Jason R. Thomas: A Visionary Executive Leader, Expanding the Reach, Empowerment, and Impact of EdTech

The Most Influential CEOs Making a Difference, 2023

Enabling Robust, Sustainable E-Learning Ecosystems to Manifest Synergy of Purpose, Action, and Impact.

A visionary leader in the field of EdTech, Jason R Thomas is the Founder of Executive Leadership International and the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of the theLMSdoctor and her Portfolio of Companies united under the banner of Synergy Solutions International. A six-company portfolio designed to stand profitable in their own right, but all support one another and develop true Synergy.

Jason also founded an executive leadership company called Executive Leadership International as the platform for his passion for Empowered Leadership Development and Public Speaking. It’s also the vehicle for promoting his upcoming book, “Leadership v. Management: 7 Principles that C-Suite Executives are Missing,” focused on the seven missing C-Suite leadership principles and set to launch in June 2024 in Orlando.

Building Credibility Through Resilience and Determination

Jason proudly highlights the remarkable expertise that his father, Dr. Russell Thomas (Ph.D., MCSE, MCT), brings to the table. Russell is recognized as the global authority in the field of educational technology, particularly in its practical applications. This reputation for expertise has opened doors for international collaborations, including partnerships and joint ventures with a well-established company, Computer Systems Network Limited, known for its extensive track record in its World Bank infrastructure projects.

For decades, this reputable company was unable to participate in bids for learning management systems (LMS) or educational management information systems (EMIS) projects because they lacked certain critical resources. However, Dr. Thomas’s unparalleled credentials and authority have enabled this multibillion-dollar company to enter a market they previously ineligible. The LMS Doctor’s credibility in the industry is unquestionable, a testament to Russell’s journey and expertise.

When discussing the roadblocks that he and his father faced, Jason highlights the resilience and determination that runs through their family. Nearly three decades ago, his father endured a life-altering accident during a work trip, where his spinal nerves were injured, resulting in a chronic pain disease called reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), akin to Parkinson’s disease.

Instead of succumbing to adversity, his father, armed with just a high school diploma, was resolute about providing for his family. He recognized the need for a doctorate to teach effectively, so he embarked on a journey to acquire a doctorate in education and educational technology.

In parallel, he became an MCSE/MCT, penning the training manuals for Microsoft’s certification programs in the 2000s. However, as the disease continued to progress, his father ventured into a business unrelated to e-learning while he continued his studies. While he conceived the product and inspired others, he recognized his limitations in business operations.

Jason vividly recalls the company’s failure, the ensuing bankruptcy, and the loss of their family home. Witnessing this turmoil left an indelible mark on him. He vowed never to become an entrepreneur, opting instead for a more stable career path. High school brought clarity about his desire to serve, inspired by a lineage of military service in his family.

Intent on becoming a Marine combat aviator, he focused on securing a scholarship through the NROTC program. Although it meant sacrificing other interests, he viewed this as the only path to college education. He thoroughly enjoyed his involvement in the NJROTC program. Lieutenant Colonel Ken Knotts and Senior Chief James Griffin profoundly influenced his formative years, and he owes in no small part his receiving of a Full Ride NROTC Scholarship to The Ohio State University Majoring in Aerospace Engineering.

His dream of becoming a Marine combat aviator was within reach when a fluke accident during a football game left him with a torn hamstring and a ruptured blood vessel. Two years of crutches and physical therapy followed, along with a daunting prospect — he could no longer meet the academic requirements of his program without risking that at the end of his 5-year program, he would be left responsible for repaying the entirety of the scholarship.

The excruciating choice he faced forced him to leave college and return home. On his journey home, his car’s transmission failed, but this setback paled in comparison to the emotional turmoil he experienced. With uncertainty about his future, he took solace in knowing that his father had endured far greater pain for years.

Providence intervened when he contacted his former employer, who urgently needed him for a touchscreen voting machine project. He was headed to Cleveland in three days, albeit with a new car purchased sight unseen. Despite the initial challenges, he embraced this unique experience, traveling across the country and working on election support.

When he returned home, Jason’s desire to serve remained strong. He explored enlisting in a field with practical applications outside the military, eventually qualifying for the Naval Nuclear Power program. The program’s intensity surpassed the initial training phase, proving that the real challenge lay ahead at sea. Nevertheless, the camaraderie and friendships he formed during this time endure today even after completing over 15 years of uniformed service.

