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Women in Business: Q&A with Dori Roberts, CEO and Founder of Engineering for Kids

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Engineering for Kids comes from the mind of educator Dori Roberts. With an extensive educational background in math and technology education, Roberts taught engineering at the high school level for 11 years. During her teaching career, she saw a dire need for math, science and engineering programs. To fill this void, she started an afterschool club that participated in various engineering and science-based competitions.

After membership hit 180 students and the group won multiple state championships, she decided to tailor the program and apply it to a wider age demographic. Engineering for Kids offers a suite of programs for children ages 4 to 14 introducing them to science, technology, engineering and math through a variety of workshops all aimed at developing problem solving skills.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Being a classroom teacher has allowed me to become a leader in education. Being an entrepreneur has helped me to become a leader myself, to continually push myself to reach my goals and set new ones. Most importantly, being a mother has helped me to understand leadership in the fullest, to be a role model and a provider for my family.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as founder of Engineering for Kids?
My previous employment experiences helped shaped me into the person I would need to be to found and maintain Engineering For Kids. As a high school teacher and faculty advisor (for Technology Student Association), I was given the opportunity to introduce engineering and a passion for STEM to the next generation. It was in this opportunity I realized I wished to introduce STEM to an even younger audience, to devote myself even further to the cause.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I am blessed to have both a family and a staff that accommodate this balance. I feel the Engineering For Kids family acts as such, and I try to be the type of mother that can keep her family running smoothly, much like a business. It doesn't hurt that my children are actively interested in the "family business," always wanting to be informed and involved. Even though being a CEO is a full-time job, so is being a mother...so I make sure to be a mom when I'm at home, and to show my children and husband they are very important to me.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Engineering for Kids?
For me, the biggest highlight is the biggest picture: to see Engineering For Kids flourish across the many communities and families that it has so far. I would say every day presents new challenges, but the ability to overcome challenges makes for new highlights in itself.

What advice can you offer young individuals hoping to establish a program with similar goals to Engineering for Kids?
Go for it. Follow your heart and realize that your dream is your dream for a reason. If you feel led to dream it, why not make it a reality? This is especially true for young women who wish to make an impact in the business world.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Juggling family and work, as I've mentioned, can be a challenge at times. However, it is a good goal to have, and meeting this goal, this balance, leaves one feeling quite inspired and accomplished.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
The book and the movement both host the cornerstones for success in modern industry as well as life in general. I identify with the focus on community, not only in respect to the Engineering For Kids community, but as a member of a local ladies business network. Supporting education, as well as networking and ladies' circles, is also crucial.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
My mentorship has taught me how to view life and business from multiple perspectives, to find the best solution to a challenge and to use the resources at my disposal. I hope Engineering For Kids can offer this same quality of guidance and decision-making to the next generation.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire Dina Dwyer-Owens--CEO, Chairwoman, and an outstanding role model full of values and ability. Dina shows that women have the ability not only to dream a vision, but to achieve and continually expand it. She is not afraid to be a woman, a mom, or a CEO. She is inspiring.

What are your hopes for the future of Engineering for Kids?
My hope is that Engineering For Kids reaches as many communities as possible, inspiring the next generation of young and inquiring minds.