How I Got My Job: Tech CEO Carlene Jackson

"Don’t assume you need a degree to be successful within the IT sector."



When you’re in school, it’s super hard to decide on your future career. There’s already hours of homework and study, now you’ll soon add decisions about college courses and jobs to your list. Here at KISS, we’re chatting to people in different industries about how they’ve landed their dream role, what they actually do, and their advice to you. This week, we’re chatting to Dubliner Carlene Jackson who is CEO and founder of Tech company Cloud9 Insight.

What is your current role?

I am the CEO and founder of Cloud9 Insight, which is a Microsoft Partner that helps businesses deploy cloud technology.

Can you describe what your general day looks like (pre-pandemic lockdown!)? 

I spend about 50% of my time coaching others and supporting them in their role to be successful, I spend about 30% of the time doing things that only I can do and are difficult to delegate such as review legal contracts, reviewing commercial agreements. I spend the remainder of the time looking ahead to plan strategic initiatives that will innovate new products and improving the performance of my business.

How did you decide on this type of career?

I accidentally fell into the IT sector and was lucky enough, early on, to work at IBM, where I completed IBM Sales School as well as training to be a Business Analyst. I love to problem solve and I also love people, so the position I am in now gives me the perfect opportunity to be creative and work around others in a varied role. I love that I get to work with clients in all industries and to draw on similarities between them to solve problems in another. Always working with end clients means I have to be an ambassador for what my company does and help my company innovate around what clients actually want to buy, as market needs are always evolving.

What course did you study in college?

I did not study an undergraduate degree, which is quite common in the IT sector as real-life experience counts just as much. I was lucky enough though to be sponsored by an employer to complete an Open University MBA during my spare time, which has helped me hugely with credibility as well as given me a tool kit and language to problem solve for both my clients, as well as my own business.

I started my career at IBM in my early 20s, where I was taken on and was lucky to be generously invested in with training and shadowing opportunities. In a way, it was like an apprenticeship, which didn’t really exist then for office-based roles. This training gave me a very sought-after sales qualification with a big brand, which meant that I was constantly being approached by head hunters for new roles. I did not follow the traditional university route but I have made up for it since. I always wanted to run my own business, and finally took the leap when I realised I didn’t need an innovation. I simply had to do what there was already a market demand for, but do it better.

What are the ups and downs of the role?

As a business owner, it is really rewarding at the month’s end to do the payroll and to consider, as a team, that we have created the value and wealth to pay all the salaries that we do. I also love to see the team progress in their career and have helped many go from apprentice to a much more senior level, often helping the team achieve success beyond their dreams and initial ambition.

My two favourite areas of the business are Marketing and HR. I also enjoy strategy: considering the market context within which we operate and innovate to sustain our future in line with client needs. The biggest challenge is hiring the right people as hiring the wrong person can often result in excess management time in addressing performance issues or, worse still, addressing cultural issues where a new team member does not fit with the team values – so recruiting for cultural alignment is the most critical criteria to consider.

What advice would you give to a student looking to get into your line of work?

I would encourage everyone to consider being an entrepreneur in life, even if you end up working in a corporate environment, as being able to find and even create opportunities will increase your earning potential and potential value. Unless you wish to become a developer, don’t assume you need a degree to be successful within the IT sector. Give serious consideration to taking up an apprenticeship with a company that has a reputation for investing in training.

Some companies such as IBM and Deloitte even offer apprenticeship degrees. If you enjoy working with people, consider a career in sales or consulting. Be open to what your future role could be, follow your heart more than your head to find happiness and always keep learning. See if you can find yourself a mentor to help you navigate your career options and the decisions you make. You never know, they may even have some great connections that could help you with your early career roles.

For more career chats check out our series.