment: tech will enhance learning- this data is useful because every year, schools/districts have to present to the board, and roll out different initiatives for better schools. When they make a pitch, often there is no hard data to back up these initiatives, and it is difficult to convince investors to commit money. One common program schools do is iPad integration, where schools buy one for each student for use in the classroom. Unfortunately, it’s really expensive, and is it worth for professional development? It’s hard to say.
Many of the current team members are former superintendents, schoolteachers, technology directors, and former educators who have been in the system a long time. how people learn and what they need. I love this company because they have the premise of how students learn, what they need, and what’s going on in schools.
Wonderland Organics: It’s a great area of research, one where most of us don’t often think about when it comes to education in schools. Maybe it’s because we grew up in the ’80s, when technology was getting underway. We at Wonderland Organics look forward to the bright things that you have for us in store! Do you have advice for entrepreneurs starting out?
Mabel Zhuang: Be clear on your mission and your vision for what you want to do. Sometimes people confuse goals with missions, but those are two different things. Goals are for yourself: to get to your ultimate vision. It’s really hard unless you sit down and think about it- thus, you have to define what your vision is. In one sentence, what is it that you want to accomplish? Make sure to get back to this question, because you might be consumed by day to day duties, but you have to know what you’re working towards. My current company is really good at making sure the employees know what the vision is. The management way of thinking is aligned with mine, so ultimately what we’re doing is to help kids. How we do that is helping school leaders use the tools of what they have. If you lose that, doesn’t matter how smart or driven you are. If you lose sight of that, it’s easy to burn out, to fall off our grid.
Wonderland Organics: This is excellent advice! We’re sure that our young entrepreneurs will take this to heart. And last but not least, what’s your favorite part of the Wonderland Organics blog?
Mabel Zhuang: I like the simple interface, as it’s easy to navigate. Also, I loved the post about Berkeley and the Big C– Go Bears!
Thanks so much to Mabel for talking to us about what she does! If you’re interested in technology in education, feel free to follow and interact with Mabel on Twitter here!