Jessica Leigh Jones is one of the most inspirational and influential young business people in Wales.
Since leaving St David’s 9 years ago, she has… brace yourself… Graduated with a degree in Astrophyics from Cardiff University, completed a higher level certificate in Human Resource Management and become a Chartered Quality Professional. She worked for Sony for 5 years, working initially as an engineer focusing on Big Data, The Internet of Things, intelligent systems and robotics. She project managed the introduction of the UK’s first YUMI collaborative robot for electronic assembly. She then went onto manage a team of software and electronics engineers, developing the next generation of manufacturing system for Sony factories globally, before going onto manage more than 100 people across 5 departments. (breathe)
At the age of 20, Jessica was appointed a Trustee and Director of the Engineering Education Scheme Wales. In 2018, she joined the Board of the WJEC and would go on to become chair of its manufacturing facility and Vice Chair of the main company. She was also appointed a Non-Executive Director of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education in England the same year where she was Vice Chair of its Quality Assurance Committee. More recently she became the Chair of the Centre for Digital Public Services in Wales and received the Womenspire Award for Non-Executive Director of the Year. (you think we’re done?)
In 2019, Jessica Leigh completed a world tour, speaking to young people, politicians and business leaders in Portugal, Bulgaria, Japan, Germany, and Russia. She worked with many national and international clients including Forbes, HSBC, Barclays, CBI, Webit, GMIS, and various governments. Since 2012, She has spoken to more than 30,000 young people globally, which led to her receiving an MBE in 2020 for services to women in engineering.
Jessica Leigh left Sony during the global pandemic to set up her own business, taking a few engineers with her. She created iungo, meaning to “to connect”, with the aim of creative the connective tissue between policy makers, employers, and training providers.
We caught up with Jessica, to talk about opportunities and advice for young people today.
While you were at St David’s you created an engineering programme for students – why is it important to have extra opportunities on top of academic study?
I believe that it is essential to afford young people extra opportunities on top of their academic study because it sparks their imagination, opens their eyes to new career paths, and helps them to stand out in the job market. It’s not enough to have A-levels or even a Degree, as a young person you need to develop your core transferable and employability skills, and gain real experience to be confident and capable in your chosen career path.
What transferable skill would be the top of your list for young people looking at engineering?
In my opinion, creativity is the top transferable skill that young people should be looking to develop. In 2020, the World Economic Forum cited ‘creativity, originality and initiative’ as one of the top 10 employability skills that all employers will be looking for by 2025. Creativity requires a high-level of cognitive engagement, because unlike other skills, you’re not applying information, you’re creating new concepts and ideas. As engineers, we are often very good at solving problems quickly, but do we ever stop to think of other ways that we can solve that problem? Creativity is all about finding new and different ways of solving problems, and as we enter a post-covid world where sustainability and flexible working are set to be amongst our biggest challenges, we need to get creative as to how we solve some of society’s biggest problems.
Similarly, what traits do good businesspeople have in common with each other?
Firstly, good business-people have a passion for what they do. They’re not in business to make a quick buck, rather they are trying to solve a major problem in a new and creative way. Secondly, good businesspeople are resilient and perseverant. They fail fast, but they learn even faster. This is the trait that separates successful businesspeople away from everyone else.
You’ve been recognised by Forbes, the Womenspire awards, Insiders Rising Stars and more – how important is it for young women in schools/colleges to see people like them in positions they aspire to be in?
It is essential that we have diverse role models in every profession and every sector. More often than not, young people don’t know where they want to be in 10 years time – and that is absolutely ok – but if they can’t see or interact with people that they can relate to, then they will struggle to discover a career that appeals to them. In traditionally male-dominated industries like engineering and manufacturing, it’s even more important to have prominent, powerful, and inspiring role models that can dispel stereotypes and shatter glass ceilings.