Recognizing The Growth Potential For Effective Leadership And Training Initiatives

Jason remained steadfast in his pursuit of transitioning to an officer role as a pilot, but everything changed when he was granted the rare opportunity to fly home while on deployment to witness the birth of his triplets. This transformative experience shifted his priorities, prompting him to dedicate himself to providing his children with a stable and fulfilling childhood.

He realized that active duty, particularly in the role of a nuclear engineer, wouldn’t afford him the work-life balance he sought. Thus, he completed his undergraduate degree in Nuclear Energy Engineering and Graduate Studies in Advanced Energy Engineering prior to transiting to the civilian sector while continuing his service in the reserves. Following in the footsteps of his Mentor and grandfather, Jack Schwartz, he too joined GE Aviation after the Navy, quickly rising to a leadership role overseeing the formal test and certification of flight critical equipment for frontline military aircraft. Jason was not spared interruption during the COVID-19 pandemic as he was involuntarily recalled to active duty to support the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard with less than a two-week notice; Jason kissed his wife and children goodbye and began his trek across the country on 9/11/2020. Upon his return home in 2021, he found himself facing his position filled, entering the workforce as a manufacturing manager, swiftly rising to the position of plant manager at a plastic manufacturing company, overseeing the production of items ranging from flame retardant Aerospace materials to Spa Bodies.

During this time, Jason ventured beyond the traditional leadership funnel, immersing himself in the practical aspects of business and gaining invaluable on-the-job training. He takes pride in his experience overseeing the Profit and Loss (P&L) for a site that generated a remarkable $37 million in product revenue. This site covered an expansive area of more than 200,000 square feet and employed nearly 100 individuals.

Notably, this company had initially been a small, family-owned business that became part of a larger consolidation effort led by a private equity firm. It marked his initial foray into training department-level leaders in the principles of empowered leadership in the civilian sector. In this particular industry and company, the concept of training, let alone leadership training, was relatively foreign at the time.

However, the turning point came when they received concerning news about Russell, indicating potential health issues stemming from his time at Camp Lejeune and the risk of developing a form of cancer. Jason decided to prioritize family and support Russell during this challenging period without hesitation.

Fortunately, they would find that Russell’s new struggles were manageable, especially when compared to his RSD, and did not impact his day-to-day life, cognitive abilities or work capacity. Russell had a spinal cord stimulator at the top and bottom of his spine and an internal wirelessly charged battery located by his kidney. These technological aids effectively managed his pain, enabling him to regain functionality.

While Jason didn’t have to stay with the company indefinitely, his tenure there allowed him to recognize the immense potential for growth and impact that could be achieved through effective leadership and training initiatives.

Helping Companies Build Healthy E-Learning Ecosystems

In 2020, as Jason was still serving involuntarily on active duty to support shipyards, the now Dr. Thomas, found himself transitioning from supporting one company to aiding five different companies. These organizations required assistance in managing their Learning Management Systems (LMS) administration teams and government compliance structures.

The catalyst for this rapid expansion was the COVID-19 pandemic, which transformed the eLearning and EdTech landscape almost overnight. As organizations rushed to adapt to online learning, they onboarded various LMS platforms, often handing them over to their IT or HR departments with little preparation.

Recognizing the complexities of establishing an effective and compliant LMS platform, Jason and Russell understood the challenges those suddenly tasked with overseeing eLearning initiatives within their organizations face.

Major companies began investing in platforms like Docebo, Cornerstone, or Canvas, which often require substantial resources for their initial onboarding, but they often struggle to maintain the system effectively after this initial phase. All too often, this results in significant challenges arising six to 18 months later, and many consider migrating to a different LMS.

However, when the LMS Doctor team conducts their thorough discovery process, they often discover that the problem isn’t the system itself but how it’s being utilized. With a keen focus on developing effective leaders and teams within organizations, the LMS Doctor aims to create healthy eLearning ecosystems that thrive and adapt over time. While they can assist with various technical aspects, they primarily empower clients to build and maintain successful eLearning environments.

Bridging The Gap in Leadership Training Between the Civilian Sector and The US Military

Executive Leadership International, Jason’s brainchild, offers leadership training and aims to bridge the leadership gap between the civilian sector and the US military services. Its mission is to empower leaders to navigate the ever-evolving e-learning landscape effectively. Additionally, it aimed to help organizations identify the gaps in their structures and requirements, especially when it comes to managing their eLearning platforms.

From a leadership perspective, Jason considers empowering leadership to be of utmost importance. His role extends beyond administrative and strategic control, allowing Russell to focus on his passion within the EdTech field and maximize the value for clients through his Leadership and Expertise. Empowering leadership drives initiative and innovation, and Jason plays a significant role in expanding their international reach and conveying their message.

