Jena Davidson, Jenson8Jena Davidson, Founder and CEO of Jenson8, is a leadership development expert with deep experience in consultancy and assessment.

She set up Jenson8, a fully immersive VR platform, with the belief that learning in the workplace can look and feel entirely different from the outdated learning and development landscape we find ourselves in.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m Jena Davidson, Founder and CEO of Jenson8. Jenson8 is a behaviour change platform that combines immersive VR and psychometric testing to revolutionise learning and development in the workplace and bring about lasting change, at scale.

My background is rooted in consultancy, training, and leadership development. During my career I became fascinated by the role of tech in behaviour change, and its potential to enable real-life, lasting change through virtual experiences. I saw an opportunity to harness VR to test, identify and change behaviours in the workplace.

So, I evolved Jenson8 by introducing a tailored metaverse platform – a psychologically safe space for people to try, fail and learn – combined with psychometric testing to provide robust, actionable data. Backed by science, Jenson8 enables leaders, teams and businesses as a whole to understand and achieve their potential and their growth ambitions.

Since founding Jenson8 in 2008, my team and I have continued to enhance the platform and have grown our customer base internationally. As Founder and CEO, my role is especially vast and dynamic – which I love. Whether we’re addressing ethics, inclusion, leadership or another dimension of the workplace, no two days and no two programmes we deliver are the same.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’ve known what I was passionate about for a long time, but it’s always hard to predict the exact route your career will take. And keeping an open mind to where your career could go, means you’re open to compelling opportunities that might crop up.

That’s what happened to me, my experience over the years lies in consultancy and training, working with leaders and teams to unlock their potential and get the best out of the people they work with. Over time I became increasingly interested in the power of technology to help people increase their self-awareness and teamwork, build trust and resilience, and ultimately improve business outcomes.

I saw an opportunity to combine my expertise with tech – and identified VR as a tool which could enhance the L&D experience.

I went on a journey exploring technologies around the world and decided to take a risk and build my own platform, which is where we are today.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way, and how did you overcome these?

It’s not always been an easy journey, and there have been times that I’ve been tempted to throw it all in. As Founder and CEO, it’s personal – the highs are extremely high, and the lows extremely low. However, there’s something about knowing that nothing is always perfect – by giving something your all and backing yourself, you can learn and grow. This links back to the psychologically safe space we’ve created in our Jenson8 platform – a space where it’s ok to make mistakes, and talk about what went wrong, which isn’t always acknowledged or acceptable in a workplace environment.

Surrounding yourself with the right team is also critical – I’ve worked hard to build a team of amazing, intelligent and innovative people that I feel lucky to work with every day.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

There have been some exceptional highs, particularly over the last couple of years. Developing the platform, its subsequent programmes, and growing my team has been incredibly exciting. Finding people who are passionate and committed has been pivotal for the progression of Jenson8.

While I don’t want to dwell too much on the pandemic, having to be calm and make quick and sound decisions during constant uncertainty and pressures whilst managing home-schooling, being a parent, and running a business has been a real achievement.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Creating a relevant and engaging platform for everyone, whether you’re new to a business or a seasoned CEO, has been key to Jenson8’s success. The psychometric testing element has been instrumental in establishing the platform as something unique in the world of learning and development, to ensure people get a full breakdown of their training habits to take into the workplace. This science-backed, actionable data means the training has lasting impact, helping HR professionals overcome a major barrier to effective learning and development – according to Cerego’s State of Learning report, a shocking 70% of training is forgotten within 24 hours, and nearly 90% is forgotten after a month.

Our success is evidenced in the pilot sessions we’ve hosted since Jenson8’s launch. We’ve had high-level seniors at global corporations acknowledge that their working style needs to change following a session with junior team members. Juniors have felt more comfortable and open to telling seniors how they feel about ways of working, how they’ve felt in uncomfortable situations, and sharing subsequent solutions to these issues.

This is how we know that our platform is having a genuine impact on individual, team and business growth, whilst also providing insight into how we can develop the platform even further so that Jenson8 continues to lead the way in immersive learning and development.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

You are more than your job title and gender identification. While society has made it difficult for people to break away from the norm, I encourage you to be bold, go with and trust your instincts, and speak out. If it works great and if it doesn’t, then own it – take accountability for your actions. Your ambition and drive to succeed in the industry is key.

Also, look for companies that openly and actively support gender equality. Do your research and look for those that champion level transformation and role diversification.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech. If so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Inclusion must become part of the way we do business. Representation in tech is still much lower than it should be. While this is largely down to the business landscape, I firmly believe that equal representation stops in schools.

Women are extremely underrepresented in schools, and schools, as we know, are the starting point for emerging leaders, experts, and innovators. We must champion young people and engage them in STEM from the get-go.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Creating an inclusive workplace is about creating safe spaces to discuss diversity and inclusion. One way you can do this is by providing resources for employees to learn more about diversity and inclusion. Mentoring programmes and networks allow individuals to understand the experiences of those around them and become aware of the current issues affecting underrepresented or marginalised groups. Clear actions from these groups can identify unconscious bias in the workplace and help organisations address it head-on. Adaptable and varied benefits that support everyone’s needs at various stages of their lives are also crucial in promoting an inclusive workplace.

Technology plays a big part in helping to bridge these gaps in industry by providing unique opportunities for teams to connect in unique and abstract environments. By implementing programs that use VR, for example, individuals can work together in an immersive team-building experience reaching beyond the normal limits of their workplace, leading to open discussions so that everyone feels comfortable enough to share their thoughts, ideas and suggestions.

You can’t build a diverse team unless everyone shares ownership in creating it together – including those at the top of the ladder!

There is currently only 15% of women working in tech. If you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

More transformational leadership is needed to act as the driving force behind diversity and inclusion.

Leadership is one of those words that can mean everything and nothing. While it doesn’t always come easily to everyone, senior business leaders can become agents of change by being bold, taking a risk and being courageous. There is an opportunity for everyone and anyone to step forward and lead, which is something that we encourage within and outside of Jenson8.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

As an avid reader, I’m keen to recommend a few books that I’ve completed recently within the leadership and neuroscience in L&D space. These are: