A Glimpse of the Future, and Why You Should Just Start Today

#Startuptruth: I wasn't going to post today, but I thought I'd share some thoughts.

Entrepreneurship is all about ups and downs; facing your worst doubts; and questioning yourself. The startup mentality has helped me understand our thinking in medicine; with our careers; with setbacks and triumphs in life beyond med; and how universal this all is in any journey we're on. 

I've been having a hard time lately. I couldn't work during most of my locum as my hands were so painful and pinched, it was excruciating even to hold my phone or turn a tap, let alone typing up admissions, inserting cannulas and all the other stuff that happens on the wards. I'm pretty sure everyone at work thought I was a softie who couldn't take it (which was a joke; it was busy, but there are way busier and harsher places to work as a doctor!). Luckily I called in sick for the rest of it rather than pushing on through the pain and potentially causing permanent damage. And even then, I hated doing it, because there's this huge stigma in medicine that when you call in sick, you can't just rest in bed; you mentally have to gear up to get well as soon as possible, so you can resume your work and offload the weight that everyone in your team must be feeling because you're unwell. (It was good news that another locum was found quickly.)

So that fear has been playing along for the last few weeks. What if I could never use my hands again? What if I could never play piano, because it was hurting so much when I played even simple things? What if I couldn't type- and most of our work these days involves a significant degree of typing, especially with EMRs, Excels and all being so prevalent now? What if I could never work again?

That led to a huge cry episode the other night. (You weren't expecting that, were you?) You see, I love my work in medicine. I really enjoy it and love seeing the changes in patients from just the tiniest roles we play in their lives. 

But I've longed, longed for so long to share music with the world; to play piano and other instruments and write my songs properly; to produce and touch people through my words and sounds. And even if it never takes off, just the thought of never being able to play piano for myself, ever again, is devastating, like death itself. 

The Medical Startup has been really "meta", as one journalist humorously described it (thank you, Zelwan!), because while I've been interviewing founders; writing up conferences; sharing insights into the medical life to help you on your journey; and creating things in the background; it also has been a way for me to learn about startups; to reflect upon my own startup journey; to teach myself resilience; to face my darkest fears; and to become stronger, more confident; and hopefully, leave something beautiful and helpful for you guys to be inspired by, no matter where I go in life. 

I've finally got the confidence. After three years of blogging, after nearly a lifetime of doodling song ideas; after nearly five years of teaching myself about the fashion industry; as time passes by, it's increasingly apparent that I should have done things yesterday.

Within two hours, I accomplished stuff I'd been dreaming of for years. 

I launched my music YouTube channel, "Louise Teo Music." Just one song. A piano cover of a Prodigy song. (The Prodigy and Keith Flint are inspirations. I was really cut when I heard of Keith's passing.) It already has significant views and Likes and comments (none of them forced from friends or family!). Maybe not significant to you, but huge for me. It was easy to do, it was fun, and I can’t wait to do more.

I launched my Incredible Wearable Instagram, which is a project I've had in my heart for possibly longer than The Medical Startup. It is a small step, but a huge one in my heart. My soul is free. I am no longer bogged down by "what if" and "I should have." Now, it's about being present, and what I can do in the moment. 

And I wrote yesterday's piece on fashion and sustainability, and Legacy Summit.

I am so happy, because it took me countless hours over the years to figure out that I didn't need permission from anyone in or out of medicine to write about fashion and launch my YouTube. I just needed to let myself do it!

I have so much coming up for you. An eBook on locuming. An eCourse on getting started with stuff. Podcasts for both The Medical Startup and Incredible Wearable. And lots, and lots, and lots of music practice, preparation and producing! 

It's true that we should try to focus, and cut out the unnecessary in life, in order to get things done. So I'm going to do that. By cutting out my self-doubt, which is incredibly draining, soul-sapping, and unfortunately, can affect others, even though I don't mean it. 

