Authentic Achievements with Special Guest Carlene Jackson
From Bestselling author, currently writing the forthcoming book Authentic Achievements – The 7 Secrets to Building Brave Belief, Unstoppable Sales, and Turning Your Leaders Into Talent Magnets for Guaranteed Sustainable Growth, this show shares advice, stories and inspiration to help you achieve exponential growth personally and for your business and features interviews with industry leaders.
In this episode, I am delighted to be joined by old friend and ex colleague, Carlene Jackson. Carlene is the CEO of Brighton based tech company, cloud9 insight, a Microsoft gold partner, which has provided more than 800 UK businesses with cloud based CRM systems.
Carlene’s been shortlisted for women of the year in last year’s Woman in IT, national awards. Carlene also recently set up the cloud9 university, an online learning hub offering courses in selling and implementing technology.
Carlene established her first business age 17, and then spent nearly two decades in the software industry. She’s a frequent expert guest on BBC radio fives, wake up to money for her expertise on tech, entrepreneurship, company, culture and employee wellbeing.
You can find out more about Carlene and Cloud9 Insights at www.carlenejackson.com and www.cloud9insight.com
If you want to find out more check us out at www.authenticachievements.co.uk If you enjoyed the show please like subscribe and share with your friends. Thanks for watching.
Authentic Achievements with Carlene Jackson
Hello, and welcome to this episode of authentic achievements where it’s my absolute privilege to be joined by old friend and ex colleague, Carlene Jackson. Carlene Jackson is the CEO of Brighton based tech company, cloud nine insight. It’s a Microsoft gold partner, which has provided more than 800 UK businesses with cloud based CRM systems. Carlene’s been shortlisted for women of the year in last year’s woman in it, national awards. And Carlene also recently set up the cloud nine university, an online learning hub offering courses in selling and implementing technology. Carlene established her first business age 17, and then spent nearly two decades in the software industry. She’s a frequent expert guest on BBC radio fives, wake up to money for her expertise on tech, entrepreneurship, company, culture and employee wellbeing. And on top of all of that, she’s just an amazing, lovely person. So I am thrilled that you are here and we are getting to chat again, Carlene welcome.
Thank you so much, Kim. Great to be here again with you.
It’s an absolute joy and we were just, we just got really heavily chatting didn’t we backstage and we’re like, we should probably just get on the show and talk about it here. So, well, let’s have a bit of a recap. We’ve just been talking about the importance of belief when it comes to leadership, and you’ve got some amazing stories of how you’ve been able to use your belief in others to empower them, to find that belief in themselves. So I wondered if you could share a bit of that with us, please,
For sure. Yeah. I guess the thing that gets me outta bed in the morning is, is creating talent and that’s everywhere around us and people are saying, oh, there’s I can’t hire anyone. There’s a shortage of talent or whatever. And everywhere I go, it’s almost like I see a halo of people’s potential and I love nothing better than to sort of work with people and, and help them creep a little bit outside their comfort zone to realize that, you know, they could achieve more. And the reward from that is when they see it for themselves that, oh, well, I thought that I, that was a sort of ceiling of what I could get to, but now I’ve seen how I’ve progressed so much in just a short period space of time. You’re really empowering them to sort of look ahead and go, well, if I’ve achieved this, what else could I achieve? And as long as you can create the right opportunities and culture in your business where learning is rejoiced and, and supported, because with learning, there comes a sort of an element of uncertainty. Am I gonna succeed? Is it gonna fail? Is what’s often in people’s mind in my mind, there’s no failure. It’s just feedback.
Yeah. I, I love that. Now. I always used to say to people that there’s no downside to anything like you go to an interview, there’s no downside. You see ’em looking at me like she’s a weirdo. Of course, this is a downside. I might not get it. And I was like, well, no, you either get the job or you get great feedback, which means you’re one step closer to get the job next time, either way. You’re closer to that goal. Aren’t you. So I love that whole ethos that you’ve got, which is helping people realize that if they just keep moving forward, then actually the goal comes inside. And you also shared at what I loved about the future facing CV. Could you share that with us? Cause that’s such a yeah. Thing to do.
