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“There’s no failure, only feedback” with Penny Bauder & Carlene Jackson

There’s no failure, only feedback. I live my life by that and I encourage everyone in the team to also do so. Encouraging people to step outside their comfort zones is really important. Encourage a growth mindset which allows people to make mistakes. As part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women in STEM […]

There’s no failure, only feedback. I live my life by that and I encourage everyone in the team to also do so. Encouraging people to step outside their comfort zones is really important. Encourage a growth mindset which allows people to make mistakes.


As part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carlene Jackson. Carlene is the CEO of Brighton-based tech company Cloud9 Insight, a Microsoft Gold Partner which has provided more than 600 UK businesses with cloud-based CRM software systems. Founded in 2010, the company has 30 staff and is also an award-winning, recognized apprenticeship provider.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Iwas born in Dublin, Ireland, and moved to Brighton, England as a teenager. I started out in business at 17, running a catering franchise in a pub. I learned the hard way that catering is a tough way to make money.

I then trained as an air traffic controller, but it was at this time that I discovered I was dyslexic. Air traffic control isn’t a good job for a dyslexic like me. I struggle with determining left from right and you kind of need to instruct planes to go the right way or they might crash, so I abandoned that idea.

Next stop was the corporate world, learning sales at IBM and moving into the growing field of customer relationship management (CRM) software. I found that my biggest strength was in sales strategy. I’m pretty quick to understand customers and connect with them, drive change and help companies set a vision.

Cloud computing was emerging and Microsoft Dynamics had been launched for small businesses to help boost their sales. Previously, this kind of technology had only been available to larger companies. But cloud computing made it accessible for a much bigger market. My brother is a serial entrepreneur and gave me some uncompromising advice: “Stop making millions for others and start making millions for yourself.”

I founded Cloud9 Insight in 2010 along with my business partner Nigel Ridpath, who I later bought out, and I have grown the company to 30 staff. We are on target to grow revenues and profitability by nearly 70 per cent this year and have gained over 700 clients since we began in 2010.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

I’m fascinated by just how much people can change and improve. I once hired a 19-year-old apprentice called Emily, who had dropped out of college. Initially, she was quite squeaky and nervous. But

we worked on her presentation skills and sponsored her to do a college course in management.

After three years in our business, the change was huge. This timid, nervous, new starter had blossomed into a successful project manager and wonderful young woman. By the age of 21, Emily was on a great salary, being headhunted by competitors and gaining respect from peers much older than her. She’s now something of a legend in the Microsoft community and a presentation she’s given of her personal journey is inspiring.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Weregularly cook together as a team — it’s an important part of our company culture. But one day, we were cooking pancakes in the office for Shrove Tuesday, and somebody left the butter in the pan on a high heat. It smoked, set off the fire alarm and the building had to be evacuated. We got into trouble for that. The lesson? We moved the smoke detector away from the cooker and try not to burn butter.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The culture of our business really makes us stand out. I think the culture of any business is what makes it unique. I look to hire people for their potential, not just their previous success. I look for ambitious people who are very collaborative and have a growth mindset.

For me, that growth mindset allows us to take on new challenges and to really push the boundaries. So, one of the things I encourage the team to do is to create 10-year ‘future CVs’. This exercise really gets people thinking about where they’re going and what skills they might need on their journey. And, by having this 10-year future CV, it allows me, as a business owner, to align our future growth with their personal ambitions and strengths.

Our industry is known for people working long and unsociable hours. We don’t call people on the holidays. We don’t have long hours. And we’re embracing the concept of flexible working as well as unlimited, unpaid holiday.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Iam in the early stages of setting up our separate training and apprenticeship business. This has been a great experience; it seems that everyone I speak with shares the same passion and purpose around apprenticeships. Schemes like this can change the trajectory for many people, young people as well as those seeking to enhance their career progression later in life.

I see technology changing many industries and we plan to encourage more people to work in our sector. Our training courses will enable future generations to enjoy the success and support I have had in my career. On this journey, I would also like to inspire more people to consider being an entrepreneur and give them access to the tools which will help them achieve this.

The education system doesn’t equip young people for the work environment, which means they don’t make the best impression and, as a result, get off to a slow start with their career. I plan to offer support to help those starting out, to give them the best chance. I will also give them a chance to explore their future purpose so they can identify their options and build a plan. How often do we drift through life without a plan? I believe happiness is more likely when you know what you want.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

I’m not satisfied with the status quo at schools. I have a daughter, aged 17, who isn’t being offered the kind of STEM education I think would be helpful. It’s the same in my son’s school; they’re not being offered the chance to learn technology at a younger age, it’s not a skill that’s required or a subject taught in many schools.

Where technology is being taught, it is at a later age and it’s quite specialist; you’re being forced to really narrow down. But schools play a critical role in influencing career choices and they need to make sure they’ve got more ambassadors for STEM careers coming into the school that are out of the ordinary. We need women who have, for instance, worked in the space industry, speaking in public and inspiring girls. It’s not just about just the job but leadership itself, and for girls to imagine themselves as the next leaders in their field. The concept of leadership needs to be promoted more at schools. I don’t remember ever actually being encouraged to be a leader, or even consider being an entrepreneur.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM or Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?

Many women are put off by being the only female doing a subject. Some colleges are addressing this by offering female only courses and this is something I’ll definitely consider — a female only course to remove that barrier for the apprentices I work with here at Cloud9.

