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“Rule your mind, or it will rule you” – An interview with Jana Dowling

Everyone meet Jana Dowling who is the CEO of Arkeo. In the UK 16 million people suffer with a mental illness and Arkeo is all about understanding and exercising your mental fitness and now with the App you can do exactly that. Jana is not only extremely inspiring, but she is to the point with no BS. An active LinkedIn member; Jana is constantly positing honest content and shows that it’s ok to be honest about not being ok, but it’s not ok to be ok – if we’re not ok we need to take action to change it.

5% of subscription fees are directed to Arkeo’s social enterprise, Arkeo Empowerment, (also known as The 888 Collective). Arkeo Empowerment delivers free personal development and mental fitness management courses to people who find themselves out of work due to low mental fitness.

With Arkeo version 1 being released in September, big things are on the horizon so keep your eyes peeled!

Jana, tell me about Arkeo?

Arkeo empowers individuals and organisations to take control of their mental fitness. We’ve developed an app that charts and tracks mental fitness and highlights patterns and trends so you can keep yourself mentally fit. With organisations we licence our app and feedback aggregated and anonymous data so for the first time they’ll see exactly what employees are managing on a day to day basis. We then bring in training to help support in highlighted areas flagged by the data. It’s a win-win for everyone. When organisations layer the data over work processes/flows they will see if it’s having an impact and can make appropriate changes. Anonymity is key to us and it’s impossible for employers to identify employees.

What does MENTAL fitness mean to you?

Mental fitness – is the same as physical fitness but it’s for your brain. We all have it, it goes up and down at different points in our life and it’s impacted by lifestyle, life experiences and world events.

What’s your career background?

My very first job was washing vases in a flower shop. After quickly realising flower arranging wasn’t for me, I set about getting a job in television. It took me over 70 sent CVs to get an interview (I had no experience and I have no degree) but eventually I landed a production assistant job. I proceeded to work and progress in TV until I became a production manager, mainly working in live reality. I was fortunate enough to then be head hunted and offered a job setting up and producing London Fashion Week’s Daily Newspaper. Even though I had no experience in publishing, the editors who brought me on board took a real chance with me and I worked hard to prove I was worth it.
Alongside TV and publishing, I’ve dabbled with presenting and stand up, and until last year I was back in TV.

I’ve always been freelance, which is why I’ve taken the opportunities to traverse into different industries. Nothing is rocket science apart from rocket science and the theory behind producing is the same no matter what it is.

Think back to your stand-up times. What was your go-to story?

My go-to was always to take the mick out of myself. I built a 20 min set about all the mistakes I’ve made in my life and I’ve made quite a few (and continue to do so). I was 32 when I started Stand-Up so I’d lived just about enough to squeeze in a weird career path, a marriage, a divorce and coming out, so I was never in short supply of material. It’s where all the good stuff is, in the mistakes. Being able to laugh at yourself and taking full responsibility for the position you’re in is the key to life.

Your story is inspiring to many people and they’ll be reading this interview thinking ‘how do I achieve something like this?’. What is one piece of advice you would like to tell them?

I guess I’d say don’t make excuses to not do something. It’s easier said than done, I must stop myself from doing that every day. I’ll hear myself saying “oh, I just can’t do that” or “I’m just not that kind of person” and then I realise, I have a full functioning body and brain (all be it a strange one with my Bipolar) so I can do it. I am absolutely terrible at maths, but I know how to work my budgets and cash flow to get by and then I make sure I have the right support behind me to do the complicated things.
Also ask for help and advice and be grateful for it. I’ve not done this alone, there are too many people to mention that have helped me, given me their time, advice, opinions. Mentors and advisors are vital and I’m very grateful for all of mine.

And finally, take action. If you really know what you’re building is going to work, build it. I have this quote written on all my working documents so I’m looking at it all day.

Vision is not enough; it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps; we must step up the stairs. – Vaclav Havel

Where do you think your entrepreneurial streak comes from?

My parents. My father was an entrepreneur, he didn’t grow up with much, had no A-Levels or I think they were called O-Levels at that time or qualifications, but he didn’t let that stop him and he went on to build an accounts tracking system that turned into a company. My mother worked as a nurse in A&E, she left her hometown in Newcastle and started a new life in London with nothing set up in place. She worked incredibly hard and then became an occupational health nurse. They both gave me and my brothers and sisters a really privileged upbringing.

They’ve encouraged me and supported me in being the best version of myself I can. That just happens to be an entrepreneur and it’s not unconnected that I’ve ended up building an app that’s tracking and in the health workspace, it’s literally both of their jobs combined.

The best skill they taught me was to work hard and be grounded. Grafting always gets you somewhere whether it’s washing vases or selling tech, work hard at it and you’ll progress.

If you didn’t own your own business, what career path do you think you would have taken?

I have no idea, I most likely would have carried on and pursued a comedy career but I was a very mediocre stand up so that probably wouldn’t have lasted long. I would have just kept doing what I always do, grafting hard and following the next opportunity that presents itself.

You haven’t faced much negativity for being a ‘Woman in Tech’, however some women find this a worry. It may even hold them back from considering a role in tech or any other male-dominated industry. What would you like to say to them?

Don’t identify as a “woman in tech” identify as a CEO/Founder of a tech start-up/your company. If you speak about gender it becomes present and part of your work. I ignore all ignorant and disrespectful comments, I’ve had some, but they are in a minority and so outrageous they’re funny, I will no doubt add them into my next stand up set. People who are disrespectful and rude for whatever reason are irrelevant to me. There’s a lot of people out there building incredible things, surround yourself with them, focus on your product, build it, the rest will follow.

What does diversity in the workplace mean to you?

It means having a fair representation of the world as possible in your work force. Diversity is the key to success, at the end of the day in my opinion there is only one race – the human race and I want to build a product that works for everyone so I need people from different cultures & backgrounds and I’m not just talking about BAME I’m also including LGBTQIA, people with physical disabilities and a fair neuro-diversity representation to build it. We all need to make sure we keep our unconscious bias in check.

Let’s go a bit rogue or should I say Vouge here:

Favourite way to chill the F out?

I love to watch series and films. It switches my brain off so I can relax, boring but true.

What book are you reading right now?

I just finished “Rebecca” by Daphne Du Maurier – it was amazing.

Biggest pet peeve?

When I hear myself say “I want to be a gym person”. Just get up off your ass and go to the gym then, I’m lazy about it. So, I guess when I’m being lazy.

When I get annoyed at other people it’s just my ego or my problem being projected onto them. I used to say people walking slowly in the tube, but the truth is, I can simply walk past them. I realised that irritated feeling I get is because I get anxious in crowds and want to get out of there. Really, I don’t care how slow other people walk, everyone can walk at whatever speed they want.

Best thing about being your own boss?

Learning, I get to learn about every aspect of building and running a company, I have zero tech experience and I’ve never raised seed until now. I’ve learnt about Octalysis gaming theory, how to develop an app, how to raise seed investment, what SEIS and EIS are, how to build T&C’s and make sure data is kept safe, how to pitch, so many things already and I have so much more to learn.

Where & when will we see you next?

We’re launching around September/October, so you’ll see me speaking about Arkeo in the press then. If you want to see me before pop onto LinkedIn, I usually post a video or two a week based on things I’ve learnt or I’m trying to figure out.

Hit me with your favourite quote:

The one above is my favourite, but I also like “Rule your mind, or it will rule you” – Horace


Thanks Jana – SO excited to see what you have in store next! Keep doing you!

Interview by Darcie Cornish

a voice of diversity in tech.


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