Poole Advisory Board Spotlight: Francesa Cain-Watson
When Poole College advisory board member Francesa Cain-Watson thinks about the future of the college, she can’t help but get excited. As an NC State alumnae (bachelor’s degree in psychology) and technology professional, she knows the market is ripe for the talent the college is producing.
After graduating from the university in 2008, Cain-Watson took an inside sales position at Lenovo. She spent the next decade at the tech giant in different roles before taking a position as an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) data center account executive. However in mid-2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, she found herself presented with an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
“I was approached by a young startup company, Merlyn Mind, which created the first AI-powered digital assistant designed to assist and empower K-12 teachers,” Cain-Watson says. “As the company’s sales director, I got to play an important role in helping build our go-to-market strategy.”
She hopes her technology, and now start-up, experience will be an asset to the Poole College board. Luckily her new employers – top executives who came from companies such as IBM, Amazon, Google and more – are on board, as well.
“When I approached Merlyn Mind’s leadership about the potential opportunity for me to join the board, they were so encouraging not only of me, but in wanting to also support the college themselves,” she explains. “They have already volunteered to help however they can – whether it’s speaking to students or partnering in other ways.”
Cain-Watson got connected to the Poole College board through longtime board member Henry Campen, who then introduced her to current board chair Christine Holmes. She instantly bought into the vision for the board, and jumped at the opportunity to give back to the university in a meaningful way.
She currently serves on the board’s student success task force where she’ll work with other board members to increase opportunities for students and improve post-graduation outcomes like job placements and starting salaries.
I’ve really enjoyed working with our task force as we set specific goals for how to continue to improve student success for students – whether it’s creating additional networking opportunities or increasing the focus on career prep courses.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with our task force as we set specific goals for how to continue to improve student success for students – whether it’s creating additional networking opportunities or increasing the focus on career prep courses,” Cain-Watson says. “We also have spent a lot of time discussing the best avenues to communicate with our students about potential career and development opportunities. We want to reach students where they are.”
Cain-Watson is encouraged by the college’s focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, and the passion for problem solving, critical thinking and providing real-world experience for its students.
“There is a real commitment to students and their success, and that mentality has extended to the board,” she says. “It’s really exciting to be a part of that.”