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Team Spotlight

Team Spotlight: Kelly Hernandez

GC: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your life growing up?

I was born in Lima, Peru and moved to New Jersey one month shy of my 6th birthday. New country, new home, new school, new faces and new language. Needless to say, I struggled through the first grade. I do consider myself lucky though, because I had incredible bilingual teachers in elementary school who guided me every step of the way. Before I knew it, I was not only caught up but I was excelling in all subjects. A big part of that was also my supportive parents who taught me from a very young age the value of education.

GC: When did you know that you wanted to go into the education field?

I have always loved school and dreamt of having my own classroom someday. After 8th grade I had the opportunity to attend Passaic County Technical Institute, a vocational high school, where I chose to focus on Child Development. I was 14 years old and indecisive of whether I wanted to branch out into psychology or social work; all I knew for sure was that I wanted to work with children. I wanted to make a difference. Ultimately ECE was the right fit for me and I followed it through college. I attended William Paterson University where I graduated cum laude with a double major in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. I also minored in Liberal Studies with a double focus on English and Anthropology.

GC: How did you come to work at Guidecraft? 

I was hired as a first-grade teacher right after I graduated college. As I was setting up my classroom I received a phone call about a toy company looking for a recent education graduate to write activities and curriculum for their toys. At first I was hesitant. I already had the job I worked hard for, the classroom I had dreamt of and I was ready to make a difference. However, I realized that if I truly wanted to make an impact in the lives of children on a global scale, it would be by joining the Guidecraft family as their ECE Advisor.

GC: How would you describe your position?

I develop games, activities, and higher order thinking questions that stimulate cognitive development, as well as reinforce social-emotional interactions. I work with the designers to bring in an educational point of view for the different products Guidecraft has to offer. I am also the link between Guidecraft and schools. I currently work with William Paterson University sponsoring workshops and professional development opportunities for teachers in STEM

GC: What has been your favorite experience working at Guidecraft?

My favorite experience (so far!) has been bringing my niece and nephew to the office for Gary’s birthday. Their eyes lit up with excitement as they explored the office, and they even claimed that I have the coolest job ever! With everyone laughing and having fun together, you truly get a sense of family here at Guidecraft.

GC: Are there any rules or techniques that you follow as an educator?

My rule is to always put the children first. Their safety is a priority. I’m always asking myself if what I design is developmentally appropriate. I also do a lot of research to keep up with the latest educational strategies and trends. I find that I learn a lot from fellow teachers and other experts.

GC: What is some advice you would give someone who wants to go into a similar field?

Push yourself. It’s nice to be in a comfortable place doing something you know, but you don’t truly see the extent of your potential until you push yourself into something new. The best adventures always come from taking a leap of faith.

GC: Is there anything else you would like to add or share?

I love learning as much as I love teaching. I guess that is why I enjoy reading and traveling. I also love nature, music, and dancing.

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Team Spotlight: Nidhi Sehgal

This month’s featured Guidecraft team member is our Director of Sales in India, Nidhi Sehgal. She is a wonderful addition to our Guidecraft team and we’d love for you to get to know more about her!

img_0499GC: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your life growing up?

NS: I am originally from Meerut, a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India. After high school, I moved to New Delhi to pursue my graduate degree from Lady Irwin College (Delhi University). During my graduate program I became very interested in Child Development, Psychology, and Early Childhood Care & Education. So, I went forward with my master’s degree in Human Development from SNDT Women’s University and was very lucky to spend most of my time on field work. I gained life-enriching experiences during this program working with people from various age groups and socio-economic status. I then started my professional journey with one of the most popular franchisee preschool chains in India.

GC: How did you come to be involved in both the educational and marketing fields?

NS: I got an opportunity to fill in during the absence of the marketing manager for the opening of one of our preschools. It was a success and I accomplished far more than what we expected. This experience fostered my interest into marketing; which prompted me to pursue my second Master’s degree in Marketing Management. I then got into product development building and collaborated with a variety of teams from warehouses to academic fields.

GC: How did you come to work at Guidecraft? 

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Team Spotlight- Yongai Zheng

This month’s featured Guidecraft team member is Zigler’s Director of Education, Yongai Zheng, in our Beijing office. She has been a wonderful addition to our Guidecraft team and we’d love for you to get to know more about her!


Yongai Zheng, Director of Education at Zigler.

GC: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your life growing up?

YZ: I was born in HeBei province, which is very close to Beijing. I grew up with a lot of recognition and support from my family, because I performed very well in school and was admitted into Beijing Normal University without having to take the National Higher Education Entrance Examination (which was a first for BNU).

