Leading EDJE Discusses the Role of Innovation in Team Building and Company Culture
Joelle Brock - Central Ohio Tech Power Player Honoree
President and CEO
Founder and President
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President and CEO of Leading EDJE, Joelle Brock, discusses the role of innovation in team building and company culture.
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BK: We are here today with Joelle Brock, who is the President and CEO at Leading EDJE. Leading EDJE is an organization based in Dublin, Ohio. They have created a strong company culture while delivering innovative technology solutions. My name is Bryan Kaiser, President and Founder of Vernovis, and also part of the executive host committee of comSpark. I will be your guest moderator today. So, let's get started. Good to see you, Joelle.
JB: Good morning. How are you?
BK: I'm doing great. I'm doing great. So, my first question – um, in your opinion, what is one of the most exciting disruptive technologies that is beginning to impact our work or lives?
JB: You know, that is a great question, and I was really excited when I saw this question because, um, I can only speak to it as a consumer. Um, I don't have a technology background per se from a development perspective, so I reached out to my business partner, CTO and CIO of Leading EDJE and, um, I found that he had the exact same answer to this question that I did, so I was really excited that I might not be too far off track being a consumer.
But, um, without question, it's voice assistance in the AI, the artificial intelligence products and services. And, um, that is creating more and more increasing accuracy when it comes to AI technologies tied to voice assistance. Um, one of the things that I get incredibly irritated with is inaccuracy of voiceover IP. Right? So, when I'm in the car and I'm driving, I'm trying to send a text and autocorrect just absolutely blocks me on everything I want to say. So, um, I'm really excited about where that's headed, that technology's headed and increasing accuracy of the AI technologies.
BK: Uh, I can certainly share my, my uh, number of faux pas on a voice to text situation.
JB: You know, I'll tell you this sidebar, this funny story. And this could hit the editing floor if you want, but my son, who is 22 and I, have got this reigning belly laugh experience. Twice a year, we go get our teeth cleaned at the dentist together and when one is sitting in the chair getting their teeth cleaned, the other one is sitting, pulling up all the latest new autocorrects and we just, we have the entire dentist office laughing with all the latest autocorrects. So, fortunately, this technology might take care of that, but.
BK: Well, but still a good laugh. So, that's funny. I'm glad that you guys do that. So, so how are you using technology for positive change or disruption in, in your company?
JB: Um, we use it from an internal team feedback perspective and when we talk about having a unique, strong culture, it's because we have so much systemization internally that collects team feedback from an anonymous perspective. One example would be, we implemented tiny pulse, which is, uh, one question per week for every team member. Um, and we collect that data and that's what we use to make improvements from a culture and technology delivery perspective. So that's the one thing, that's the first thing I can think of, is systemization of tech team member feedback so that we can continually improve our workplace environment.
BK: So how do you fuel innovation efforts in your company?
JB: So, Leading EDJE, technology is our sweet spot, right? And we attract the incredibly brilliant, technology-driven people who aren't comfortable not knowing what they don't know, so they're consistently teaching themselves and finding ways to improve on the next certification or what, what can I teach other people internally? But what we do as an organization, um, annually is, we have what we call innovation days. And we take all of our people, most of our work is done at client environments, so a lot of our businesses run virtually. We get together regularly as a group so that we stay as one cohesive unit. But, um, so, annually we bring everybody in Columbus – which, there's over 60 of us now – to our innovation center in Dublin and we take a few days, I think it's four Fridays out of June, and we do nothing but have a hackathon. And so, the, the, the idea is, everybody bring all of your ideas. It doesn't matter what kind of idea it is. This year we had an, I don't know, that theme was, um, Craft Beers. So, we had somebody that had brought a team of people that said, okay, let's build a Beerme app where, when you're on a golf course, instead of waiting for the beer cart to come around, you actually ping them and say, “Hey, look, I need three PBRs on Hole 14.”
