Hannah Thompson, Product Manager at Healx
Can you introduce yourself and tell me about the role you play?
My name is Hannah Thompson and I call myself a scientist by training. I did a pharmacology degree and a PhD in the link between diabetes and bowel cancer. So quite heavy science based! Since my PhD I have worked in four different Med tech start ups. I’m much more a fan of using my soft skills, so not having to be the expert, but empowering people who are experts, to do their work!
I’m Product Manager here at Healx, which means I’m responsible for helping build the software products that help Healx achieve their product goals and bring treatments to rare disease patients. In practise that means talking to scientists, people who know how to build software products, and making things happen.
What’s the most exciting thing about working in this industry?
It’s being able to impact patients and helping them through their journey of their illness. Also, working with lots of amazing and driven people!
You have worked with Cancer Genomics, genetic and medical research, can you tell us a bit more about that, what inspired you to work in these industries specifically?
When I was growing up, I was always interested in the ingredients in everything. Things such as shampoo or butter, as a child I would be looking at these ingredients and asking why these products are made up of such long words! Throughout my education I was a fan of lots of things, but I really enjoyed the science side. So, when it came to picking my degree, I looked through a book detailing all the different degrees and came across one for pharmacology. That to me felt like learning the ingredients in drugs, and using that to be able to help people. I also just love helping people so that led me onto this path.
Since then, I have been able to make friends in different parts of the industry and found opportunities that way.
Can you tell us more about Healx?
Healx is using artificial intelligence and software to identify treatments for rare diseases.
What are some of the rare diseases Healx works with, and are there any you would like to work with in the future?
We have loads going on in our portfolio which is mainly across rare neuro developmental diseases, renal diseases and neuromuscular diseases. Healx have just announced a patient group partnership with a disease we’re working on called Friedreich’s Ataxia which is another disease that causes progressive nervous system damage.
There are lots of things that we would love to work on in the future! And hopefully I’m going to help to build the technology that will allow us to get the best results for those diseases.
What challenges have you faced at Healx over the last 12 months, and what changes in the market have you seen?
I’m a big fan of getting up to speed quickly at a company so I can start making an impact. My biggest challenge was getting up to speed quickly, so I just tried to talk to everybody as much as possible! That’s really helped me to understand the processes and the people. Healx have done a really good job at being a remote company which has been a challenge, as it has for a lot of companies.
What would be your predictions for, or your hopes for, for the future of AI driven care?
I’m really hopeful that we can start to leverage all the data in health records and remote monitoring devices like Fitbits etc and hopefully move quicker toward precision care for patients. Using data from each patient to understand what’s going on and help them get the right treatment at the right time. We need the data and AI to do that because a human can’t process all that data at once!
What’s the best advice anyone has given you that’s helped you in your work?
I don’t know where I got this quote from, but I had this quote on my notice board growing up that said: “ask an expert”. I don’t like the pressure of being the expert myself, but I enjoy talking to a lot of experts! I’ve taken that through, and it helped me learn lots from different people and not have to read a whole book, I can get the answer from asking specific questions.
Say yes to opportunities that allow you to work in different environments with different diverse groups of people. And learn from how other people have built businesses and take that forward.
I also love this quote from someone called Mary Choi “It doesn’t get any less scary. All that happens is that you have less life left. It helps if you do your falling early, and it really helps if you do your reaching early”.
What advice would you have for anyone looking to work in this industry?
I’ve only worked in the healthcare industry, so I don’t know if it’s different outside of that; but I have used a lot of my network. Three out of the four jobs that I have had have been through my network. My advice is to talk to people in the industry, ask them questions and figure out what steps you might need to take to get to their position.
I have always done ‘journey mapping’ of what I would like to do next given what I have learned from other people, but I have then consolidated it for my situation. That’s better than trying to be exactly the same person as someone else. I tried to figure out what my strengths were and what the next steps would be. Keep networking, anyone who wants to chat with me can do! Connect with me on LinkedIn I’m always happy to chat with people!
What’s one thing people wouldn’t know about your role, or are there misconceptions about the roles available in health tech?
For me, as a Product Manager I was scared that I would have to know lots about coding; and do lots of data analysis! Given that I talked to a lot of people who are the experts, I built up my knowledge that way.
I think in general; communication and soft skills are key for any role. If you were able to communicate you will stand out more from the crowd. I think that’s one thing people don’t take into account as much when trying to move into the industry.
In the last year I have really enjoyed the time available for self-reflection. I’m being able to understand where I want to go. It has been helpful to sit down and think. I do an exercise every few months; where I sit down and think ‘what am I doing in my life; and what do I want to be doing?’. Then try and find a path to where I want to be. I have found that has been one of the benefits of having more time on my own!
I recently did a workshop with Queen Mary University of London PhD students about self-awareness and networking. If you have both that helps to really answer your questions about where you want to be; and when you reflect you can generate more questions for your networking, so it all goes hand in hand.
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