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Meet Caroline Dunn of Alexa Dev Group in Midtown Atlanta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Caroline Dunn.

Caroline, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Growing Up in Texas: I grew up in a suburb of Houston, TX always longing to move to the East Coast. That opportunity came when I moved to Atlanta and started college at Georgia Tech. I didn’t even know what I would major in, I just knew that Georgia Tech and Atlanta was where I was meant to be. Fast forward six years, I graduated near the top of my class with my Bachelors and Masters of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering, while co-oping five quarters at General Motors, consulting for three months at the Ministry of Finance in Singapore, and studying abroad for one summer at Oxford.

My non-Engineering Career: Upon graduation, I landed my dream interview at AT&T for an engineering position; that interview did not go the way I had planned, the interviewer told me I had excellent communication skills and recommended me for a supervisor role instead. My supervisor role positioned me for a business focused career instead of the technical engineering role I had studied for.

Art & Science: After working in a business role where I served as a technical liaison for several years, I became obsessed with the balance of art and science in technology. Yes, the products need to work technically, but someone has to express the value proposition in words and images that speak to the end users and buyers. As someone with a technical education, I could straddle the worlds of art and science, understanding the technical aspects of a complicated product, and simplifying to a value proposition for the end user. I shared this realization with my boss, Linda Davis; she was not only supportive, but she was also my champion. She introduced me to the Director of Marketing, Jodi Henson. Jodi encouraged me to pursue an MBA in Marketing and hired me as one of her product marketing managers in 2004.

The Forum: In 2006, After transitioning my career into a Marketing centered role, I was tagged with the opportunity to explore cutting edge innovations in an emerging technology called “wireless” and “mobile.” That led me to mobile marketing leadership positions in three different companies, where mobile, video and IoT evolved into an ecosystem. As we were exploring these innovations, a little non-profit organization called the “Wireless Technology Forum” emerged. I attended my first Wireless Tech Forum meeting in early 2007, and I was immediately impressed by the level of thought leadership and quality content of their speakers.

Forum Diversity at the Forefront: I was elected Wireless Forum president in 2015. I was the first female president in Forum history, and the only female board member that year. The lack of diversity at the Forum was now at the forefront. We elevated the diversity initiative to a strategic Board priority and developed a multi-year plan to connect with diverse technology professionals. Fast forward to 2020, we are now the Atlanta Innovation Forum, featuring diverse speakers in leadership positions.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I am guilty of putting my health in the backseat as I climbed the corporate ladder. As my success grew, I spent more time at work, and less time on my health and well being. In 2011, I started walking with my dog in the park. Almost immediately, I started feeling better. But my dog had other plans. He kept pulling on his leash, and I would run a short distance in a futile attempt to appease him. These short sprints turned into longer and longer runs. My dog passed away in 2013.

In 2014, I set my goal to run a half marathon (13.1 miles) in two hours and ten minutes. I accomplished my goal in two hours and nine minutes. In 2019, Tina Klein (also featured by VoyageATL), coached me to gold and silver medals at World Regionals in Toronto. Paul Dunn (my completely biased husband), tells random strangers that I should have been a track athlete. Now I’m frequently asked why I didn’t run in high school. The truth is that there were no Asian athletes where and when I grew up. My parents spent money on books, not running shoes. The lesson I learned is that it’s never too late to start a new journey and discover your hidden talents.

One of my favorite motivational quotes is, “Tough runs don’t last. Tough runners do. “This is probably a modification of Robert H. Schuller’s quote, “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.”

Please tell us about your organization.
While I was volunteering the Forum, I continued to pursue my passion for “Art & Science,” and I found an amazing outlet an innovation consultant and YouTube creator. I started by recording videos of myself and my friends including Steve Youngblood and Elizabeth Simpson interacting with Alexa and Google Home. This turned into “making” an Alexa with a Raspberry Pi. Today my YouTube channel has over 20,000 subscribers and five million views. The ‘secret ingredient’ of my YouTube channel is balancing art and science, explaining complex technology in a simple and useful way to help people every day.

Additionally, I’ve grown my innovation consulting practice, currently focused on voice technologies including Alexa and Google Home. Elizabeth Simpson, Steve Youngblood, and I co-founded Alexa Dev Group, a Marketing and Innovation Development Agency.

In early 2019, I was recognized by Amazon as a top ten Finalist in the Alexa Multi-Modal competition. I was the only finalist from Atlanta and the only female finalist in this international competition. If you are a fan of Baby Einstein, I created the Baby Einstein Alexa Skill through my work with Kids2.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
No secret, I was known as a “nerd” in high school. I was enrolled in all of the AP classes. Just before my senior year of high school, I decided I needed to “break the mold” and do something unexpected. I drove to the next town and auditioned for a modeling gig at a mall. Out of over 200 girls that auditioned, I was one of 15 who made the final cut. Next thing I know, I’m strutting down the runway.

The best part of the experience was meeting kids from other schools who didn’t know me as a “nerd,” but rather as “Cool Caroline.” Now I can say that I balanced my AP classes and runway modeling for my senior year of high school.

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