STEM Career Interview Series: Great Lakes Science Center, STEM Learning Project Manager, Karyn Torigoe

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Today, I’m sharing the story of a woman in science located at the Great Lakes Science Center (GLSC) in Cleveland, Ohio – Karyn Torigoe, who is the STEM Learning Product Manager.

As a woman in science, I feel it is so important to spread my knowledge of STEM subjects to our future leaders. As the STEM Learning Product Manager, Karyn works along side with schools and parents across Northeast Ohio to determine the best programs to offer to the students in our area at the science center.

I am pleased to share my interview with Karyn below:

MTF:  When and how did you become interested in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields?  Do you have a specific memory or event that happened in your life that helped you choose your career path?

KT: I have always loved STEM but never knew it! I loved problem solving for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I would take things apart just to learn how they were made. I never heard much about STEM careers until I was an adult and started my STEM career six years ago when I started working at the Science Center.

MTF:  Growing up, what were your favorite subjects and why?

KT: I loved reading and writing in elementary school, as I loved to imagine I was part of those stories. In high school I loved chemistry. My favorite part was learning about the ingredients in common household items like shampoo. I still use that skill today when I am deciding which item to buy!

MTF: In your own words, how would you describe your career to a child?

KT: I have worked so many different types of jobs in my career so far. My career path was more curvy than straight, but I have learned so many valuable skills along the way. I have worked in restaurants, real estate, finance, entertainment and even worked at a professional ballet company and for a NYC fashion designer! But most of my life I have been working in education in schools and after-school programs. I love working with students and teachers and I am very passionate about doing what I can to create better learning opportunities for all.

MTF:  What roles / job titles have you had in your profession and how would you describe them?

KT: Before I became the STEM Learning Product Manager at the Science Center I was also the School Programs Manager and the Student & Teacher Programs Coordinator before that. My job duties here have always included working with schools and teachers. I was a school secretary for more than 10 years, and also led and taught in after-school and in-school enrichment programs across the country.

MTF:  What is your current occupation and how would you briefly describe it?

KT: I am lucky enough to be able to work with the programs you see here at the Science Center and at your schools. As the Product Manager, I help to decide which programs we do and help bring them to life. I gather advice from parents and teachers so we can ensure we are delivering what you want and need. I also work to make sure that schools and parents know about all of the great programs we have to offer and help them get registered.

MTF:  What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

KT: I am most proud of seeing how I integrate things I learn at work into my personal life and how I raise my kids. Since starting a career in STEM I find myself more willing to try something out, fail and learn from my mistakes. I also find myself encouraging my kids to do the same instead of just “fixing” it for them.

MTF:  What has been the most challenging part of your career?

KT: The most challenging part has been learning how to adapt when your life goes in a different direction. I had to learn that it was ok for my path to be different than what I had chosen. I learned that by taking that new path, I found even better opportunities than before.

MTF:  What is one of your most fun, exciting or even embarrassing memories in your career?

KT: I have so many fun memories from working here at the Science Center. One time we made a parachute out of duct tape, attached it to a crash test dummy and dropped it out of a helicopter into the lake! The whole process was so exciting and fun to watch.

MTF:  In your opinion, why is investing in STEM education important to children and the community?

KT: STEM is so much more than subjects you learn in school. It teaches you essential skills you can use in every aspect of your life like resilience, problem solving, creativity, perseverance and persistence.

MTF:  What would your advice be to parents and / or educators to help children build confidence and interest in the STEM fields?

KT: Show them that there are so many types of jobs in STEM and try to tie it into their interests. Try to identify STEM jobs that they may not have known even existed.

MTF:  What advice do you have for children that are interested in pursuing a career in STEM?

KT: If you find a career you are interested in, try to find out as much information as you can about it. Try to talk to someone in a similar position. They would love to talk about their job to you! Ask them what they needed to do to get there. Always look for internships. They are a great way to try out a job or industry before you fully take that path.

I can relate so much to Karyn when she said that she uses the skills that she learned in STEM to work with her own children. STEM subjects teach that there is no failure – it’s all about learning through curiosity and trial and error. Mistakes can be fixed through proper problem solving and thorough analysis. I also agree with her that STEM subjects help in all aspects of life by teaching resilience, problem solving, creativity, perseverance, and persistence.

Also, check out one of Karyn’s latest appearances on the Great Lakes Science Centers YouTube channel where she talks about STEM and does a fun experiment in the newly remodeled PPG labs!

Thank you Karyn for allowing me to interview you and to the Great Lakes Science Center for allowing me to share another STEM story of one of their finest assets!


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