“Don’t Be Scared To Pivot — But Collect Your Evidence Before You Do.”; Interview with Leila Walker, Founder at Persona Education
This is part of the EdTech Female Founder (#EFF) interview series brought to you by SuperCharger Ventures.
What inspired you to start your EdTech Founder journey?
I started in the early 90’s as a science teacher and have been in education ever since. I’ve seen many changes in those three decades — but the most exciting have come from the technological innovations that have supported new pedagogical thinking. With the help of technology I have created learning experiences that have democratised learning, brought young people together to embrace difference and now with my own business, provide young people with the skills to have better wellbeing outcomes — in social, learning and work settings.
Describe your company in one sentence.
Persona Education is on a mission to boost the wellbeing and success of young people, with social-emotional life skills e-learning built around our unique personality insights framework.
What should an aspiring EdTech founder know before initiating their startup journey?
If you do not have an education background — then you must bring this expertise into your team — early. Going to school and/or being a parent — does NOT make you an expert in education.
What has been the most difficult moment as a founder and how did you overcome it?
With school closures in 2020/21 — Headteachers have had less time to consider adopting new tools. We simplified our onboarding tools and provided a free Teacher account” — this reduced time required by purchasers as well as, gave them a no risk opportunity to see if Persona Life Skills was a fit for their students. Removing any additional worry during very challenging times whilst also accessing a tool much needed in response to these difficult times.
What can the EdTech industry do to improve the gender gap?
Flexible working for mothers who still take up most of the parenting duties. Ensuring team events, meetings etc are scheduled to ensure these women are always represented. Instead of feeling guilty that they cannot attend or desperately trying to find childcare so they are not accused of not doing their part.
Can you tell us about a role model of yours?
Annika Small OBE — I had the pleasure of working under Annika in 3 organisations. I learnt key skills that I still endeavour to adopt on a daily basis. But the most important one? Always show your team how much you value them. Be supportive. Be constructive. Be patient. Be decisive. Be full of praise.
Can you tell us an example of when you had to pivot?
During Covid — our product testing had to move online — this enabled us to produce a web app able to function as well in the classroom as remotely in home settings. Education is now truly a blended learning experience post Covid. We have a product that matches the market’s new trend.
What will you consider as success in 5 years from now?
Our Web app — Persona Life Skills — will be the global, go-to tool for young people, to gain life skills required to succeed in social, learning and work situations. We will have significant evidence of the impact that understanding personality of self and others has on developing life skills — required for better wellbeing outcomes.
Looking back, what advice would you have liked to have received before starting your company?
Don’t be scared to pivot — but collect your evidence before you do.
Anything else You’d like to share?
Increasing number of women on boards is positively related to higher financial performance — so we should shout this fact out and encourage more women to aim high and men to ensure their company policies do not block women from the top positions.
To know more about Leila Walker or Persona Education, visit their company site:
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