GC: Tell us a little about your family.

YZ: I have a happy and lovely family with my husband and 8-year-old daughter. My husband has a very good job as a public officer in the financial department in the Beijing municipal level government. Aside from his work, he is responsible for taking care of our family, which is what I like about him most. He is popular among family and friends because he is always thinking more about others than himself. My daughter is a pretty, smart and sensitive girl. When we came back from United States last September it only took her two months to catch up in her classes. Now she not only performs excellently in school but also takes charge of some duties as a class committee member. I am so happy for her rapid progress.

GC: I heard you spent a year at Yale, how was your experience and what did you do?

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Team Spotlight on Industrial Designer – New York, Nick Kovacs

This month’s featured Guidecraft team member is Industrial Designer, Nicholas Kovacs, in our New York office. He has been a wonderful addition to our Guidecraft Design team and we’d love for you to get to know more about him!

Guidecraft Industrial Designer, Nicholas Kovacs

Industrial Designer, Nick Kovacs

GC: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

NK: I am originally from Missouri, but my family moved to South Dakota shortly after I was born and then moved again to Poughkeepsie where I lived all the way through high school. After high school, I attended Drexel University in Philadelphia. I was really into music in high school, which I still am, so I originally went to school for music, like music business. I transferred out of that program during my freshman year because I took design and art classes as electives and really liked it. One of my professors got me in touch with the director of product design at Drexel as I hadn’t known what industrial design was before that. Product design was a brand new major at Drexel at that time so I joined their first class and the rest is pretty much history. I was in the first graduating class at Drexel for Product Design. It had about 7 or 8 people, which was really small, but it was nice because it was intimate and I got really close with the faculty. It was this whole process that made me first realize that I wanted to be a professional designer.

GC: Was there anything or anyone in your young life that inspired you towards a creative career path?

NK: I was always creative as a kid. I liked to draw, write music and play music.

GC: What made you choose to work at Guidecraft?

NK: I really like how this company fosters creativity and doesn’t restrict you at all. Throughout the offices, the people and the ideas, it is very open which I like a lot.

GC: I heard that there was a memorable dog toy in your portfolio when you came for your interview…Pet Toy(1)(NOBLEED)

NK: Yes, it was from a project I did during my sophomore year in college. From my research, we found that a lot of dog toys are dangerous and can dislocate dogs jaws so that started my ideas. I came up with sketches and an idea for an overmolded tennis ball. Basically when the dog is chewing on it it will hit a certain threshold where the ball would pop out and they can enjoy it. You can also throw it and when it hits the ground the ball pops out and goes flying and they can chase after it. It was a project that I really enjoyed and I thought it was a good idea to present it because it was something fun but not too serious.  They seemed to love it and I was really happy they did since I had put a lot of work and effort into it!

GC: What is your position and what do you like about it?

NK: My position is Industrial Designer. I like that I get to design a lot of different things, furniture, toys,  graphic design and I like the continuation that occurs for new products and new ideas. It’s never monotonous. There is always something new to do.

GC: Why did you pick children’s toys and/or furniture as your focus?

NK: Everyone in my immediate family is in the medical field, always helping people. My dad is a physician and my mom is a school nurse and they really enjoy the aspect of helping people I always wanted to design to improve people’s lives or help individuals with disabilities. That’s kind of why I enjoy early childhood education as my focus.

Andrew Williams and Nicholas Kovacs

Industrial Designers Andrew Williams and Nicholas Kovacs

GC: Are there any particular rules you follow when designing toys? What about furniture?

NK: There are a lot of rules. For toys, it depends but the obvious things are small parts and the developmental age of the user. You don’t want to design something too sophisticated for a child to use and vice versa. For furniture, it depends on whether the piece is a consumer piece for Guidecraft or a piece for school supply. For school supply, it’s very stripped down and has to focus on durability, not so much on style. It has more of a utilitarian design. That’s the difference between say a Guidecraft dress-up center, which might have many design elements and a shelving unit for a preschool.

GC: What has been your proudest professional moment so far? Any specific toy or piece of furniture?

NK: I think it’s just seeing your overall designs being manufactured then taken to market. It’s really cool. Basically that you created something and brought something new into the world.

I was really impressed however, with how the development of a furniture line for one of our corporate partners. It was also a global project too. We found the maple in Canada and exported it to Vietnam and worked with them and then we brought it back to the United States to be assembled. The whole global aspect of it was really cool.

GC: Any favorite toy projects?

