Alumna Caitlin Groeger on Graduating Debt-Free, Building an Inclusive Workplace, and Paving Her Own Way
Caitlin Groeger could teach a masterclass in setting and crushing goals. Case in point? She started as a temporary customer service team member at OtterBox and earned a full-time product marketing position – all while co-founding the company’s first LGBTQIA+ resource group. But this CSU Global alum’s journey to earning her bachelor’s degree and landing a job at a Top 10 Best Workplace in the U.S. by Forbes (2012) wasn’t always an easy path.
Groeger, who lives in Colorado with her wife and dog, struggled as she watched friends go off to brick-and-mortar colleges as she enrolled at her local community college. “My goal from the moment I started college was to do it debt-free, but I bounced around, taking classes and working because I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”
In 2016, Groeger accepted a temporary position at OtterBox, a global producer of mobile device accessories. She didn’t think much of it at the time; she was just grateful to have a job with free parking and a flexible schedule. But Groeger soon learned about OtterBox’s amazing employee benefits – including tuition assistance. Six months later, she became a full-time OtterBox employee and advanced into an admin role despite not having the preferred degree. During the interview, Groeger shared her plans with the hiring committee, which included earning her B.S. in Organizational Leadership at CSU Global.
Making the Marketing Move
Once enrolled at CSU Global, Groeger took a marketing class and was hooked. “I loved my classes. I loved my professors. And I loved how CSU Global structured the marketing classes,” shared Groeger. She knew she had found her passion.
“I went to my boss and said, ‘I know you took a chance on me to be an admin, but I think I want to go into marketing.’” Her manager encouraged her to add a marketing specialization to her degree – an example of OtterBox’s tenant of servant leadership, which Groeger explained is the philosophy of serving others first with an emphasis on growth and development. A few years later, Groeger graduated from CSU Global – debt-free.
In addition to navigating her burgeoning career and education, Groeger was also considering how to find a sense of community as both a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and a dedicated OtterBox employee.
At the time, Groeger said, OtterBox didn’t have a dedicated resource group for LGBTQIA+ employees. Groeger quickly changed that, co-founding OtterBox’s I AM LGBTQIA+ Resource Group alongside CSU Global student Leo Alvarez.
“I didn’t know who to go with questions, especially since I was working with my soon-to-be wife and wasn’t sure how to navigate that professionally,” she explained. “I started to wonder if there were other people like us.” Alvarez assured her that there were, and in February 2023, the group will celebrate three years of creating a space for people to talk through challenges, but most importantly, celebrate their contributions to the company, their community, and each other.
Today, Groeger is excited about a few things, namely, spending time with her wife (a senior financial analyst at OtterBox) and dog, working on their house, and traveling the world. She’s also excited about the opportunity to give back to others.
“It’s so important to take a step back and not keep chasing things,” she shared. “I’m in a really good situation and feel supported by my peers and leaders. They helped develop me so much, and now it’s time for me to invest back into the organization.” Groeger is happy to invest back into her personal life as well.
Groeger urges others: Do what's best for your story. "The moment that I compared myself to other students or to other stories, that's when I lost my own – that's when I started losing sight of my end goal.”
Reflecting on her time at CSU Global, Groeger remains grateful for the experience. “I would not have finished school if I didn’t have an online option. I thrived in a virtual environment and ended up getting accepted into an Honor Society – something that never would have happened at the beginning of my [on-campus] college career.”