The story of Carlene Jackson, who turned dyslexic challenges into an advantage, became an entrepreneur, and launched a successful tech organisation
Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) isn’t limited just to visible minorities, or those with different religious beliefs, or sexual orientations.
Just ask Carlene Jackson, CEO of UK-based tech company Cloud9 Insight, a Microsoft Gold Partner which has provided more than 600 UK businesses with cloud-based CRM software systems.
Growing up with dyslexia, Carlene faced many learning challenges throughout her schooling. But she also learned coping skills and realised that dyslexia, often considered a disability, gave her a distinct advantage in that it enhanced her creativity.
In fact, many well-known and tremendously successful entrepreneurs are, or have been, dyslexic; Richard Branson, Lord Alan Sugar, Anita Roddick, Walt Disney and Henry Ford were all reportedly diagnosed with the condition, and research suggests dyslexia is disproportionately found among entrepreneurs.
"Dyslexia is a gift that’s helped me in business," says Carlene. "If you're dyslexic, you can never truly fail, because you simply accept that succeeding first time may not happen so you’re going to have to find a way around the problem. You learn differently, see the world differently and these things are very useful when you're an entrepreneur.”
How can businesses benefit from embracing Dyslexia?
Much of what takes place in the workplace is now being automated and many people are questioning what role human beings will play in industry. If you can create a rule for something then it can probably be automated. There are going to be a lot of robots in the office soon, efficiently following rules. But, for a business to be truly successful, this will need to be married with creativity – and if there’s one thing that doesn’t follow rules, it’s the process of creativity.
Creativity is about innovation, taking leaps into the dark and daring to fail; it’s about breaking rules, not following them. Many dyslexic entrepreneurs are successful because they don’t follow the rules of their industry and instead look to create completely new models which change the game for everybody.
Workplaces need creative people and so can benefit greatly from welcoming people with dyslexia and autism, as well as other natural rulebreakers. Just because someone’s brain is wired differently, doesn’t mean they can’t perform a major role.
Businesses that recruit and work with rulebreakers will have opportunities to solve problems that automated software and bots cannot.
Carlene’s path to success
Born in Dublin, Ireland, Jackson moved to Brighton at a young age and entered the corporate world. She learned sales at IBM and moved into the growing field of customer relationship management (CRM) software. Carlene self-identifies her greatest strength as sales strategy. She quickly understands customers, connects with them, drives change and helps companies set a vision.
But it was when cloud computing began to emerge that Jackson saw the chance to realise her ambitions and become an entrepreneur. She recognized the potential of cloud technology early in her career and went on to build a thriving consultancy business with 20 staff.
“My brother is a serial entrepreneur, and encouraged me to stop making millions for others and make it for myself. Microsoft, at that time, was getting lots of attention with a cloud-based CRM solution for the UK market, which had previously only been on-premises. I saw opportunity there, so I seized the moment to start a new business focused on Microsoft Dynamics, and have never looked back since.” – Carlene Jackson
Carlene talks passionately about partnering with Microsoft, staff and apprenticeships and how a ‘learning difficulty’ has made her a better entrepreneur.
Staff development has always been a key driver for Jackson, with her skills winning her several industry awards for investing in people. “I’m proud of the fact that many of the people I have recruited have not worked in the tech sector before and I have coached them to the success they have achieved. I am passionate to help people fulfil their potential and dreams – being an apprenticeship provider will help Cloud9 Insight achieve this even further,” said Carlene.
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. It is a lifelong problem that can present challenges on a daily basis, but support is available to improve reading and writing skills and help those with the problem be successful at school and work.
People with dyslexia find it difficult to recognise the different sounds that make up words and relate these to letters. Dyslexia isn't related to a person's general level of intelligence. Children and adults of all intellectual abilities can be affected by dyslexia.
The exact cause of dyslexia is unknown, but it often appears to run in families. It's thought that certain genes inherited from parents may act together in a way that affects how some parts of the brain develop during early life.
About Cloud9 Insight
Founded in 2010, Cloud9 Insight has 20 staff and is also an award-winning apprenticeship provider. The company is on target to reach £2m turnover in 2019 and has gained over 600 clients in the small-medium business (SMB) sector. Cloud9 is also an apprenticeship provider to the tech industry and received government accreditation in Autumn 2019.