First things, first- tell us. What led you to found Allovue?
As a middle school teacher, it was a constant challenge to acquire the resources I needed to provide a great learning experience for my students. Those resources included everything from basics like books, paper, and supplies to supplemental resources like classroom decorations, technology or field trips. Like so many other teachers, I ended up buying a lot of things out-of-pocket. I became really curious about how budgeting and purchasing decisions are made and evaluated in districts and schools. As a teacher, I used so many education technology tools and it seemed like schools and districts would also benefit from similar finance tools for administrators - so I set out to create them!
With your company now in motion, what has been most rewarding?
It’s so cool to see ideas come to life. I still have all my old notebooks with the first sketches of Balance and it’s unreal to see those become real-world tools thanks to our amazing team. Most of all, it is so rewarding to see principals and administrators empowered to make resource decisions that are right for their school and students. I love to hear stories from our partners about how students were able to access new or better resources this year because of decisions and discoveries that happened while using Balance.
What’s a typical day in the life of a CEO?
Oh boy - there is no such thing as an average day! On any given day, I might be traveling to meet with district administrators, supporting the leaders on our team with making big decisions, compiling reports for our Board, or brainstorming ideas for new products or customer success tools. Sometimes all of those things happen in the same day! But Balance isn’t just the name of our product - it’s also one of my own core values. Each day, I try to carve out time to do things that make my body and mind feel good, which might be going to the gym, reading a good book, or having dinner with a friend.
So besides making time for self-care, what has been the most meaningful piece of advice you’ve received?
“Go to yoga.” In the early stages of a company, there is SO much happening and I have workaholic tendencies, so it’s really important for me to take breaks and take care of myself. If I feel myself getting frustrated or tired, I go to yoga or take a long walk. I also think it’s really important for leaders to model healthy behavior for other employees. I always want my team to feel like they have time to take good care of themselves and their families.
Are there any other leaders that you model your behavior after? What other CEOs do you look up to?
Ursula Burns, the first African American woman to lead a Fortune 500 company when she became CEO of Xerox; she is a role-model for persistence and beating the odds.
Aaron Levie, CEO and Founder of Box, demonstrates a lot of humor and humility through his Twitter feed; he doesn’t take himself too seriously.
Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and Founder of Ellevest. As a former Wall Street executive, I love how she has taken her area of expertise and democratized it through the Ellevest platform. She is empowering women to make smart investments and take control of their financial goals.
With that inspiration in mind, how do you imagine Allovue evolving in the next five years?
As we grow, we’re listening to our partners about how we can make it even easier for them to better serve students and improve their processes. Increasingly, we’re hearing requests for tools to make operational workflow more efficient with interoperable data. Our partners can look forward to more tools to address other challenging workflow processes in the near future.
Of the many features Balance has today, which is your favorite?
Such a hard question! I really love our Equity Analysis feature in Balance Evaluate. Students come to school with a variety of personal needs and challenges. It’s so critical to ensure that district resources are aligned to student needs in order to support those students. With the new ESSA regulations for reporting school-level actual spending, there’s a national spotlight on resource equity and districts are taking a closer look at ensuring resources are distributed equitably. The Equity Analysis tool is a great way to get a quick diagnostic on how resources are distributed to schools in the context of the level of student need at each school.
Before you go- we know that one of your favorite ways to unwind is spending time with your cat, Darwin. Any recent “Darwinisms” you’d like to share?
This is my cat, Darwin, sitting on the stairs looking extremely judgemental when I come home late. I call this his, “And where have you been?” look.
Jess is a true inspiration to us all and we’re so grateful to have such a fearless leader at Allovue’s helm. Questions for Jess? Send them her way at email@example.com.