• Madeleine Bonser

Spotlight on James Jackson

Updated: Jun 23, 2021

At Spotlight, we had the opportunity to chat with James Jackson, former ED&I Partner to UK Atomic Energy Authority, Director of NXTGEN Learning LTD and Co-Founder of #spacetotalk. He spoke to us about what gave him the drive and determination to start his businesses and how he overcame some of the biggest challenges in his career.

Business Background

I am currently running two businesses both in the Equality Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) space and as a recognised EDI practitioner, I have also been nominated for National Diversity Awards (2019 & 2021) After a 16-year career developing people & positive business relationships, I believe great EDI is not a destination. Instead, it is a journey in response to societal evolution. I work to embed organisational culture change, encourage allyship and deliver tangible EDI results. I do this by demonstrating the importance of equality vs. equity, the value of diversity and implement ways to develop & achieve inclusive potential. I have successfully delivered various EDI initiatives, enrichment & immersion solutions. I have shaped EDI project deliverables, mapped stages of cultural development, driven diversity data capture and led community-based engagement. I am a former BAME UK lead, member of Inclusive Companies leaders consortium and current Women in Nuclear (WiN) central England committee member. Alongside having people and program management experience, I decided to combine my career & personal experiences, knowledge and transferable skills; to establish NXTGEN Learning LTD, offering a bespoke combination of learning and developing focused inclusion & diversity partnering.

It was in this same year in the wake of the UK BLM movement (following the US heightened racial tensions and death of George Floyd) that I co-founded #spacetotalk where leaders, activists and agents of change; will work in space to make this world a better place to work and live in, for future generations to come by being part of the solution and creating a ‘SAFE’ space to talk, immerse and explore all things EDI

During the BLM Movement here in the UK, the following became apparent:

  • There was nowhere for people to go and talk about how they were feeling in a safe space, with like-minded people, about the impact the BLM movement was having on them, not just in this context, but the wider context of discrimination and racism.

  • There was a huge need to engage education and support organisations navigating the much needed open dialogue and immersive space of equality, inclusion and diversity.

This was where #spacetotalk was born.

Alongside this, I had already set up my consultative/partnering business NXTGEN Learning LTD, which naturally encouraged #spacetotalk to evolve into what it is now.

Biggest career challenge

Systemic bias, racism and academic prejudice have been an ever-present challenge therefore in terms of duration; this challenge no doubt.

A singular experience would be a career decision I made and a role I took on in 2019. Aggressive, discriminatory behaviours, oppressive demands and barriers within the business; resulted in premature contract end for the first time in my career. This was a massive confidence knock and the journey to this point had been emotionally draining. This left me in a state of depression and unemployed as the UK entered a never seen before pandemic and potential economic crisis.

Overcoming these challenges

  • I took time to reflect & evaluate the learning experiences and/or lessons I could take away from this experience.

  • Sought counselling support and invested in some self-care methods.

  • Repackaged my professional profile and set new goals.

  • Started my own business working in a space where I am truly passionate about what I do and believe in my purpose to create change for the better.

What is an important initiative that you feel passionate about in your role?

The creation of the term/label EPIC (Ethnic Populations, Interactionally & Cultures). This is a term I keen to embed in every conversation to highlight the need to remove secular labels that marginalize aspects of society (BAME, LGBTQ+ etc.). Often the mindset entering the EDI space is already one of secular thinking when approaching this with a focus on one homogenous group. EPIC allows drilling down to specific groups but approaches the topic equitably and therefore can broaden the scope of focus and need for the outset.

Drive and Determination

My drive and determination comes from two main things:

  • My children and wanting to build a better future for them.

  • Wanting to support young talent with a self-awareness of my start in life and how I can help others from a similar background.

The biggest lesson you have learnt along the way.

Opportunities are often only defined or limited, by our ability to embrace them (change/challenges/collaborations).

Tips to those starting their careers

  1. Find something you enjoy & are passionate about.

  2. Work hard & put in the effort (it will pay off).

  3. Invest in self-care and support networks.

  4. Be brave, be honest and be considerate.

  5. Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself or adapt.

Advice to those wanting to start a business

  1. Don’t over analyse and stress about your business plans, strategy or 100-day plans.

  2. Realise some things will work and some things won’t.

  3. Embrace mistakes and learn from them.

  4. Don’t let anybody tell you, you can’t do it, or you won’t be successful.

  5. Have at least 3 things/goals you want from the business personal to you.

Advice to those aiming for leadership positions

  1. Get a mentor and become a mentor.

  2. Set small personal development goals, keep learning!

  3. Always contribute. You can always add value, even if only small.

Advice be to someone managing a team

  1. Be selfless.

  2. Trust without faith.

  3. Be a good listener.

  4. Have a plan & share it.

The best and worst part of your job

The best part of my job is receiving feedback when I have inspired others and being able to

deliver lightbulb moments. The worst parts would be tackling systemic bias, racism and prejudice and re-living personal trauma and/or difficult lived experience to educate others.

The future

  • Working more within education and early informative years schooling.

  • Web & App development for #spacetotalk to house a wealth of Information & Guidance plus support.

  • Achieve award recognition in this space.

  • Evolving the next iteration of a 100-day plan.

  • Building on recent work lecturing at St Mary’s University, London on Inclusive Marketing

  • Implementing a new podcast series expanding the ‘SAFE’ #spacetotalk and hear inspiring voices on all things EDI.

To find out more about James and his businesses be sure to connect with him on Linkedin and follow #spacetotalk on Instagram. For more blogs like this click here.

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