Sometimes the greatest ideas come from an undefinable stroke of inspiration deep down within us. Other times, they are stumbled upon by accident by the right person at the right time. Then there are great ideas that are born when two leave of absence experiences go so unbelievably bad that a never-built-a-start-up-in-her-life Jen Henderson says, “I can only imagine how many people out there are experiencing this same mistreatment…something should be done.”
Where most people might leave it at that, Jen decided to take matters into her own hands and build the solution to the problem she wished she had available to her so that others like her wouldn’t suffer her fate. More specifically, so that by the time her daughter was old enough, she wouldn’t also have to suffer from a bad leave experience someday.
Before we get into that, it’s important to unpack what went sideways that lit the fire and planted the seed that would become Tilt.
“I worked for 15 years in Fortune 500 companies and I loved it. I absolutely loved my career. I gave everything I had to it and got very accustomed to promoting every two years,” Jen recalls. “Being the go-to person at the top of the nine-box was my comfort zone, as was sitting at that proverbial table, so to speak.”
All of that would change when she became pregnant. The moment she made the announcement to her employer there was an unmistakable shift in the way she was viewed as an employee. The proverbial table she once was welcome at was suddenly siloed by stigma. The assumption was made that Jen would no longer have the time, drive and dedication she had proven throughout her career.
Just because she was going to be a mom.
“I was devastated and frustrated to say the least. At that stage of my career, however, I wasn’t going to give in so I turned the other cheek, moved on, and moved forward. I did what I knew best and began clamoring my way back up the ladder with a new Fortune 500 organization.”
Five years later lightning struck Jen a second time. With her corporate career back on track she became pregnant again, and this time the reaction wasn’t just icing her out of meetings and making assumptions about her own personal career ambitions as a parent.
This time, the proverbial table Jen was sitting at had a promotion taken off of it. Weighing the pros (financial) and cons (gag order and the perpetuation of a broken system) of taking legal action, this was the moment Jen came up with Tilt…well, it was more like the moment she knew she wanted to help fix the problem even she had know idea what that might mean or look like.
“It was enough for me to say ‘This isn’t right.’ Even though I didn’t quite know what the solution needed to be, I couldn’t just turn the other cheek again.”
After doing some preliminary research on the matter Jen got confirmation that lightning hadn’t actually struck her twice. That euphemism is reserved for rare occurrences, fluke happenstances, and dumb luck. She learned quickly that her experience was many things, but it was far from a fluke.
Women and men alike were having horrible leave of absence experiences because their employers did not have the resources, education, or empathetic understanding of what it’s like to go through the loss of a loved one, the birth or adoption of a child, or the crushing anxiety that can make work unbearable.
From there Jen went through more adversity as a first-time, female founder of a start-up, which has its own stigmas and assumptions that perhaps she’ll tackle in her next life. With the support of some amazing supporters and partners along the way who believed in her vision she’s taken Tilt from a passion for changing the status quo to back-of-the-napkin iterations to MVPs to beta tests to where we are today.
This passion for leave can be felt in everything we do at Tilt, from every Tilter, and by every organization that trusts us to deliver on our promise to give leave some love. Because when life happens the hardest, that’s when you need us the most.
Tilt is leading the charge in all things leave of absence management through easy-to-use tech and human touch. Since 2017, our proprietary platform and Empathy Warriors have been helping customers make leave not suck by eliminating administrative burdens, keeping companies compliant, and providing a truly positive and supportive leave of absence experience for their people.
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