Customer Representation in Product Development with Lauren Hayes

Previously a member of Team Mobile Guardian, I had the chance to interview Lauren Hayes and learn from her perspective on the state of EdTech, the impact of the Pandemic on EdTech.

I greatly enjoyed listening to how she approaches her day-to-day life as well as her career at large.  

Lauren Hayes was our head of product here at Mobile Guardian and is currently head of product at OrderIn. 

Her passion and curiosity helped her progress into the online and digital tools space where she enjoys strategizing and developing products to enhance the human experience.

The many hats she has worn during her career have enhanced her immersion into the technology industry and contributed to her well-rounded understanding of the industry. 

Let’s dive in!

Lauren Hayes on representing the customer in the product space

 1. What’s the first thing you do to get your day going?

I am an obsessed planner. Before I wake up, I have already started planning in my sleep. I know I do this because I always wake up with a pre-existing plan. The first thing I do in the morning is reviewing my schedule for the day and look at what I have planned. 

I try to make sure that there aren’t any major overlaps and I try to predict the dynamics of the people I am going to be interacting with. I just plan my day to make sure I am mentally prepared for anything stressful that may come. 

That is the first thing I do before I even have a cup of coffee. Understanding what my day is going to look like ensures that holistically, I am prepared. Whether it be mentally, physically, or spiritually.

 2. Which music artist best describes your leadership style?

I did not have to think much about this but more about why I am like this person. I chose Drake, besides the fact that I am obsessed with Drake, I find what he is doing in the music industry very interesting. 

I would like to look at some of the leadership qualities I relate to the most. The first thing is that he is very relatable. I think that is one of the most important leadership qualities to me because it allows me to work well and be on the same level as my team. So that ultimately you are always yourself in whatever you do because it is always important to be consistent. 

 3. Are you team Google or team Apple & why?

I do prefer Google, but unfortunately, I can’t deny the sort of sleekness of the actual hardware when it comes to Apple. It appeals to me and I live with Apple everywhere in my house, but I like the concept of Google. 

I like the versatility, customization, and uniqueness of it. Even though there are millions of people using Google, I find that there’s always an essence of uniqueness that Android and Google has to it. You can customize your experiences, that’s why I like and prefer Google, but I’m very much living that Apple life. I’m all about that Apple orchard. 

4. What inspires you to go to work every morning and indeed throughout your career?

I really like challenges and solving problems. I find it drives everything that I do, whether it be my personal life, career, or whatever it might be. I like the idea that there will always be challenges and there’s always going to be potential solutions. 

I enjoy going on that journey of trying to solve that problem which is why I’m in this product space. This space allows me to see opportunities and problems that customers have and to solve those problems. Moreover, it allows me to provide the customer with a solution and that possibility gets me excited every day.

 5. What do you love most about your role, and why?

What I like about being in a product space, particularly within Edtech, is I get to be part of two worlds; you are the voice of the customer and the voice of what is happening in the world. 

It also allows me to understand the market and the customer but at the same time get into that granular detail and the technical side of things, you can get your hands dirty and really get stuck in on the technical side.

I like it because at any given time you can switch between the customer space and the more logical technical space. For the type of person I am, and my personality, that really feeds into what I enjoy doing.

In the Edtech space, your customers really need your help. We are talking about education, an industry which I believe hasn’t been fully penetrated by technology yet. So you need to be the voice of the customer, for right now and for the future. Understanding where their needs and desires will be and I really like being in a position where I am able to impact that future outcome. 

“So you need to be the voice of the customer, for right now and for the future. Understanding where their needs and desires will be and I really like being in a position where I am able to impact that future outcome.”

 6. How do you feel has covid impacted the Edtech space for women, and what is your anticipation for the future? What advice would you give to young female Edtech starting out in a post-pandemic world?

Covid has pushed the education industry to accept technology, a lot quicker than they thought they would have to. This is some of what I’ve seen from a female perspective, especially within the Edtech space. 

Before, we saw a lot of male dominance, particularly within the building of business concepts and solutions. Now we are seeing a lot of females being promoted and funded within the Edtech space. Education was in dire need of technology to help out in the pandemic environment. This has resulted in less inequality with regards to incubator ideas and women going to programs to fund businesses and Edtech solutions which is an exciting aspect of the pandemic

“Before, we saw a lot of male dominance particularly within the building of business concepts and solutions. Now we are seeing a lot of females being promoted and funded within the Edtech space.”

