Dexter’s new COO focusing on customer experience and supply chain.

Taryn Sullivan, COO of Dexter Industries on an assembly line in a Chinese factory.

Taryn Sullivan, COO of Dexter Industries on an assembly line in a Chinese factory.

Hi, I’m Taryn Sullivan, the newest member of the Dexter Industries team. You may have seen a few blog posts and pictures of me recently, so thought it was time to introduce myself to our awesome community and customers. I’m thrilled to join such a dynamic and growing company building the tools that enable everyone to learn how to solve problems and make their own stuff using technology.

My story is proof that you don’t need a science degree to build robots. I’ve never taken an engineering, computer science or college-level science course of any kind. My college years were filled with classical Chinese poetry and lots of practice writing calligraphy.

Even so, my role at Dexter Industries still goes back to where I went to college — George Washington University. It’s there that I studied Chinese Language & Literature and Asian Studies, which led me into a career doing product development, sourcing & manufacturing in China and other industrializing countries. That experience equipped me with the skills to come help Dexter build better robots for our customers. Not only that, but also I’m not sure I would ever have met Dexter’s Founder & CEO, John Cole, if it wasn’t for my college roommate, who is now his wife. So, thanks GW (and Heera)!

I’ve spent most of the last 10 years on factory floors in China, Vietnam, India, Turkey, and Brazil solving all kinds of production, quality, and packaging issues. Mentored by some fantastic supply chain and manufacturing experts, I learned everything I know about factories by just doing it — being there right on the factory floor. I’ve learned how hard it is to make real, tangible products, and have seen companies of all sizes struggle to manage their global supply chain, and more importantly how it has a major impact on customers. I have developed a deep passion for bringing order and efficiency to improve everything from quality to on-time shipping, to ensure the best customer experience possible.

Taryn Sullivan doing packaging development in a factory in Vietnam.

Taryn Sullivan doing packaging development in a factory in Vietnam.

Today it is easier to start a business than ever before. Globalization and the web have been a powerful combination for entrepreneurs that want to get something out into the world. John is a perfect example of a true old-school inventor-entreprenuer who had an idea and was able (with a ton of hard work, albeit) to get his creation into the hands of real customers. John says a natural fear of putting something out in the world is “hearing crickets”, as he calls it. He says the worst fear is that no one will care and you don’t get any response. Tools like Kickstarter and even just Amazon provide platforms that allow you to get a read pretty quickly, even before you go through the whole development process. I think that’s pretty amazing.

But, what happens when it works? Or as in John’s case, when it works really well! Now you have to deliver, and that is hard. Most small product companies really struggle and the biggest pain at the end of the day is felt by the customer. Dexter Industries has felt the growing pains that all small, growing companies do, but they are determined to fix it more than any other company I have met. When I talked to John about coming on board he told me that he wants to build a better experience for his customers, and understands that takes real investment and expertise. That is when I knew it was a right fit because that is what I do best! My whole career has focused on creating the best experience for customers — from how they find out about a solution to their experience buying and owning that product.

You’ll start seeing some new improvements to our site and to the way we interact with everyone that will make being a community member at Dexter Industries even more exciting. We’re aiming for an easier experience from when you first learn about us to when you’re an expert robot builder, making more and more projects using our robots.  We believe that happy customers create a virtuous circle: together, we create even more instructive, accessible learning tools to best help you learn and solve problems with technology!

John & Taryn learning from customers at the 2015 NOVA Mini Maker Faire.

John & Taryn learning from customers at the 2015 NOVA Mini Maker Faire.

Let me tell you why I’m so excited to join Dexter Industries.

First, Dexter Industries develops technologies that equip people to revolutionize the world. It is more important than ever for everyone, no matter what your job is, to develop a deeper understanding of technology, and that only happens with exposure and interaction with it. I’ve experienced first hand how technology can actually be a barrier to creating change if you are intimidated by it or don’t understand it. As my technical aptitude has increased over the last few years, so has my ability, willingness and initiative to come up with feasible solutions to the problems I see all around me. We’re developing products that anyone can use, even someone with a Chinese language background 😉 .

My last 10 years working in manufacturing has given me exposure to how technology is transforming everything from online subscription services to the assembly line. In a world completely flooded by data, it is increasingly important to be able to assess what information is useful, and that might be one of the most practical ways we need to use technology — to help us organize all the information in our lives so we can spend our time thinking about things that really matter. I believe that 10 years from now, all students will be learning how to either develop, operate or fix robots that deal with data in one way or another.

This is a massive opportunity, and I’m excited about bringing innovative and world-class supply chain expertise to give Dexter the solid foundation it needs to scale up to be the leading educational robotics company in the world.

Lastly, Dexter is a company that really cares about the customers. I’ve seen John, Karan, Amanda, and Amber go above and beyond to help customers figure out technical issues and resolve any product or shipping problem. We’ve learned a lot as a company about how to run a better business, and now we’re working closer with our customers than ever before to figure out how we can equip educators with the tools they need to help each generation leapfrog the previous one.

So, we are improving everything from the front of the house (with a totally new website coming soon) to the back of the house (our development and manufacturing processes), so we can grow from a solid foundation and help you, our customers, revolutionize the world!

I warmly welcome any of you in our community to reach out to me if you ever want to talk China, manufacturing, supply chain, or basketball 😉 There’s more about my somewhat radical views on supply chain management on my personal blog, if you’re interested in more.

Taryn playing basketball with factory workers in China.

Taryn playing basketball with factory workers in China.


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