In our most recent All Things Change podcast we spoke with Jem Henderson, Head of Innovation at Crisis. At the time of recording, Jem was transitioning from her previous role as Entrepreneur Engagement Manager at Tech Nations to her new position at Crisis. Naturally, at this crossroad Jem had a lot of great insight to share about her experience of change which we enjoyed so much we couldn’t stop chatting or even edit down later; instead, we have split the conversation into two for you to enjoy the full conversation.
In part one of our chat with Jem we spoke about the work she did at Tech Nation, the drive for Diversity and her experience of the Diversity trends, Innovation at Tech Nation, homelessness in Harrogate, and the positive impact of writing as a therapeutic tool.
“So, I’ve got a master’s degree in creative writing, I did it eight years ago, and I finished my master’s degree. Then two weeks later, I got my first job as a copywriter. And I basically never did any creative writing ever again. I mean, obviously, all copywriting is creative, because you have to find an interesting way to stay stuff. But it’s not the same. So yeah, lockdown has given me an opportunity to start really honing in on my voice when it comes to poetry. And I’ve read about all sorts of stuff from my past through to doing avant-garde poems about the Blue Screen of Death, and everything in between.”
“It’s been pretty full-on. We delivered the Tech Nation Report last year – five days before we delivered it, we went right we’re going to deliver this online. What does that look like? Kind of crazy is the answer… and then we had to move all the programs online. My job as Entrepreneur Engagement Manager went from traveling about, being in Huddersfield and Halifax, Hull, Sheffield, and Leeds and suddenly it was all on Zoom, which is exhausting as we all know. But yeah, it’s been super interesting. And I think, once we got our heads around what being online looked like, it was okay. We couldn’t run all-day virtual events as people just can’t hack it, it’s too much. So, how would you change all day to a two-hour event? Does that work? Is it appropriate? So that was a big shift for Tech Nation.
Jem goes on to discuss how Tech Nation shifted its business model from Government grant-funded to hybrid by launching their first commercial program called Advance. The leadership course helps first-time leaders get the best from their teams whilst avoiding many of the common pitfalls.
“I think diversity from the off is essential. I was recently having a conversation with a DNI expert, and we were talking about diversity as an innovation practice. Because essentially, for me, innovation and change happen because you have different voices in the room. And if you have different voices in the room from the off, then suddenly, the way you build the thing that you’re building becomes more connected to reality. more connected to the world more embedded, more agile, more capable. If, you know I was part of a company a few years ago, and I was the only girl in the organisation, I was the oldest person there, it was all white people. And I wasn’t old enough at this point in time to be the oldest person in the room. But I was. And you know, that organisation felt to me really uncomfortable and clunky, because it was just all the same people doing all the same stuff over and over.”
“Yes, I’m very, very excited to talk about this one, because this is actually my last week at Tech Nation. I’ve been here for two and a half years, and it has been amazing. I’ve met some amazing start-ups, scale-ups, and stakeholders and really built myself down in the lead ecosystem. And it’s been wonderful. But I managed to land myself a new job and basically if you imagine what the perfect job for me would look like, which is like a bit of creativity and facilitation, a bit of stakeholder management, and then the thing I care about the most in the world, I am going to go and be the Head of Innovation at Crisis, the homeless charity. Now, this is particularly amazing because I was homeless. In fact, the first time I was homeless, I was one year old. I was living in a homeless hostel in Harrogate. I lived in the same homeless hostel again when I was 16 years old. So, to go from there and kind of experiencing what that was, having to beg on the streets to be able to afford to eat, and all have crap that went along with it through to, being 35 years old… and having landed this job, which is working for an organisation who say that they want to end homelessness in 50 years’ time, just feels particularly massive. It is going to be amazing; it’s going to be working across the whole company to bring in cultural change, and working on every single part from the policy team through to the charity shop team, the eCommerce team, and kind of in everything. So, it’s a really good role for a busy body that used to be homeless that wants to go; ‘What are you doing? How do we do better?”
Jem goes on to share some exciting targets and ambitions she has for her new role at Crisis, offering further insights into the world of homelessness that most people probably are unaware of, circling back into the idea of Diversity but in the space of homelessness. Her answer is a bit of an eye-opener.
“I am confrontational, so it wouldn’t be that surprising if people took it that way. I walk into a room, with bright pink hair and a blue suit, and the accountants and lawyer go, ‘what are you?’ … then they stop talking and go, ‘Oh, you know what you’re on about,’ completely reassessing and listening to you, which is deeply satisfying. So yeah, I’ll be confrontational in that pink-haired, raging feminist sort of way. And just by knowing what I’m all about, by being able to talk about it, and get to the point a lot quicker…it’s the Northern way, it’s much easier that way.
Thank you Jem for sharing your experiences and insights on our All Things Change podcast.
Listen to Part 1 of the full episode with Jem Henderson here and be sure to follow or subscribe to our All Things Change podcast series. Where possible, please rate and review the podcast as it will help others find us too.
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