Another interesting thing in regards to covid is that 70% of the teacher workforce is female. These female teachers are at the forefront of living the pandemic within the education space. The hope for the future is that these females will drive innovation as they are the ones at the forefront of understanding what learners, teachers, and the education space are needing.

There is less inequality in the Edtech space, as a result of covid especially. When you have a really good idea, that idea could solve a lot of important needs, and right now these ideas are getting fast-tracked – which is quite interesting and very encouraging.

7. What are your thoughts on the theme for Women’s month this year, Choose to Challenge, and how do you think women in education can take this theme into their lives throughout the year and beyond?

In any industry, women are needing to challenge the status quo, the tradition of roles being male dominant, especially in the education space. As females, in technology and Edtech, we constantly need to make sure we are pushing our voices hard so we are heard. 

If we have good ideas that are innovative and that are business-oriented, or when looking for funding or going into senior roles, we need to make sure we don’t doubt ourselves.

“If we have good ideas that are innovative and that are business-oriented, or when looking for funding or going into senior roles, we need to make sure we don’t doubt ourselves.”

‘Choose to challenge’ is something we need to step up to. We should push hard to take the opportunities that are there now. We need to challenge the bias that females don’t support each other, especially within the same industry. 

Whenever a female wins we need to get around them and celebrate and support their success and challenge the misconception that we don’t support each other. The idea that we are constantly competing with each other, especially in the tech industry, where there is such a shortage of females.

“Whenever a female wins we need to get around them and celebrate and support their success and challenge the misconception that we don’t support each other…”

 8. What is your Mantra for the year?

This was a hard one for me but I think aligning my career with my true self is my mantra. Understanding my true self and realigning my career with that. 

My career is very important for me and I’ve always said this to all the females I work with. It’s not about your job, it’s about you as a person in your career. I think every few months we constantly need to reassess our values and our progress and who we are as individual people. We need to identify our true selves and ensure every aspect of our lives is aligned to that self, and your career is just one of those things. 

This year has definitely been about the realignment of my career with who I am and my values.

“I think every few months we constantly need to reassess our values and our progress and who we are as individual people. We need to identify our true selves and ensure every aspect of our lives is aligned to that self, and your career is just one of those things.”

 9. Would you like to mention any other females in the Edtech industry that you feel have been doing outstanding work?

There are actually two which I have been following. One on a personal level, her name is Angela Lungati, and she has actually started this really cool foundation called the AkiraChix. 

They make sure females have access to information, education, and the foundation is championing young women from an economic perspective. They seek to make sure that young women understand they have the skills required and they have the drive and the motivation to really become leaders in the future. 

I think it’s a really cool idea and initiative that they are working on. They are using technology quite a lot in that space, so again, it’s not just about leadership skills but about getting technical coding skills, so I find that really interesting. 

The other one I’m really quite excited about is the co-founder of Class Creator, Corinne Bowman. Class Creator is a really cool platform and an interesting platform that is really important in the education industry. 

However, I believe it is taken for granted in the tech space in general. Class Creator is about making sure you create an optimized class environment, from a demographic perspective. It’s something we don’t really think about so it includes aspects such as making sure we have balanced gender in classes, that class sizes are accurately assessed to make sure that classrooms can be enhanced from an education perspective. 

It looks at various academic levels within your classroom, whether you have special education needs in your classroom, and so on. Essentially it is the implementation of social dynamics in the class to make sure you cater to the entire society inside what is a very small classroom. I think it’s a really cool platform, a really cool initiative and again I really like what they are doing, it’s definitely something to look out for in the future.

Thank you for your time, Lauren, it was a very insightful and inspiring discussion. This conversation also came with so many lessons for me. I appreciate the importance you place on women’s roles within both education and the workforce. 

After the shift that the pandemic has caused in so many of our lives, I think a lot of us can benefit from your holistic perspective.

Thanks again to Lauren for your time to chat with us, and I hope others who read this are as inspired by your work as I am. It was an absolute pleasure speaking with you.

Onwards, 

Panashe 

Team Mobile Guardian

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