Thank you if you've read to here; I am going to be blogging more than Instagramming with The Medical Startup again, which is something I've missed!  I would love it if you followed Louise Teo Music and Incredible Wearable on Instagram; and The Medical Startup and Louise Teo Music on YouTube (nothing on The Medical Startup channel yet, but there will be soon!). 

And I hope this post helps you if you've been too scared or stuck to do something you've held dear to your heart, too. Please start today! You won't believe how liberating it is and how much confidence you'll gain, and how much you'll learn. 

Success At All Costs?

I touched on this briefly in my New Year’s post.

What saddened me when I dug deeper into medical startups in 2016 was that, quite often, success was seen as something to achieve at all costs, with no respect for customers, colleagues, or the wider community.

Even if a brand has a carefully constructed facade, it will all fall apart behind the scenes if you don’t genuinely care.

Coming from the similarly ruthless world of physician training, I found it very disappointing, especially when startups and the entrepreneurial world are trying to attract more clinicians.

Most clinicians are attracted to healthcare because of the caring aspect. They genuinely want to help make a great contribution to people’s lives, through direct patient-clinician contact.

That compassion and vulnerability can be misused by unscrupulous individuals and companies, and even with a strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program, the WHY behind the company can be lost.

Is any industry safe from this?

No.

But it’s up to us, the individuals, to keep our values in mind, and live them.

For real.

Are you living your Mission Statement?

Thank you, 2018 :)

It’s strange sitting here, 1.5 hours before midnight in my home city, 2.5 hours til 2019 in my current one.

But it’s a great time for reflection, particularly when you and your other half saw the Early fireworks as he’s oncall tonight.

2018 was a huge year for me.

One of my faves, Ariana Grande herself said it best- “I find it interesting that this has been one of the best years of my career and the worst of my life.”

I guess personally, it wasn’t the absolute worst it could have been for me, but it definitely had a huge amount of challenges that really rocked me- but also gave me the extraordinary chance to reset and reframe the difficult situations in my personal life.

You can dread each day and its challenges, or you can reframe it to be uplifting for someone else who’s going through a hard time.

Every day counts.

I really believe that, no matter what challenges your career throws at you, you and your loved ones come first.

They’re your anchor, they’re your reason, your “Why” in most cases.

And you should never be ashamed of putting your wellbeing first.

Because no matter how big your career gets- and I believe that your career is your startup - you’ll enjoy it more when you respect yourself.

If you need more time before saying “Yes” to a project, ask for it.

If you feel pressured to work weekends and public holidays because that’s “the startup way,” but you’re actually more productive just working on odd weekdays, go ahead and set your boundaries.

If your personal circumstances mean it’s more favourable for yourself and your family if you work a bunch of part-time and casual freelance roles, go ahead and do it.

If you feel your co-founder’s doing something dodgy, reassess and consider trusting your instincts.

If someone’s being two-faced, don’t be afraid to call it out.

If you love doing several other things along with medicine, allow yourself to do it.

Give yourself permission.

And many more examples like this.

Everyone will be better off for you owning your power.

—-

Someone wise I met recently gave me that wonderful piece of advice.

“Own Your Power.”

Own your decision-making capability, your strengths and skills, your relationships, your identity.

People will try to take advantage of your vulnerability.

So-called “friends” and “partners” in startups and medicine will show their true colours to you, even when the rest of the world can’t see it immediately.

It’s disheartening. It can be isolating, and you can question yourself and your perception, wanting to believe you’re wrong.

It’s okay, because questions are healthy, and I’ve learnt how valuable it is to be mindful, and become more self-aware.

It’s a great defence mechanism, mindfulness. I’ve found it’s a great decision-making tool, productivity booster, and mental health balm. (Ooh, I should package that! Next to the lip balm jars!)

But I guess my rambling here right now is to say,

THANK YOU.

Thank you, 2018, for teaching me even through my weaknesses and dark times this year.