Jason’s mission extended beyond education; he aimed to enlighten the C-Suite about the gaps within their organizations, particularly in LMS management. Many job postings for LMS administrators seemed to demand an impossible combination of skills, from architecture to content development, leaving organizations in a quandary.

Job postings for LMS administrators often seek individuals with a broad range of skills, including architecture, administration, content development, support, governance, and more. However, these multifaceted roles often lead to confusion and inefficiencies.

When Jason’s team conducted their initial client discovery, they consistently found clients unknowingly already had dozens of administrators within their systems, often unaware of the potential risks associated with too many individuals holding administrative powers. A single misstep could disrupt entire platforms without proper structure and change management.

Jason’s company steps in to keep operations running smoothly, aiding the adoption of new use cases at a manageable pace. They emphasize the importance of proper permissions and governance to avoid mishaps where too many users can inadvertently affect the entire platform. They streamlined systems for efficiency, integrating functions to save clients substantial costs. Their approach didn’t eliminate jobs but allowed people to focus on their core skills and passions, further increasing the company’s ROI.

By working with clients to restructure their systems, integrate them effectively, and eliminate redundancy, the LMS Doctor aims to optimize operations and save resources. Their approach ensures that employees can focus on their core responsibilities and areas of expertise, ultimately leading to greater job satisfaction and success.

Empowering Leaders to Navigate The E-Learning Landscape

From a leadership standpoint, empowering leadership through proper role alignment was crucial. Jason’s contribution to the company extended beyond administrative and strategic control. It enabled Russell to advocate for the industry and maximize client value passionately.

Originally, their venture was planned to be small, but the potential for a more significant impact became evident as they progressed. They knew that learning benefits everyone, and the exploding industry needed Leadership to address the growing void of trained resources. The LMS Doctor team enables companies to develop a trained and efficient workforce, increase morale, and reduce turnover while learners acquire valuable skills that remain across their professional journey.

Jason envisioned scaling this impact globally. He played a significant role in expanding their international reach and getting their message across through media outlets, recognizing the importance of sharing their vision for empowering leadership in the world of e-learning. Thriving as leaders in this industry has not been challenging but rather a relief, as it allows them to implement empowering leadership principles that are often missing in many organizations.

Jason aspires to help the next generation of leaders understand and embrace these principles deeply ingrained in military leadership. The civilian sector often lacks a similar focus on developing leaders, but Jason believes that a measurable shift in thinking is on the horizon, ushering in a new era of leadership development in the corporate world.

Jason’s journey reveals a profound dedication to delivering value where it matters most—the bottom line. He knows that every cent counts, with experience managing budgets exceeding $37 million. His success stems from demonstrating tangible benefits to those holding the purse strings. Demonstrating the value of their services to those in charge of the P&L is crucial to ensure that the company’s leadership recognizes the Asset their learning environment should and can be.

Their expansion into World Bank projects in emerging markets like Africa and Southeast Asia promises to transform lives and shape a better future for generations. The impact they’re poised to make fills him with pride, alongside his remarkable team’s contributions.

Propagating Empowered Leadership Through Effective Learning

One standout recognition of Jason’s leadership journey can be traced back to his service on the cutting-edge Gerald R. Ford, a pioneering aircraft carrier of its class with an entirely novel ship and reactor design. This momentous endeavor marked the first time in over half a century that the Navy was undertaking such a feat independently.

EMN1(SW) Jason R Thomas was a proud part of the initial Manning team, where he holds the proud distinction of being a Plankowner and stands out as a key highlight of his Naval Service. His achievements on the Gerald R. Ford were twofold. Firstly, he had the unique opportunity to spearhead the development of a computer-based real-time simulator. This simulator played a pivotal role in certifying reactor plant operators for the groundbreaking reactor design, capable of going supercritical in downtown Newport News.

The significance of this accomplishment was underscored by the fact that it didn’t make headlines, a testament to the unwavering integrity and caliber of the Naval Nuclear Power Program. Additionally, Jason’s exceptional recognition came when he was selected to join an elite team comprising only a handful of service members. This team collaborated closely with top-tier design engineers to overhaul casualty procedures and institute explicit redesigns within the reactor plant.

Their primary objective was to ensure the plant’s safe operation under adverse combat conditions, even when automation was rendered unavailable — a crucial contingency. Jason attributes this recognition and the honor of being part of this select team to one of his most influential professional mentors, Captain Lloyd, now Admiral Lloyd, currently serving as Chief Engineer and Deputy Commander for Ship Design, Integration, and Naval Engineering at Naval Sea Systems Command.

