Patti is the lead of Lakeshore Learning’s product development group. LA-based Lakeshore was founded in 1954 and makes innovative educational toys,
Patti began her career at Lakeshore as a Product Developer in 2000. As a former elementary educator with nine years of hands-on classroom experience, Patti’s passion for helping children learn was second to none. In 2007, she took on the role of Elementary Product Development Manager, overseeing the creation of hundreds of innovative products for school-age children. In 2010, Patti became Director of Research and Development, followed by a well-
earned promotion to Vice President of Product Development in 2015. In both of these pivotal roles, Patti has led the company’s efforts to create top-quality, standards-based materials for early childhood programs, elementary classrooms and homes nationwide. Wholehearted in her dedication to meeting the needs of an ever-changing educational environment, Patti and her team visit regularly with teachers around the country to discuss their real-world classroom needs—educator to educator. Patti’s active involvement with professional groups such as NCTM, NAEYC,
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Growing up, I’m sure nobody would have pegged me as a future leader. I was the shy, introverted child who hid behind my mother’s skirt whenever anyone looked at me, and who would avoid speech classes or
How did your previous employment experience aid your position at Lakeshore?
My prior experience as an educator, for nearly a decade, has helped me in developing products for children that are beneficial to their educational success. My first job after college was teaching first grade. As a new teacher, my challenge was being put into a room with 30 six-year-olds and needing to quickly figure out classroom management and how to effectively create excitement in learning. This strategic thinking helped prepare me for the obstacles I face as VP of Product Development at Lakeshore. A large part of my job is guiding our product development efforts in the right direction by making sure we design materials that help solve problems for teachers, that meet the current focus and direction of this country’s education efforts, and that make parents feel confident their children are meeting developmental milestones.
What have the highlights and challenges been thus far during your tenure at Lakeshore?
For the last 17 years, it has been so rewarding to work for a company that continues to give me opportunities to grow but also allows me to help others advance their careers. I’ve been able to develop a couple of managers
The challenges are closely tied to the highlights. It goes back to
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This certainly can be challenging when today’s technology makes it so easy to stay connected to work at all times, but for
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
I’ve learned two important things in my career. First, simply listen. Understand what’s going on with your team and any frustrations they may have, in order to remove those roadblocks. The more I listen, the better the team’s morale and the more I uncover people’s career goals. When they’re part of their own goal setting, they become more inspired, and as a
Second, give yourself permission to make mistakes. I used to beat myself up when I made mistakes, and one of the greatest pieces of advice I received is “if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not growing.” Meaning, if everything is going smoothly, you’re not pushing the envelope enough. I keep that in mind and never get paralyzed by a mistake. Each time you make one, you should learn, reflect and move on. I think this lesson is so applicable to life, too.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
One of the biggest is the lack of career opportunities for women in male-dominated professions. I think this issue is rooted in girls starting at a young age. There are so many girls who are fascinated with science,
How has mentorship made a difference in your personal and professional life?
I’ve had mentors who helped me to see the “forest for the trees” during different points in my life—beginning with my parents and then with teachers and now with colleagues. I see their positive qualities and strengths, which motivates me to keep striving to learn and hopefully develop those same strengths. They’ve provided me with a safe place to share frustrations and challenges, and have given me perspectives I would never have considered. They’ve also helped pave the way for me to become a great mentor. I am most interested in the growth and development of my team, but I also listen to my colleagues when they give me feedback on how I can improve. I have an open-door policy, so I’m approachable and available for everyone in my life. Leadership is a journey just like life—you never quite arrive and you are constantly growing.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
As a student, it was my
What are your hopes for the future of Lakeshore?
To continue to develop and provide materials that make a real impact in children’s lives. When I first started at Lakeshore, we were making great products; now we are making more sophisticated types of educational toys by staying on the cutting edge of learning. We regularly travel the country to visit classrooms and talk with educators to understand what types of materials they need, and what are they looking for that they can’t find. These insights help Lakeshore continue to support teachers with the new products they need to shape young minds.