Thank you for giving me the chance to grow stronger.

Thank you for helping me to speak my truth.

Thank you to every single one of you who stumbles across my page; who reads my articles from way back when; who follows and likes (for real) my stuff on social media; who has become a true friend from this crazy journey; who has bumped into me at some event or clinic somewhere around the world and said hello; who believes in me even when I don’t; who believed in me even when it doesn’t all make sense.

I can’t wait to share 2019 with you all.

Have a wonderful New Year and enjoy the celebrations :):):)

*I think I am serious about the mental health balm!

Deceleration as a Tool for Identity and Preventing Burnout

I was listening to The Tim Ferriss Show (his podcast), Episode #295, where he goes into “The 4-Hour Work Week Revisited.” If you’ve read any of his books, or even if you’ve just heard of “The 4-Hour Work Week,” I highly recommend listening to it. He has some thoughtful insights from the unprecedented response to his most famous book on working well, productivity and “lifestyle design”, and answers some of the most commonly asked questions he’s received since first publishing it over ten years ago.

Approximately midway through the episode, Tim discusses what he believes is the most important and overlooked chapter, “Filling the Void.” In a nutshell, the chapter is about what the reader could do after finding their success on their terms; automation, fantastic cashflow, a great team, flexibility, low stress; as detailed in the book. However, Tim has found that people too often mistake the chapter as being a treatise on the benefits of lifelong idleness after achieving “success” in this manner. Furthermore, he believes people who misread this chapter may misunderstand how to relax well.

“It’s about contribution; getting yourself out of a ‘me, me, me!’ focus, so that you’re hopefully putting a positive dent in the world, in a way that extends outside of yourself and your immediate family, and hopefully has some persistence over time,” says Tim. “And taking the tools you’ve developed in a business capacity, and applying them to impact in some fashion. I expect many people skipped (the chapter) because they don’t expect to succeed…. But (perhaps) what started out as a party or a celebration ends up being really lonely, they feel isolated and don’t know how to address that…. and by thinking about filling the void, about starting to incorporate those pieces into your life, BEFORE you end up in a challenging psychological position where you end up being reactive, … since you haven’t filled the void with anything non-business related, you’re going to continue to work for work’s sake. This is really common for people who succeed in any capacity. .. It’s really rare you see someone who’s been in sixth gear for a very long time, who then retires and is really good at chilling out. Learning to relax and enjoy other aspects of life, and engage with people around you- friends, community or built community- those are skills you need to practice and develop, just as you need to develop and practice the skill of split testing (ie. A-B testing) to anything else. It’s not a default ability you have as soon as you stop.

“They can be really existential (issues) for someone. If the business has been your identity for a long time, and all of a sudden you want to replace that, if you don’t have a compelling replacement, you’ll just continue working because you don’t want to have to sacrifice that identity.”

(If you don’t have a business, feel free to replace it with “work” in the quotes above to apply to your situation.)

I think this is why people have trouble taking a break; even if you haven’t felt that you’ve reached your ideal of “success” yet; even if you’ve failed or had a hard time and wanted to distance yourself from your work for a time; in order to recuperate. If your identity’s so wrapped up in your work (and don’t worry, you’re not odd- it’s very common in medicine and startup land), you’ll feel that strange sense of time stretching out, empty and unfilled, and you’ll perhaps feel guilty for having that free time, and try to keep “busy” by filling it up with quick dopamine rushes, which may be simply starting a bunch of new projects with too much zest (who doesn’t love enthusiasm?), or at their extreme, can include overspending, binge eating, even drugs and so forth.

Or maybe you don’t experience any of that, but you think that to fill that void, you have to go back to work ASAP. And if that work environment was toxic for you, or you had issues to work through that you didn’t get addressed while having time off, those issues can quickly reappear, or be amplified, creating an even worse situation for yourself.

And the worst is that you may feel you’ve trapped yourself.