Jason envisions a future for the LMS Doctor characterized by continued growth and expansion and has already established the infrastructure of this vision through the development of Synergy Solutions International’s portfolio of companies. His vision hinges on identifying opportunities that are, in his words, “opportunities that are intrinsically irrevocably mutually beneficial,” a mantra that aligns seamlessly with the world of leadership, learning, and educational technology.

Presently, the company boasts six thriving entities, with more on the horizon, all designed to be self-sufficient and mutually supportive. Jason’s vision entails further growth through partnerships with like-minded companies, aiming to elevate the quality of training and education across diverse industries.

Moreover, the LMS Doctor aims to shift the mindset of executive leadership, convincing them that their learning and training departments, along with their LMS systems, are genuine assets rather than mere cost centers. The ultimate mission is to propagate empowered leadership through effective learning on a broad scale, fostering a paradigm shift in how organizations perceive and harness the power of learning and development.

Cultivating a Work-Life Balance Is Integral to Business Growth

In his daily routine, Jason emphasizes empowering his expert team, steering clear of micromanagement. His role predominantly revolves around collaborating with strategic partners and working alongside the company’s founder to propel growth and expansion.

Jason’s schedule includes meetings with potential partners, often tallying six to eighteen per week. While some initially seek to sell services, the LMS Doctor offers referral and partnership programs, harnessing a wealth of skill sets available to clients. This approach bolsters their core competencies and extends support to the clients of others seeking assistance with their learning systems.

Balancing personal and professional life is no small feat, but Jason acknowledges that it’s comparatively less challenging than during his Navy days. However, he remains committed to improving this balance daily. Recently, he dedicated four days to a summit with one of his mentors, Doctor Oban Bowen, a decorated Marine and renowned public speaker. Their focus was on forging partnerships and shaping the direction of Executive Leadership International’s formation. Jason is proud to be announcing a formal business partnership with Dr. Obom & his Passion Project, the UnderdogMillionaire. This joint venture is enabling Jason to hold quarterly Leadership, Learning, and Specialty 7-day workshops held in high-end all-inclusive resorts to foster creativity and a powerful growth-centric mindset.

Jason emphasizes that wealth isn’t solely defined by monetary gain but by the impact one makes. He believes that cultivating a work-life balance is integral to business growth. Maintaining this equilibrium ensures that one’s batteries stay charged and prevents burnout, allowing individuals to perform at their best consistently.

As a leader, Jason motivates his team by granting them authority and explicitly requiring them to take the initiative. In his view, failures are part of the process as long as the team learns from them and keeps pushing forward. Jason recognizes that his role is to remove obstacles and provide the right resources at the right time, allowing his team to maximize their potential, and he firmly believes that their potential is not limited by their abilities but by the resources and leadership at their disposal.

Jason envisions a future where his six growing companies mutually support each other, fostering synergy that elevates training across industries. He seeks partnerships with intrinsically beneficial opportunities and aims to transform executive mindsets to view learning departments and LMS systems as assets, not mere cost centers. His day-to-day revolves around strategic partnerships, empowering a capable team, and promoting growth.

As a leader, he motivates his team by empowering them to take initiative and learn from their failures, emphasizing that it’s the journey of getting back up those matters.

Understand the Difference Between Knowledge, Understanding, and Wisdom

Jason’s personal goal is to become an effective philanthropist, driving change beyond the corporate setting. For aspiring executive leaders, he imparts several valuable insights. He advises aspiring executives to surround themselves with a team of experts, challenge conventional wisdom, and understand the difference between knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Jason challenges the conventional notion that knowledge is power and insists that, in its raw form, knowledge is like a boulder at the bottom of a hill — it requires understanding to move it. Understanding, in turn, must be practical, measurable, and validated. LMS systems today provide tools for ensuring knowledge absorption and understanding confirmation, which is critical for effective learning.

Yet, understanding alone is potential energy — it becomes potent only when applied. In his words, wisdom is like kicking a boulder off the summit, allowing it to gain momentum and break through any obstacle along its path. As imparted by his mentor, knowledge is only the foundation, understanding is practical application, and wisdom is the mastered application of knowledge.

Jason believes that with the right knowledge and mindset, there are no limits to what one can achieve. Humility is paramount; recognizing that one doesn’t know everything is the first step. Surrounding oneself with a team of experts in their respective fields is equally vital. Jason looks forward to the adventure ahead and the positive impact he has the opportunity and duty to provide.