Yeah, absolutely. So many years ago I came across a, it was actually a Harvard business review article and it was about how to manage your own career. And the suggestion was to create a forward CV and thinking about, well, if you had that future job, what are, what are the skills that you might need along the journey? Because say, for example, you are, I don’t know a junior salesperson, but you really want to be the MD. Well, it’s unlikely you just get the job just like that. So you need to think, well, what might be the transition? And it was a tool you could say to help you think about that. So what I do with everybody, in fact, we now do it, not just when people are in the business, but actually at the interview stage, because what, what we do is, is look to not hire really anyone for a job as such, but we hire people that we want to invest in to be our future talent.
And so we look at the various different career paths and we hire people at the early stages of that career journey. And so when they’re at this sort of interview stage, we ask them, invite them to write a, a three year future CV. So as part of that, they have to reflect on the last couple of years of what they’ve achieved, what they’ve learned, because sometimes for some people, especially even successful people, they find it hard to, to acknowledge and, and to go, yeah, I’ve actually achieved that. That’s great. Isn’t it? Because sometimes when you look back, you can actually, it’s easier to look forward and think, well, actually, why shouldn’t the future be better and, and different? And so we invite them to think about that and what the skills are and people, we get a lot of great feedback from people who go through that journey.
And for me, it’s, I think it’s important because often our consciousness and our subconsciousness isn’t really aware of our, our desires or whatever, but sometimes by sort of putting them down on paper, it, it helps you to think about it. And suddenly it’s almost like when you buy, I dunno if you were to buy a BMW, for example, suddenly everyone’s got a BMW that you see out in the street. And I think it’s really a great opportunity to sort of see what doors are actually really open there and, and make sure that people are making the right choices about why they’re joining your business versus other opportunities that may exist.
That’s amazing. I love that cause actually you’re right. As you know, our subconscious brain is the happiest helper we’re ever gonna have, but it comes with one significant floor. It doesn’t understand the difference between helping and harming. So if we tell it we’re bad at something, it will find all the examples that we’re bad at it. If we tell it that we desire it, that we want it, we wanna be good at it. Then it’ll find all the opportunities for us to be able to get there. And you you’re right. It’s like when you find the car of your dreams sort and you’re gonna buy it suddenly, everyone’s got it. It’s not cause there’s more of them around it’s because your subconscious brain now knows that you are interested in it. So it shows that to you because we filter out about 80% of what’s going on in our world because our brain can’t cope with that amount of, of action. So, so I love that. You’re getting people to really think about not where I am I, but where do I want to be? What will that look like? How will that feel? What will I have learned to be able to get there? So really taking proactive action around creating their career. And is that what inspired you to do the university?
Yes, I guess I’m always really excited to create new talent, but I think that our own business, in fact, when we work together, it is an ongoing challenge. It’s the tech industry in particular, but there are definitely other industries out there there’s the same like accounting and hospitality, but there’s such a shortage of talent. And I think, I, I believe that it’s better to focus on creating talent, not just stealing talent is how I look at it. If you head count from another competitor, say, and so with that in mind, I think it’s just really important to, to see what is it you can do to really make an impact and a difference. But at the same time for me, myself, I didn’t do an undergraduate degree, but I’ve fallen into the tech sector. And so I have really enjoyed that. The opportunities that this industry has to offer people.
And I think that if more people realize sort of the career paths that are open to them that are in the tech sector, but could be, say sales or marketing or other sort of other areas. I think that we’d have more of a gender balance with sort of male and female. And, but also it’s important to sort of create people from different diversities of backgrounds. And like for example, I I’m dyslexic so many dyslexics wouldn’t necessarily have taken a traditional route through life. They wouldn’t necessarily have done their sort of school education. They would’ve gone to uni if you take people like Jamie Oliver. So you can’t question his success in life, but you, I think we have to sort of be more open minded about that. There are some non-traditional roots for people. And so if, if you are an organization that can open its doors to create talent and invest in talent and offering training, that’s a good thing.
So my, the university is focused on the in fact, the very first one you, you into this chem, the very first course we’re offering is a mini sales MBA. I love which is great because you know, a lot of sales people, if I was generalizing, they haven’t often been to uni. So I want to give them the, some of the tools and ideas and the language, I guess that an MBA would teach you to better understand their customers. Because for me, I think it will be a, a really great opportunity to, to give training and skills of, of huge value to that sort of spectrum of the it sector.
