Jessica Pryce-Jones is Chair and Founder of the iOpener Institute.

International Women's Day 2017 - Jessica Pryce-Jones

We're celebrating International Women's Day with just a few of our great alumnae. Jessica Pryce-Jones talks to us about her career since leaving Exeter.

Jessica Pryce-Jones (Classics, 1983) is Chair and Founder of the iOpener Institute, an international consultancy that supports organisational development, leadership training, and increasing happiness at work.

She has written two books: Happiness at Work: Maximizing Your Psychological Capital For Success (2010) and Running Great Meetings & Workshops For Dummies (2014), and is currently writing a third, focusing on female leadership.

Jessica spent 12 years working in the City of London in investment banking and insurance, followed by a further five years in venture capital in Brussels. After this she decided to set-up her own business, and iOpener was born.

Jessica says: “I remember sitting in the Lloyds Building when I was about 26 and one of my colleagues talking about their plan for working their way up and how they wanted to be there forever. And I just thought, ‘Oh God, I don’t!’

“I stayed in finance for a number of years but I had three kids and wanted more control over my time and not to commute so much. I only meant to go freelance but I got more and more work and had to create a ‘proper’ business. Six weeks after registering the business I got a sizeable contract with  London Business School. And once I’d successfully delivered that one large piece of work, more followed.”

At iOpener, Jessica’s clients come from a range of sectors including automotive, professional services, retail, FMCG, health, engineering and not-for-profit. The diverse client base makes for an interesting mix of work and constantly changing challenges.

“It’s really exciting getting to work with so many different people and focus on the range of issues that affects them.” says Jessica.

“For example I can be coaching executive teams, or helping to build a positive organisational culture, or working on a leadership strategy. I love seeing people gain confidence and watching them succeed. It’s wonderful knowing that our support has had a positive impact on someone and that they will go on to achieve even more in the future.”

As a female business owner, Jessica has often found herself working in male-dominated situations, but hopes that this will become less and less common in future.

“Unfortunately there are still not many senior women in the corporate world, although this is getting better.” she says.

“I have experienced some prejudice in the past and there is a noticeable difference between some sectors. People have often assumed I’m not the boss. That used to bother me more but now I find it almost amusing. And people are always so embarrassed when they realise their error.”

Jessica’s latest book aims to be a practical how-to guide for any woman aiming to get a senior position, and she wants to help more young women achieve success.

“I think young women often underplay the experience they have, they are unsure if what they know is valid.” Jessica says.

“I want to boost peoples’ confidence, help them see what they have to offer and show them that they really can go after their dreams.”

Working with senior leaders across sectors for so many years, means that Jessica has been well placed to see just what it takes to be successful at the top.

She says: “I think the old adage about being passionate about what you do still holds true. However I think energy is even more important, particularly if you’re running your own business. All good senior leaders have vast amounts of energy and I’ve seen how it can pull people along with you.”

Jessica has fond memories of her time at Exeter and says it played a key part in helping her be successful at work.

“I grew up a lot when I was at University.” she says.

“I learned to be responsible and accountable for my actions, I learned how to work to deadlines, and how to work to high-standards. I was also in a couple of plays at Exeter that were in Ancient Greek and being able to deliver those gave me a huge amount of confidence.”

Date: 22 February 2017

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