NK: I liked all of the IO Blocks projects. My favorite is probably the IO Blocks Vehicles because it was a really fun discovery process for us. We had the wheels and we started designing and printing 3D parts, playing with them and creating different vehicle possibilities. It was just a fun experience overall.

IO Vehicles

IO Blocks Vehicles

GC: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of pursuing a career in design? Or someone who is currently in a college program related to design, like yours?

NK: First, I would suggest to really think about how something is going to be manufactured. If it’s for a plastic; ask if it can be molded correctly. It is important to think about the entire project agenda and if it makes sense to move forward. Is it going to be too expensive, complicated or involve too many materials? Learn about the entire lifecycle of a product and pay attention to the small details of how something is made. Also, design is very subjective and everyone will interpret your designs differently. In the end, the more you know about design, the more you realize how much more there is to learn. It’s a great and continual process which we explore every day at Guidecraft.

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Interview with Ethan Wadsworth, 16-year-old PowerClix® Explorer Series Artist for Guidecraft

Ethan Portrait (1)

Ethan Wadsworth

GC: Your artwork is so amazing and intricately detailed. When did you get seriously interested in drawing?

Ethan: I became really interested in drawing in first grade and by second grade I was drawing every single day.

GC: How do you describe your style?

Ethan: I’d say my style is very cute and friendly and it seems like something you would see and want to touch and pick up if you could. I’d also say it’s very modern, in the sense that, it’s kind of stylistically similar to a lot of things that are popular right now. It’s kind of Japanese influenced. You can put a face on anything and it can turn into a character.

My style has been evolving and changing over the years. Lately I do many characters whose proportions are similar to a real person but for this Explorer Series project, I decided to go back to characters that I used to draw so much a few years ago. They seemed appropriate for the toys. Again, they are very cute, friendly and inviting.

GC: What is a typical day for a 16-year-old professional artist?

Ethan: Well, I go to high school Monday through Friday but I basically draw all day in school on worksheets. I even doodle all over my tests! Some teachers like it and some don’t, I’d say. Then, I get home and draw a lot too. I’d say I draw 1-2 hours after school each day. I also do some Still Lifes now which is kind of a new thing for me.

GC: Any other interests?

Ethan: I am getting very interested in animation… making the pictures and characters move and watching them in action.

GC: How did you get involved with Guidecraft and PowerClix toys.

Ethan:  My mother and Heidi Bilezikian are both painters, and good friends from art school, and Heidi (who is married to Gary Bilezikian, the President of Guidecraft) loved my work so much she recommended that Gary take a close look at it and see if it would work for a project with Guidecraft. Then a year ago, Gary asked his son, Dan, and I to come in and do some builds with the PowerClix magnetic toys over winter break. That day, I brought some drawings and characters that I drew and showed them to Gary, his family, and everyone at the office and they really loved them. A few months later, I got a call from Gary and he said, we need someone to design some characters and they couldn’t find anyone whose work they thought fit. He said, “If you send your portfolio with some character designs and it works out, that you could have a job working on the new PowerClix project.”  It turned out to be the opportunity of a lifetime. In the end, it will be a whole series of PowerClix toys (Explorer Series) with different adventurous themes. The first set’s theme is Space and the main character is an alien exploring planets with his jellyfish-like friend.  I am working on the next set which will be about Architecture and have been studying and drawing styles from around the world for the backdrop.

GC: What’s your favorite thing about the project?

Ethan: It’s just amazing that my characters are being used with and turned into an actual toy. There will even be a figure that I made included with each PowerClix Explorer set.

PowerClix Explorer Series - Space Set

PowerClix® Explorer Series – Space Set

GC: What was the process to get the toy done and how long did it take?

Ethan: First I showed some different characters I have done, then we picked a few themes (loosely based on them) that would fit with the PowerClix builds. Then after that, I developed a comic, backdrop and character for each theme so each set is different. I bring ideas to Guidecraft and we work out the details and make changes together. Then they take it from there, creating new magnetic sets (and colors) from all the PowerClix building toy shapes they have. The booklet that goes with the toy has a cartoon, backdrop and pictures of the real toy builds interacting with my characters and drawings.

GC: Who are some artists that you admire?

Ethan: Well, there are so many… David Hovarth, who designed the Ugly Doll series.

Aaron Meshon and his Let’s Hang zipper pulls, Hayao Miyazaki, the creator of the Studio Ghibli movies, and Hokasai, the classic Japanese artist who did 100 views of Mt. Fuji.

GC: Do you plan to go to college?

Ethan: Yes, some schools I am interested in attending are Pratt, RISD, SVA and Cal Arts. I would like to study Animation.


More on the PowerClix® Explorer Series – Space Set here!





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