Oh, I love that. And yeah, I, I read somewhere, I can’t remember who, who buys. So forgive me the other day that they, they always categorize in every organization. You’ve only, you’re only in one of two roles. You’re either in sales or sales support because actually that’s the point in, in every company we’re either selling something to somebody or we supporting the people that are doing the selling cause and actually that selling is always to solve someone’s problem. If you’re not solving a problem, you’re not gonna sell them anything because they don’t, they don’t need it or you might sell it to them. And they’ll be very frustrated with you and will become a, you know, negative impact on, your company. So giving people sales skills is, is a amazing, and, and also that whole ethos of helping people to, to think wider, isn’t it, you know, to embrace neurodiversity in all forms of diversity because our customers are all forms of diversity.
So if we are not matching that level of diversity, we can’t possibly understand what them well, enough to be able to really connect and make those relationships. So I love that that’s the whole ethos around cloud nine and now cloud nine university, which is like building talent around truly connecting with people, understanding them and helping them be their best, whether that’s your people, your talent or, or your clients. So you touched on the fact that your journey hasn’t been perhaps the, the most traditional route. Could you just tell us a little bit about your journey and what you learned along the way?
Sure. So actually when I was about 18 years old, I went to the Farnborough air show and I came across, at the civil aviation authority CAA sort of control center for directing air traffic in the sky. And this blew my mind. I was like, wow, this is amazing. And, and by the way, they didn’t expect or need you to have a degree. And my parents at the time were actually moving to Ireland. So it was probably gonna be a bit more of a struggle. And my, my then my now husband, but then boyfriend was also just about to fly, go up to Scotland, to study, to be a pilot. And, but so I, I needed some money if I was ever gonna see him. So I thought, well, maybe that could be a great career path for me. So, but however, what I, I wasn’t at that stage actually diagnosed with dyslexia, but I was successful in getting a qualification in air traffic control, which I studied by myself to do.
I worked weekends for fun at Kidlington airport in Oxford. And I really enjoyed it whilst working. I had a, day job you could say in it. And then I went, got through all of the tests at the CAA to, to be an air traffic controller and to be sponsored by them to be fully qualified. And then they introduced this new test to sell your left from your right, which I’d never come across and never seen. And, and actually I failed not surprisingly cuz a lot of dyslexics can’t tell they left from their right, not in the speed that I had to. And I thought, do you know what I recognize that this is actually people’s lives. It’s not actually about just my selfish career ambition. And so I basically stopped that ambition and I thought, do you know, I really love working in tech.
I love this industry. And by that stage, I’d fallen into sales as well. And so I basically sort of stayed in, in tech through the years and I was very fortunate early on in my career to work for IBM. So I did IBM sales school. And I sort of, I think that I put a lot of my success in running my current business down to the fact that I’ve applied and the corporate approach to what I do all the best things of the corporate approach, which means not on the back of a fact packet. But thinking through, do you have a contract? Is it well sort of written, are people offering the best level of employee employee, but also the customer experience of what you do and just constantly sort of aspiring to, to, to be the best of whatever you can do for your customers and give the best level of service and just thinking ambitiously for clients and what you can deliver for them.
And so that experience sort of put me in good stead throughout the rest of my career. And so when I founded, I founded cloud mining insight must be about 11 years or so ago. And I actually, at that time I had a six year old and a nine year old. So I moved out to, to the Alps actually, as you do, and my husband commuted to commute, to Heathrow, to go to fly to for work. And I had in my LinkedIn living the cloud dream, cuz it didn’t really, it doesn’t really matter does it where you are? I think the pandemic has proved that hasn’t it. So it doesn’t matter where you are in the world. And I think that it was a, a great experience, but then it got to the stage after four years that first of all, my kids were losing their English.