Um, so you got to develop that out. And um, we have a kegerator in the office. So, one team built a system that monitors real times both kegs to see exactly how much is left so that we know when to replace it. You know, I don't want to give the impression that we're all about beer, because we're not. But we had, um, you know, drone builds and we had, each year we have all these different ideas on, um, cool innovation ideas, and then we give the time to the team members to work together, collaborate, and, um, at the end of the day, at the end of innovation days, they present it to the entire company and the entire company votes on, you know, who was, who is the winner this year. So, that's just one example. Um, we do things like that all the way throughout the year. We've got consistent internal education and we call it Education – EDJUCATION.
And then, we also call it EDJUVATION, so we can try to find a way to put EDJE into everything – probably a little more than we need to. Um, but we, because we are so technology driven, we're a consulting firm that's not recruiting driven, we're not sales driven. We truly are technology driven. So, um, as a matter of fact, our third largest expense in our P and L, next to salary administration and benefits administration, is internal education and recertification.
BK: That was a great answer. Thank you. So, so I would imagine that you've had a mentor in your life. Who is that and when did you realize you, you created a big break for yourself?
JB: Well, um, I have been fortunate to have multiple mentors throughout my life. I've been involved in organizations that, um, that promote the development of companies and in those, they have a mentorship program. A great example is the one I'm in right now. Um, I'm the past president for EO Entrepreneurs Organization, and what that organization does is that, it's a peer-to-peer organization that, um, has 13,000 members throughout 179 different chapters throughout the world. Locally in Columbus we have 88 members, and that, by the way represent about $352 million in entrepreneurial revenue generation here in Columbus. Um, but through that we have a mentorship program, and I am now on my fifth mentor, I believe. All have been exceptional. All have been critical in helping us grow our business. But the most influential would be the person who had the business most similar to mine, which is an IT services business, and that is Nancy Kramer, who was with Resource Interactive and recently blended her business into, um, IBM UX, which is a digital portion of IBM.
And she has, she has been an incredible mentor in that, she was in a services business, IT related – hers, I would argue, is a little bit more sexy than what we do. We're more back end, she's more front end. Um, but she has been an incredible mentor and source of, um, you know, don't be afraid; lean into your future. Right? And being a business owner isn't necessarily the time to be conservative. It's the time to be fearless. And, you know, oftentimes I get asked the question, you know, if you, if you gave your 15-year-old self advice, what would it be? Um, definitely looking back at everything that I've done, everything that we've done, I wish we would've done 10 to 15 years sooner. But yes, I've had an incredible list of mentors and I'm very grateful to, to be able to say that
BK: Well, as a, as a fellow entrepreneur, don't be afraid, lean into your future, be fearless – those are great reminders. And you're speaking to me right now of, you know, the, the journey that I jumped on 10 years ago. And then there's still that journey that happens along the way of being fearless and not being afraid. And there's these decisions all the time. So that's, that's really good. I like that. So, Joelle, professionally, what makes you the most happy?
JB: This is a great segue. What makes me the most happy, and, look, I have chills just thinking about it, is seeing my team members grow. I am happiest when I feel as though I'm giving the people around me, the people who I love the most, the people who truly built this firm, the opportunities that I've been afforded along my path. And, when I sit and I see a team member that is faced with a really tough situation that I've been through 25 times, and I sit back and I watch them coach themselves through the end result…that to me, is, that, that is the most gratifying part of my job, is that I can see other people grow and get the opportunities that I've had.
And the, what's, what's tough for me is to sit back and say, “Okay, wait, you’ve got to let them make their mistakes, because that's how they're going to learn,” instead of coming to me for answers. And, I'm fortunate enough that, you know, if I, if I have any hidden talent, it's that I can find true talent in the people that, that run our organization. Um, that's one thing that I do well, is that I find brilliant people. And, um, so, to, to see them grow and mature and now, we're a very flat entrepreneurial-based organization. But to see them give the opportunities to the rest of the people that are up-and-coming in our organization? It's, it's so much fun for me.
BK: Folks, uh, I wish we had time to keep unpacking things with Joelle. She's been a great interview. This is Bryan Kaiser, and on behalf of Joelle Brock and Leading EDJE, we appreciate your time. To learn more about us, visit comspark.tech, and have a great day.
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