Authority Magazine
Published in

Authority Magazine

Female Disruptors: Shanya Swaneet of Colaburate On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

You have to have a razor-sharp focus on the finances: It’s very easy to lose focus on expenses, taxes, credits, and the astounding number of federal and state paperwork that can get carried away in the hustle and bustle of the daily journey of an entrepreneur. I was doing everything myself and that was such a bad idea as I could not do an objective assessment of pending payments and cash flow. An outside perspective can provide that unbiased practical view and advice without being emotionally attached.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shanya Swaneet.

Shanya Swaneet is the founder and CEO of Colaburate Inc. In this role, Swaneet is responsible for launching innovative digital learning products such as ETLEE, an educational technology platform available to K-12 students. She helps facilitate solutions that empower students to make advances in robotics, electronics, animation, and 3D printing.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I grew up in India where I met blind and disabled kids in my hometown and wanted to help them in any way possible. Originally I thought about possibly joining United Nations programs and volunteering in parts of the world where children were going through extreme challenges.

When I first arrived in Princeton, New Jersey I secured an internship that later led me to co-found an edtech firm called Steam Works Studio where I am now serving as the COO. There I saw how the fast pace of innovation in computer science, emerging technologies and sciences was leaving behind a large group of underrepresented students and communities. I’m passionate about positively impacting the way millions of students learn across the world, this ultimately helped me decide to become an entrepreneur in the edtech space.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

For too long there have been limited options to showcase students’ projects externally, parents would take pictures and post them on social media but that was about it. Now with ETLEE, students have a community where they can learn from each other and create a digital portfolio of work that better positions their collective achievements throughout their K–12 educational journey. This K-12 only app provides freedom, collaboration tools, guidance, social networking, as well as, a safe place for students to share their ideas with friends or mentors that guide them towards positive behaviors and academic success.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I initially thought it would be easier to get kids interested in trying a new app to enhance their digital learning capabilities. Kids have their own unique creative mindset and I was impressed that even eight-year-olds in our beta testing group for ETLEE were able to contribute so many innovative ideas for improvement while building our initial app release. The biggest lesson I learned was to always consult and work with my target audience, making them a part of my app’s developmental journey, even if they are third graders. Consulting with a group of children, teens and parents directly regarding features, ideas and ease of use helped facilitate the planning process for our release. I now firmly believe in prioritizing market research first when working with users to effectively build a platform that provides the right value.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

My father has always been my sounding board and a source of pure positiveness into my life. At 17, I moved to a new country and was culture-shocked, didn’t know anyone, worked multiple jobs while attending college full-time and still was able to stay strong throughout the entire experience because of his advice. I had many days where I almost packed my bags to go back to India but remained resilient because my father empowered me to never give up.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

In the edtech space, disruption at scale means new ideas are challenging antiquated and compartmentalized teaching and learning models. For example, an 11th-grade student may learn calculus in isolation over a semester without actually putting it to use in a practical sense and then forget everything they learned because now the student has something else to learn in order to get good grades. That student ended up knowing vaguely what the beauty of calculus was about, but there is very little connecting the dots with applied real-world problem solving along with the interdisciplinary learning that is required for application.

When it comes to edtech innovation one should never lose sight of how humans are social animals and at their creative best are usually working in groups. Children especially need that positive reinforcement and practical guidance and encouragement. It would be a negative disruption to break this time-tested teacher-student group interaction and learning model and replace it with a pure digital-only model that is machine-to-child only. Edtech digital products should promote sharing and collaboration with even more gusto as digitization is affecting everyone’s psyche and is responsible for a growingly disconnected and isolated world.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. Just start! The answers will fall into place so have the courage to begin: When I started building ETLEE I felt pulled in multiple directions. This advice reminds me to stay focused and not throw in the towel when challenges arise.
  2. You have to have a razor-sharp focus on the finances: It’s very easy to lose focus on expenses, taxes, credits, and the astounding number of federal and state paperwork that can get carried away in the hustle and bustle of the daily journey of an entrepreneur. I was doing everything myself and that was such a bad idea as I could not do an objective assessment of pending payments and cash flow. An outside perspective can provide that unbiased practical view and advice without being emotionally attached.
  3. Don’t compare: I read constantly about successful entrepreneurs, have met many successful people and it’s easy to compare and doubt my own capabilities or pace of success. You never know what their personal situation, network, being at the right place at the right time, luck, and other circumstances are. You have to keep talking to yourself and remain positive on a daily basis.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We are just getting started with our ETLEE product from Colaburate Inc. We have many plans about gamification ideas to keep students collaborating, sharing and leading with their ideas: getting valuable recommendations, intelligent AI-powered professional resume building, zero-touch automated anti-bullying and moderation, launching a speaker series with 15 min lessons from science, art, life lessons influencers, sharing of public profiles for colleges and universities, interest-based suggestions engine for new project ideas a group of students can challenge themselves with, electronic pen-pal connecting kids across the world and much more!

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Not being taken seriously. Being younger and a female does not mean that one cannot come up with radically impactful solutions to the world’s problems. Financing and investment for a purpose or idea is an incredibly challenging task for women and an even more difficult situation when you are a minority woman. Without a support network, coaching and mentors it is difficult to negotiate funding, manage conflict resolution or ensure your points are being respected and understood.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

Book — Who Moved my Cheese by Spencer Johnson

I am passionate about changing the status quo and adapting quickly, similar to the story’s main character Sniff. The pandemic made us think about ETLEE as an outlet for kids to connect digitally for engagement, hope and mental health.

Podcast — Michelle Obama — Working Women and the Importance of Mentorship

MasterClass — Former Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Education is freedom of thought and liberation, bringing hope and positivity into our lives. I would like to inspire a movement that unshackles communities under duress. Specifically, I want to enable others to learn and think on their own feet by sharing practical real-world useful project-based “little ideas” in the academic setting. We should encourage K-12 students more to leverage technology and communities to solve their own local problems in society, fostering practical engineers with sustainable green DIY solutions, entrepreneurs, and problem solvers with little ideas that have a big impact on the future.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.” — H.W. Longfellow

An entrepreneur’s life is continually evolving. Eight years of learning and working in start-up mode taught me that there are no shortcuts to success. In the beginning, expect a seemingly endless series of nights and days working towards business proposals and projects that you can never seem to carve out time to do. This quote teaches that personal sacrifices are sometimes necessary to achieve business goals and can be strangely satisfying in the end, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

How can our readers follow you online?

LinkedIn

Instagram

Website

ETLEE on iOS

ETLEE on Google Play Store

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

--

--

--

In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Recommended from Medium

3 Ways Entrepreneurs Swing and Miss at a Funding Pitch : Business Big News

Female Founders: Kate Weidner of SRW On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman…

Bruce Lehrman of Involta: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO

Female Founders: Stephanie Kornbleuth & Jill Kams of Sundercover On The Five Things You Need To…

Amir Shemony on Writing the Perfect Business Plan

The Pressures of Starting a New Business — How to Make it Work

Looking back on the journey with the 2030 Dynamic Entrepreneur Award winner; leading IT service…

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.

More from Medium

Why You Should Start Learning Spanish Now?

why learn Spanish Language?

The Eisenhower Matrix According To Your Brain

Old wine in a new bottle!

Stupid shows up everywhere