Leslie Laboriel knows that both technology and kids are the key to the future. So after a successful corporate career in the wireless communications industry, she created a clever way to combine the two. The Rockland County native launched her own company, TrajectUP, featuring kids’ programs that combine learning and play to help youngsters develop a passion for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math).
“We use innovative mind toys in our workshops to focus on technical concepts such as engineering, coding, and architectural design,” Laboriel says. Her mobile-based Tappan business offers classroom and after-school programs for public elementary schools and independent learning centers, plus summer programs, kids’ parties, and other events.
One key element of TrajectUp is encouraging girls and minorities to explore technology. In her corporate background, Laboriel was an engineering director who headed a team of engineers, project managers and technicians — and managed a half-billion-dollar annual budget. Yet, she notes, “During my 27-year career, I noticed a lack of women and people of color in leadership positions.
“I’ve found my passion during this stage in my life,” she adds. “Our kids are the future, and we need to create fun learning environments that will help them contribute positively to our country in the future.”
Tell us a bit about your career in wireless communication.
As an African-American woman, I achieved many firsts in the NYC market, ranging from engineer to director of engineering. The challenges that go along with being the first helped me build an unstoppable mindset. When you resolve problems impacting millions of people in real time and figure out how to provide communications to families that have unimaginable loss during natural disasters, you believe everything can be figured out over time.
In the past, careers like wireless communication and engineering were predominantly male-oriented. Was it tough for you to navigate those fields in the early days?
Yes, it was challenging — from the beginning to the end of my career. I learned that it is up to you to create allies to help you move forward during a career that may make you feel invisible to many. These allies should share your vision and provide honest, constructive feedback. I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge during my career, and this experience helped me create a level of resilience that is not taught in a classroom.
I do believe that women supporting women is helping shift the pendulum. That is one of the reasons why TrajectUP was created: To show girls what is possible.