Priya Lakhani OBE: Founder CEO of CENTURY Tech
The #SheInnovates stories team sat down with Priya Lakhani to discuss the role of women in innovation. Get involved at She Innovates Global.
#SheInnovates Stories: Innovation is solving the world's problems. What problem are you solving?
Priya Lakhani: While sitting on the UK government’s business advisory board I learned the extent of the problem facing education. Nearly 2 million pupils were being taught in underperforming schools, and teachers were overburdened with admin tasks. I set out to harness the technology that was disrupting and improving all other sectors, and apply it to improving children’s education—and CENTURY was born.
#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?
PL: As a parent of two young children, I knew that the solution had to work for all parties involved: children, their teachers, and their parents.
I knew we were working on something big when I looked at the results. CENTURY has a remarkable impact on children’s results, improving their scores on average by 30%. It saves teachers six hours a week on admin tasks, and its Guardian Portal allows parents to monitor their child’s progress in real time.
#SheInnovates: What were some unexpected obstacles you overcame in the innovation process?
PL: We face different challenges every day. There’s no set formula for overcoming them, but it is impossible to do without fostering a certain set of values and a positive culture in your team. We strive for authenticity and resilience, and everyone at CENTURY believes they’re working for something greater than themselves. There are few obstacles that cannot be overcome when you have a team that truly believes in its work.
#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?
PL: I’m lucky to regularly meet the teachers, children, and parents who benefit from CENTURY. Every child has their own story about how it has improved the way they learn, and the sight of a child’s face lighting up with enthusiasm about their schoolwork reaffirms the hard work we put in.
Teachers don’t teach for money, prestige or power; they do it to improve the world, and often manage to do so with the odds stacked against them. I’m truly privileged to be able to help them.
#SheInnovates: What do you hope that young women coming behind you take from your work?
PL: Resilience and perseverance. There will be ups and downs, but if you believe in what you’re doing, and surround yourself with people who do also, you’ll only grow as a result. Don’t dwell on negative views from people with “I can’t” attitudes. Listen to any constructive criticism, but learn from it and move on.
#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?
PL: Women in innovation are important because great ideas are great ideas, regardless of the creator’s gender. As a woman you will have to relentlessly persevere, but you can’t do it alone. You need to assemble an outstanding team that believes in your mission. Equally important is to create a support group of equally ambitious people off whom you can bounce ideas, peers who will help you survive the inevitable lows, but also help you fulfill your potential.
Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.