But secondly, my business was starting to really grow. And because of that business model of creating talent, I think you have to be in person. And I’ve really seen that as well during the pandemic that we actually got to the stage just pre pandemic, where we actually got signed off by the government to offer apprenticeship. But if nobody’s having anyone in the office, certainly at that time, it, you weren’t really even supposed to have an apprentice if they weren’t, if they were working from home, how could you mentor them and train them, et cetera. So we abandoned or sort of shelved that idea. And that’s why when we came back post pandemic and thought, well, what, how are we gonna make that difference if we’re not doing, should we do the apprenticeship stuff or should we do something else? And we felt that there’s a couple of other projects that we’re working on, including the university that we felt we could really make an impact with all of the assets that we have in the business to, to create new talent. So, and here we are today.
I love that. And what I love throughout your story is you, you talk a lot about ambition. So you know, you, you, your ambition for the talent to be the best, they can be your ambition for the customer to get the best experience and to solve the problem that they want to be your ambition for you to be the best version of you that you can be. But what I love about it, it, it kind of comes across every interaction I’ve ever had with you is that’s not competitive against other people. It’s competitive against yourself. So it’s about being, being pleased for everybody. Else’s success whilst also saying, okay, I’m gonna use that to spur me on for me to emulate that success. So it’s not, they’ve got it instead of me, it’s actually, they can do it. I can do it. And that’s kind of runs through doesn’t it, that, that university and that ethos you’ve got in life, which is competition against yourself is a good thing. But actually, how do we, how do we spend that out and, and kind of drive people forward? So what would you say has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
Oh, so many. Do you know what there is, there are so many lessons, but you talked about the belief at the beginning. That’s definitely, a really important one and people often don’t realize it, but their own self-limiting beliefs can, can really hold them back. But I think as a sort of at an individual level, I think it’s important that that probably, oh, there’s too many lessons, but I think that we’re always learning. And if you can create a culture of learning in your business, then I think that people will be more likely to take risks. And I think innovation is sometimes with innovation, you have to sort of be prepared to take risks and be prepared to fail if you want to grow. So I, I think of it like hardcore, if you are learning power core, maybe in the beginning without much training, you could probably jump between two buildings that might be a foot apart.
But if you sort of practice more and, and in a safe environment where there’s a bit of a, a safety net there, and you can try new things where you don’t feel you’re gonna die or fail, or you’re gonna lose your job, I think you’re gonna get more out of people. So having a culture where learning is an absolutely core part of that, and it’s shared by all of your leadership, that they encourage a sort of coaching approach or sort of learning style in terms of how you work and review things. That’s never about finding fault for me, my philosophy is that nobody has ever failed. They probably just didn’t have the skills or the processes were broken. And I think I encourage everyone to start with that as an assumption, it’s, it’s unusual for people in your business to really want to sabotage and be negligent in what they do. And, and so if you can start from that perspective and then constantly look to improve people’s skills, create opportunity and, and support them and constantly review and improve your processes whilst having a learning culture, then I think it creates a great place for the right talent in your business.
I love that. So true, isn’t it, it’s not the mistake that defines this. It’s what we do with it. And if we use it as a lesson learned, which is something we do a lot in the, in the it world, as there you do your lessons learned in every project and then you take them into your future. And if we bring that into our environment as well, then that is gonna have a massive difference. So a lot of businesses, and in fact, you know, we’ve touched on it. Some entire industries are saying that right now that they’re facing a shortage of talent, struggling to recruit, struggling, to retain as well. What’s your advice to people that are facing that on how they can address it?
Yeah, I think, well, I’m lucky on working the tech sector. So it’s really clear to me when I’m working with clients that one of the greatest areas focused this at this moment is actually around productivity. So what can people do to do more, to be more productive in their business with less resources? If you, especially, if you haven’t got a, an opportunity to sort of hire more people or you are losing people even worse, you’ve got, you’ve gotta do more with even less. And so I think there’s so much that people can do to be more productive using technology and efficiency. You, you only have to go to a Superstore to see, well, it’s hard to meet a person these days, but it’s all self-service so using technology to, to do that, there’s more and more clients that we have that are building portals so that they can have people doing raising tickets themselves or looking at a knowledge base for themselves.
