Updated: Dec 21, 2021
Jen Henderson was a career woman through and through. She eagerly sought opportunities for advancement and pushed hard to have a seat at the proverbial table. After seven years of IVF treatment (while climbing the corporate ladder), she excitedly shared she was pregnant, only to immediately experience backlash at work.
"When I announced I was expecting, overnight I stopped getting invited to the table...it was devastating...then again, five years later...I had a promotion rescinded when I announced that I was expecting.”
While Jen could have pursued legal action, she chose not to because “I would have sold my story. And I would [have] never been able to talk about it.”
Instead, Jen founded Tilt four years ago driven by her personal experience. "I initially set out to prevent what happened to me [from] happening to other people."
Jen started Tilt to help managers and leaders navigate leave from a more humane, people-centered place. And while Jen's personal struggles occurred around parental leave, she quickly learned the problem was much bigger. "I can't just fix one kind of leave and leave everything else held together by duct tape and band-aids."
As a startup, Jen applied the lessons learned to pivot her business. While her mission was people-centered, "altruism didn't sign contracts. And I very quickly understood that while the human that I was talking to got it...it still didn't get the decision-makers to open their checkbooks."
She went on to share, "there are so many compliance risks with mismanaging a leave...we'll help you not get sued...that's going to get that contract signed. And then...helping the manager not be a jerk, helping employees know their rights and responsibilities."
By listening to potential customers, Jen learned how to pitch her services while staying true to her mission, "I've got to meet my HR users, and these buyers where they're at, which is we don't want to get sued. We see these companies in the headlines that are mismanaging leave, and we don't want to be that person."
And her approach has worked. Tilt has grown substantially in the last two years, modifying their services as COVID brought leave to the forefront. "We very quickly adjusted our services to support the legislation that was literally written overnight, around COVID leaves. And we...had an acceleration since March of 2020. In ways that founders dream of...we never ever could have predicted that not only would the pain point have been exposed so quickly, but that that wasn't a blip...this [was an] awakening."
A year ago, Tilt had just 5 employees. At the time this interview was recorded, they hired their 40th employee and are prepared to grow more.
In addition to tackling the problem of making leave more humane, Jen also wanted to build a company culture unlike any other she had ever worked for - one where employees' wellbeing was a top priority. "We don't have values...we intentionally have virtues and the semantics matter here, the virtues are an active demonstration of what we expect of one another at Tilt. And we talk about when we've seen those illustrated...or when we haven't, and if we haven't, we addressed that."
We conclude the interview by exploring what co-creating looks like at Tilt. "Co-creation happens at every level in every team, within the company...I don't think co-creation can happen without failure...we have just started actually measuring our failure rate. Because we hold ourselves accountable to failing a certain amount of time, otherwise, we're not stretching enough. And by putting metrics to it in a way that's advantageous to fail, as opposed to let's keep that as small as possible. It's really starting to shift the mindset around...failing with intention...failing with measurable learnings."
Jen’s story is a powerful example of how to turn being wronged into fuel for a socially conscious business that does good in the world.
Contact Jen and Tilt