But there’s always a good way out.

You can be proactive about this.

As Tim suggests, no matter where you’re at in life, you can start today by asking yourself if you’re enjoying enough time with your friends/loved ones; if you’re doing something meaningful to you that is part of your identity, like a hobby that isn’t directly related to your work; or you can start something new, a new activity or hobby that helps build your identity beyond your medical life or startup life. You need to know that you’re valued beyond the workplace. And if you do find that you want to go back to work, that’s okay, but you could consider an option of trying a different work environment; working fewer hours/part time; or changing your work style in some other way. (A burnt-out, bullied doctor shouldn’t necessarily jump straight back into the exact same workplace; locuming a couple of days in a different workplace, or volunteering your compassion, integrity and other qualities into a tutoring job for homeless children, let’s say, could help you recuperate and feel fulfilled beyond your initial job description.)

It takes time to decelerate; even a car doesn’t do it gracefully when the brakes are slammed on! Patience with yourself will go far.

Feel free to comment below with your thoughts!

The Tech Revolution in Regional Australia, and Opportunities for Future Growth

Here’s an article I wrote in March 2017 for StartupsInnovation.com. You will notice this was pre-2018 Australian leadership spill! I have a real love for Queensland, and regional Australia’s potential to be world leaders in innovation and creativity. This article has heaps of resources and events to be aware of if you’re keen to get started with your big idea in Queensland, whether in the big city or further out. Share your thoughts below.

There's a tech revolution Down Under- and we have ideas on where the next opportunities will be.

As a frequent city-hopper throughout Australia, we've noticed that the tech revolution isn't solely limited to our most famous capital cities. 

Brisbane skyline at night. Louise Teo

Brisbane skyline at night. Louise Teo

The rural towns dotting the 2300km expanse of the Great Barrier Reef have long been subject to “boom or bust” economic conditions in Australia. With the recent Australian mining sector downturn affecting once-bustling cities throughout Central and Northern Queensland, the time is ripe for entrepreneurialism to take place.

The Australian Federal Government's Innovation Agenda has helped foster an environment for numerous innovation events. One such event coming up is Myriad, the global entrepreneurs’ conference to be held in Brisbane, Queensland’s capital, at the end of March. Bringing speakers from TechCrunch, Estonia, Western Europe and rural Queensland to the city, the event promises to help connect and inspire attendees as Australia’s answer to SXSW. 

Myriad’s timing coincides with the World Science Festival, which will host Hack The Reef, the world’s first hackathon dedicated to the Great Barrier Reef. Held in Townsville, one of Northern Queensland’s largest Reef gateposts, Hack the Reef will bring participants together to brainstorm solutions for the Reef’s rapid bleaching crisis, with global warming sending water temperatures 1-2 degrees Celsius higher than usual and irreversibly bleaching the beautiful coral. Hack the Reef will send winners to Myriad, and help boost tech and entrepreneurial skills in a region not known for its Opera House or laneway coffee spots. 

Great Barrier Reef from above! Louise Teo

Great Barrier Reef from above! Louise Teo

Maker spaces and coworking centres have also opened up in Mackay, Cairns and Townsville. Startup Mackay is a hub for the sugar cane city and former mining hub now focusing on tourism. The Assisted Devices Hackathon will be held in Mackay, Toowoomba and Townsville later this year, with support from Advanced Manufacturing Queensland helping to re-energise Queensland manufacturing and engineering. theSPACE Cairns and Canvas Coworking in Toowoomba also host startup events and coworking space for locals and visitors. 

Additionally, Australia’s largest corporate startup accelerator Slingshot has announced a presence in Cairns this year. It will dedicate funding and resources to projects focusing on travel, hospitality and entertainment in this city of 160,000 people which hosts international guests such as Elton John. Slingshot is known for running one of Australia’s largest health-tech accelerators, and currently has Australia’s first Human Resources Tech accelerator open for applications to be the next Freelancer or similar. 