And then there’s maybe using technology to automate generation of whether it’s marketing stuff that’s happening, sort of newsletters going out, or whether it’s proposals being auto generated based off certain templates. But there’s so much that can be automated these days. And you can use AI to sort of really help you prioritize and see what is it that where is it? You can make a difference and using technology, whether it’s reporting and insight around efficiencies in your business and where, where are the opportunities. If you look at performance, are you able to really understand performance in your business and where the opportunities are? And I think for me, I think technology, whatever the industry can play a huge role, particularly in industry, such as manufacturing that have been, I would say a bit left behind. They’ve been laggards in the, in traditionally in investment in technology. And I think I’m seeing those, those are manufacturer have been one of the hardest hit with their supply chains affected and their online presence been very poor. So through eCommerce and really sort of relying on third parties to sell what they have. So we’re seeing them, those sort of organizations really benefiting from introduction of technology to help improve efficiencies in, in all the things that they do.
It’s, it’s so true, isn’t it? Because I think the, you know, for a lot of those industries, they hadn’t really thought about the automation and, and how they could improve things. And the pandemic hit really hard, hit everybody hard, but I think it hit them especially hard. Now you work with SMEs and businesses across a whole range of sectors. What sort of trends are you seeing?
So in, in our, in the SME space at the minute, it definitely the sort of trends is for people to be investing more in sort of around being able to sort of have greater insight into what’s happening in their business. So if you’ve got people who are home working, for example, may imagine your whole sales team is home working. What you don’t want to to get to is the end of the quarter or the end of the year where you haven’t met your targets and you, because you are not having the, this insight into, is your team actually performing? Are they doing the right things? Is the customer service level, what it needs to be, or have you got customers leaving the business? And as a business grows often, one of the greatest areas of struggling for business owners is, is having insight into what’s actually happening.
Because as soon as you get over say 10 employees, it’s really hard to, to get a sense of what’s actually happening, who have I hired, that’s working or not working, or may you need extra help. And so that sort of with things tools like power BI, it used to be that to get reporting, you needed a really technical data warehouse person, whereas these days, and the business executive with little technical knowhow can use their mobile phone to get insight into real time, not just from a spreadsheet that somebody’s manipulated God forbid, but to actually have a dashboard of like, how, how does it look? How what’s the health of their business? How many sales do they make today, or what’s their sort of, what’s their pipeline looking like, where are the issues in, in your business? Whatever the questions are. We are just swamped with so much data at the minute.
I really feel for anyone who doesn’t have their fingertips, the right sort of access to insight. Otherwise you’re always looking in your rear view mirror and not able to make the right decisions to help your team. But for me as also, it’s not just about the management, having access to this information, it’s about people at the frontline, dealing with customers, they need real time access to what are all the transactions with my customers. What do I need to know about them? How can I best serve them using AI to make decisions and help inform, make decisions. So people can be more effective, whether they’re remote working or in the office, but it’s, it’s even more so though, when they’re remote working, it’s, it’s harder, there’s a barrier and invisible barrier. It feels to pick up the phone and speak to a colleague or ask a question and ask for help. And, and so anything you can do to support the workforce to be more effective with that insight, I think is really important,
Amazing, and, and so true, isn’t it? Because we, as whenever we’re remote, we can feel just that remote. So actually, if we can give people, if we can collect it with them and give them access to stuff so that they feel supported and not alone, then they’re gonna be better able to serve. And, you know, as you, as so eloquently put earlier, I don’t think people set out to get it wrong. You know, I don’t think people get up in the morning. I wonder have to be really rubbish today at my job. I wonder how to really fail epically and annoy people. It might be the impact they have, but I don’t think it’s their intention. So the more we can do to help align what happens with what they’re trying to do and, and kind of come at it from a, a position of curiosity and not judgment. So rather than judging, what’s happened, being curious about why did they get there? How did they get there? Then we start to see something else. And you talked earlier about kind of the importance of diversity and inclusion. And I know it’s an area that you do a lot of work in and have a lot of passion about. Are there any tips that you can give people out there to help them to embrace a more diverse and inclusive culture in their organization?
