Focusing on the Family, Part 1: Developing mathy stuff that families love

This year, Zeno has seen incredible growth in our MathWays for Early Learning Program. Along with this growth, we have made it a priority across our programs to ensure that the voice of the families we serve are a key part of our program development and evaluation. In this series, we’ll highlight some of the work we’re doing internally and in collaboration with others to ensure we are meeting the needs and address the challenges of families participating in our programs.


 

In the first part of our series, we’ll explore one of Zeno’s newest positions: the Product Manager. This winter, Zeno created a brand-new Product Manager role to assist in the development and evaluation of our programs. In February, we were excited to hire Tarhata Guiamelon for the position. Tarhata brings a range of experience in technology consulting for non-profits, business management, user experience, and research to her new role Zeno. Read her full bio here!

 

What is a Product Manager?

While Zeno does not sell products to families, we do provide Math Game Kits and free programming that engages families in playing math. In for-profit companies, the Product Manager is often responsible for ensuring that products are useful, usable, and engaging for consumers. A Product Manager does not traditionally exist in a non-profit organization but we want to be sure that our products and services are meeting the needs of the people we serve. Our Product Manager is as unique as Zeno—she incorporates the voice of the family in all the work we do by working with program staff to collect feedback from families, driving evaluation efforts that assess the effectiveness of our materials, and recommending changes to program structure so that Zeno is always meeting the needs of the diverse families we serve.

 

How does Zeno’s Product Manager bring the voice of families into program development and evaluation?

Our Product Manager, Tarhata, is responsible for overall product ownership. This means that she is responsible for of the quality of Math Game Kits provided to families through our MathWays for Early Learning (MathWays) Program, as well as evaluating program delivery and materials for other programs. Tarhata incorporates feedback from the programs team, partners, the community, and families to develop and refine early learning math games so that they are useful, effective, and engaging for families. She plays a key role in designing and refining the user experience for families by working with program managers to validate designs through play testing and user research. As a part of this effort, Tarhata builds and cultivates relationships with partners across multiple sectors to quickly and thoughtfully incorporate feedback from the families we serve. Finally, she oversees and executes program evaluation, data collection, and analysis efforts to improve products and inform program development.

 

Since joining the team, Tarhata has already run a number of play testing sessions with families participating in the MathWays program, begun piloting a new Family Discussion group model, and taken on management of a number of collaborative projects, including work with early learning math researchers at the University of Maryland and the communications and marketing firm Purple Group in Chicago. We look forward to continuing to sharing her work and its impact on our programs with you!

 


Stay tuned for next month’s post on our new early learning game packaging developed in collaboration with some amazing volunteer graphic designers and production company KPCorp!

 

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