We talked to Leslie Turner, CEO and Co-founder of SchoolWise, an education platform engineered with passion that brings the management of learning and teaching together and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Leslie Turner: We are fortunate to have a healthy family and have avoided the virus so far. Of course, we feel isolated like everyone else but getting plenty of exercises and making sure to stay in touch with family helps. These are challenging times especially for everyone’s mental health particularly for older family members who feel more isolated than others.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded SchoolWise.
Leslie Turner: During my previous roles I was always connected to education either providing consultancy, solutions, or training across a wide spectrum of technology. Founding SchoolWise therefore just seemed like the next natural step. A life-long learner myself, I want to impact education to ensure that everyone has a chance to succeed and nobody gets left behind. Success is down to each person, how hard they are prepared to work and aligned to their own goals. We all learn in different ways, excel in different areas, and need support at some stage throughout our education. SchoolWise helps schools get to the heart of their data and understand their impact which results in better learning outcomes for the student and the school.
How does SchoolWise innovate?
Leslie Turner: Simple – talk to your customers and potential customers. The problems that we are trying to solve are those that people face every day. Sometimes we just accept things have to be like this and that is the way it was always done. We challenge this all the time and ask the question “Why does it have to be like this?” and “If you could change it, what way would you like it to be?”. This might seem like an obvious question but I find it is not asked often enough. The answers are usually right in front of people and our job is to make those come to life – to meet and exceed those expectations. Sometimes you have to push people to get into the detail and most of the time problems can be solved with workflow solutions. Understand the inputs, create the workflow and build the desired output.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Leslie Turner: The education industry has seen a transformation like never before. I don’t like to use the word ‘disruption’ but that is what has happened. Education has embraced technology and existing giants such as Microsoft and Google have seen enormous growth. Adoption rates have soared and the workforce has upskilled overnight. This creates an enormous opportunity to innovate in this space. We believe in being open and connected in our approach to EdTech. So while we ripped up our roadmap we have created a new one that leverages the adoption of EdTech solutions such as Microsoft Teams. SchoolWise can now be integrated directly into Teams through apps that can be added to existing solutions. This has opened our solution to a global audience, enables quicker on-boarding, faster adoption, and a bigger impact. It is not all plain sailing but you have to adapt to the situation.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Leslie Turner: We all had to make some difficult choices some harder than others. You just have to be resilient, not take things personally, and know that everything passes. COVID19 caused us to pause everything from building products, closing deals, and generating new business. You cannot control what is going on around you so learner to control the controllable – if that makes sense. This ultimately means adapting to what is in front of you and know that it probably won’t be the same forever. So learn to accept this and be flexible to be better able to adapt in the future. Tunnel vision to panoramic vision.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Leslie Turner: I am a big advocate for mindfulness. I have an executive coach who I have worked with for over three years now and he incorporates mindfulness into our sessions. Mindfulness is with me in both the positive and negative times, to be more present and appreciate the good in life and also equips me with the tools in the more difficult times. I can honestly say I would have not navigated this crisis without it. It is a philosophy, a way to live a healthier, happier, and calmer life and something I believe should be part of educating the young adults of today. We live in a fast, busy, and more stressful time than ever before and it is impacting the fabric of society. Mindfulness helps you to slow down so you can go faster and with ease.
Ambitions for the future?
Leslie Turner: There is no certainty right now with COVID19 and the impact it will leave behind. I have accepted that. However, we have a plan now to grow our business and enter new international markets. My focus is on that and to hopefully have a positive impact on the lives of people in communities both here in Ireland and across the world. A lot has changed over the past year but accepting and embracing that change will hopefully lead to success for the company.
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