Yes. So I think that organizations are recognizing that if there is a shortage of talent, then maybe their traditional ways of hiring, like even just the simple thing of putting it on a job description that you need a degree or even expecting somebody to have an interview. So in, in our industry, one of the most phenomenal hires that you could ever make would be somebody say with autism or somebody with Asper on the spectrum, because they are known to be phenomenally focused and phenomenally hardworking and loyal. And sometimes in certain roles that can be, especially in sort of working on a client project or to build a system, you want somebody who can get their head down and isn’t every few minutes being more creative, but somebody can actually get the work done and be sort of highly intelligent and meticulous in, in what they do with weight, attention to detail.
So people with autism often really struggle with interviews, for example. So maybe your organization could look to set up a work experience. For example, for those people to really get insight into the talent that they may have, or have a different style of, of selection process that would help you filter those who are best suited to the job. But it’s not just based on, do they have good eye contact, which maybe some people might be judging them on, which would be a tragedy, cuz you’re losing some incredible talent, but potentially there may be people from different economic and societal sort of backgrounds that maybe traditionally they’re not seeing your adverts wherever you’re putting them. So think about, there’s so many organizations out there that support people from different backgrounds to who haven’t followed necessarily a traditional roots. So for example, we took on a couple of people through kickstart, not so long ago.
And one thing that really surprised and shocked and was really sad actually, but really eye opening was that so many of the people that were going through that scheme actually had been carers. So through tragic circumstances that they had, there was, they had played no part in their parents had fallen ill or maybe died when they were young, but they didn’t have any role models in their life to sort of say, Hey, look over here, there’s careers over here. Have you thought about this opportunity? So thinking about reaching out to organizations, for example, that support carers young carers and helping them with the first steps because they will likely have some amazing skills and qualities. They just haven’t had time to go to college and uni and maybe do the best they can because of all the stresses and strains in their family. And that will be an amazing example of how you can help people, but it’s, there’s many areas and it’s just looking at your voice, but I of the, the, the sort of the looking at this, the spectrum of what, what you have in your business and how can you be more diverse, I think is super important, but also make sure when they do join your business, that they actually have a voice too.
It’s not just for me, it’s never about making up the numbers. It’s just thinking about your own process of hiring and how are you equitable? How are you giving real opportunities by putting open doors in places that you wouldn’t necessarily have done in the past?
I love that, that, that so beautifully put and, and you’re right. They will have such amazing skills having been carers because they’ll be responsible, they’ll be considerate. They’ll be, they’ll, they’ll be all of those things, which would make them amazing in, in so many roles that we’ve got. I could literally chat you all day, but I am very conscious of time. So I’m gonna just wrap up with one final question. You’ve already shared such amazing insight. So thank you. But if you had to go back and give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?
I think that what’s important is that you don’t try to be anyone else except you and try to find the real, the real you, and then you’ll be happy and don’t measure success in the same way. Don’t measure success by other people’s standards or expectations, whether that’s your parents, because they want you to study a particular thing or your teachers or anyone around you. I think your success will be through following your own heart and mind and just believe that there’s some amazing, great things out there that are waiting for you. And I think what you expect, whether it’s good, things are gonna happen or whether it’s like, there’s nothing for you. Sadly in my view, if you go through life thinking there’s nothing there for you, you probably won’t find anything it’s unlikely. The universe is out there to deliver all the great things that you deserve. And so you just have to have a really positive mindset and surround yourself with positive people who can believe in you and remind you of all the successes and celebrate those along the way. So just be your be yourself and that’s good enough. And, and that’s, I’m sure that would serve many people. Well, I think there’s unfortunately a huge amount of mental health challenges out there. And so the more that people can believe in themselves and that whatever they achieve is great, the better really in my view,
I love that great advice. And the other thing that, that you shared throughout is also lend your belief to other people. You know, if you, if you believe somebody else has got something great in them, tell them like share and you do that all of the time and it, and it underpins everything that you’ve shared with us today. Thank you so, so much for giving us your time. If people want to get in touch and find out more about you and cloud insight, how is it best for them to do so?
So you, yes, you can go to www.cloud9insight.com. And I also have my own website, which is www.carlenejackson.com.
Brilliant. It’s been an absolute joy. I will make sure all of your contact details are in the show notes below. And thank you again for your time. I look forward to our next conversation. You take care.
Thank you, Kim.