There’s also a problem in terms of salaries. I would challenge women in STEM be bold and to ask for the salary that they want and deserve. In my experience, it can often be the case that their male counterparts have actually asked for a higher salary, when they didn’t. Women in STEM and tech must research and identify what’s a fair salary for their role, and then stand up for themselves in the same way that their male counterparts do.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM or Tech. Can you explain what you mean?

It’s often said that there is a ceiling for promotion. But you only have to look at companies such as Microsoft in the UK to see that there are many great examples where women hold the most senior roles. It’s important for women and men alike to find their voice and stand for what they believe in, use people skills and continue to learn in order to prove value to the business.

As a woman in STEM, you must be brave, put yourself outside your comfort zone and try new things. It’s often said that guys are more likely, on average, to apply for a role they don’t yet have the skills for. Many women discount themselves before they even get to the interview stage — don’t undersell your transferable skills and the value of passion, drive and a thirst for learning.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in STEM or Tech” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

When I have new women starting, some of the tips that I give them include that people generally like to be asked for help. So, use the fact that people want to help you, because a guy with testosterone might be less likely to ask for help. So, leverage your own willingness to ask.

Another one would be input in times of conflict. Men are less likely to be aggressive towards a female. And so appreciate that, as a female, you may be able to defuse a difficult situation between two people, two males, by being there in it, whether it’s in a meeting or a client situation or between two colleagues.

If there is only one course you do in your career, make it a coaching one. Good coaching training can help you really listen to what is going on in any given situation and help you feel at ease in new situations when you have no subject matter expertise. I find I use my coaching skills with clients and colleagues alike. They can help to get buy in to make a change, help others understand the reasons to undertake a change, and enable all parties to make a plan to make it happen, for example when you need to plan the steps necessary to implement CRM technology.

The most successful people I have met in life have had official or unofficial mentors. Find yours, perhaps more than one. The best ones will be impartial and believe in you, even when you don’t always believe in yourself. Some people say that behind every successful man is a strong woman and perhaps the same is true for great female role models. Certainly, for me, my brother and husband have been a great inspiration to me, even if they don’t know it.

I have also found tremendous value in my network of peers at Vistage, a global CEO membership group. They have inspired me to make changes in my leadership and achieve huge growth in my business these past few years.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Take ownership of your company values. The company should have clear values that are also in your job advert, so you attract the right people, and so that you can measure ongoing success against these values. These values have to be sincerely embodied by the leadership team in your business.

Think of diversity in terms of age as well as gender. People often think of diversity as about gender, but I think young people have a lot of ideas and different perspectives. If you only get opinions from your older generation and your leadership team, you’re going to keep doing the same things as in the past.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

There’s no failure, only feedback. I live my life by that and I encourage everyone in the team to also do so. Encouraging people to step outside their comfort zones is really important. Encourage a growth mindset which allows people to make mistakes.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Myyounger brother. He told me to ‘stop making millions for others and start making millions for myself’. He’s a serial entrepreneur himself, who has, on his LinkedIn profile: ‘lucky dad’. He inspired me to become an entrepreneur, by explaining that you don’t need to have an original idea to be an entrepreneur, you just have to do something other people are doing, and do it better, which I thought was good advice.

It made me stop looking for an innovation. I always thought, to be an entrepreneur, I had to innovate a wonderful, new gimmick that had never been made before. I thought I had to do something original. I actually think a lot of people think that. But the reality is that, if nobody else is doing it, a lot of the time that’s because there’s no market for it. So, you absolutely can do something other people are already doing, and just do it better.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Iwould like to think that anyone who’s been through the business has come closer to either knowing their dreams or achieving them. This has been done through employing people whose potential I could see. In some cases, people might be lost on their way and helped them get back on track. It’s about believing in people. Everyone wants to be believed in. If people believe in you, then you start to believe in yourself, sadly a lot of people don’t.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Asa dyslexic person, I would like to inspire a movement towards empowering neurodiversity. Increasing employers’ perception of the value of employing neuro-diverse people, who think differently. I believe this would be a positive and worthy movement.

The movement would be about really understanding the strengths of people, leveraging that and, adapting management styles. It would be about creating roles to suit people who have particular strengths. This movement recommend that neurodiverse people are in problem-solving workshops and strategy planning, because they like to think outside the box.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Becareful what you wish for, it might happen. One of my company values is positivity. For me, that means having a vision of what you want to happen, believing that, and not worrying too much exactly how you’re going to do it — things seem to have a wonderful way of working out. Ensure your vision and thoughts are positive, assume success and don’t spend time worrying about failure.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Ido like motor sports and would love to meet F1 champion Lewis Hamilton. I’m intrigued by people who’ve reached the top of their field, and I would like to find out what sacrifices he’s made to reach the summit. I’d ask him how it feels to be no.1. I’d ask what advice he has for ambitious people. What mental attitude and sort of strength you need to have? What are the qualities that you need to be the top of your field?

There’s a lot that he would have been taught about team performance and how to have all those little things that happen that make what he does and his team successful. Lewis Hamilton must also know a lot about brand. I’m fascinated by brand. He has to be very careful about how he portrays himself and what he says. There are so many things we could talk about, even before we discussed motorsports. Also, with all the travelling he does, he must have some interesting stories.

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