Finally, small business groups in these towns continue to host events for local startups and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) alike. Small Biz Big Future has been held in Cairns for several years’ running, bringing together web developers, agricultural, marketing and legal experts in the region to deliver Top 3 Business Tips for attendees. 

Advance Queensland also completed a regional tour featuring 6 of Queensland's most successful entrepreneurs, including Shark Tank Australia's Steve Baxter and We Are Hunted's Stephen Phillips, visiting ten rural cities to share their experiences with locals. 

How else can regional towns pivot from existing business models and upskill in entrepreneurship? Currently, the options for rural business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs are to attend local events or education providers; otherwise, if they can afford it, to relocate to one of the capital cities. In our opinion, education shouldn't be limited to local TAFE centres and universities, which are often costly and not suitable for time-poor owner-operators. It's also worthwhile remembering that many small business owners are successful despite not completing school, or not having a strong tech culture within an Indigenous Australian community. Private tech skill educators such as General Assembly and Academy Xi are based in major capitals such as Melbourne and Sydney (with GA opening in Brisbane). These cities are doing their bit for entrepreneurship, but are becoming saturated with choice of events. Surely such schools could also aim to broaden their reach to rural areas by offering free or paid video access to classes and talks. 

In times of crisis, there is a long-held resilience demonstrated by local farmers, retailers, and other small business owners, with communities devoted to buying local. Much can be learnt from business owners who have dealt with cyclones, droughts, banana plantation destruction and international trade adjustments. Perhaps a platform needs to be developed for giving these stalwart regional business owners a chance to share their lessons virtually with young and tech-savvy entrepreneurs across Australian cities. This could help introduce a new revenue stream to such business owners, in a valuable collaborative effort of Ideas Exchange. 

Australia's current Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, a former tech entrepreneur himself, has tried to shine a light upon regional innovation. Taking in rural Queensland towns such as Bundaberg and Rockhampton last year, Prime Minister Turnbull was impressed with technologies such as drones used by farmers for crop surveillance and pest control. As mentioned during his visit, it's important to remember that entrepreneurs are not just city-based friends in T-shirts coding in a garage for fun. The real need for tech and entrepreneurial skills comes from those who are geographically isolated and time- and resource-poor. 

Ongoing support for local businesses and education providers, whether rural or metropolitan, will continue to drive the future of Australian innovation. We'd be glad to hear your thoughts on this article and other ideas you may have.  

The Australian Startup Aiming For Zero Waste In Healthcare

Globally, there’s been increasing awareness - and action- regarding sustainability and climate change.

Healthcare is no different.

Have you ever wondered what happens to the tonnes of unused, sanitised medical supplies found in well-stocked hospitals and clinics in the developed world?

The pristine cannulas and IV drips. The instruments in the operating room. Even the surgical gloves.

Melbourne anaesthetist Dr Martin Nguyen studied this with Hospital Sustainability expert Dr Forbes McGain and their team, and was perturbed by the findings that, in one week in Melbourne, 23% of waste generated from six operating rooms was recyclable. Was it feasible to recycle this waste? The study showed that, yes, it was, both financially and with infection control integrity.

This brought Martin back to his journeys on medical missions trips, where, he says, “in isolated pockets of Vietnam, I noted these communities were in desperate need for medical supplies, but did not have connections or the resources to reach out.” Furthermore, “we discovered (through our research) that there were unused items thrown out into landfill. This practice upset many staff who were avid reducers and recyclers at home, but had to be wasteful at work. They were keen to collect and donate these supplies, but did not know where to send it to.

“This is where the inspiration for Medical Pantry came from. The Medical Pantry sits in the middle to match the needs of undeserved communities with the generosity of the givers.”

Since inception, Medical Pantry has successfully donated high quality, unused clinical goods to communities worldwide, including in Tonga and Papua New Guinea. Led by Martin and a team of eager volunteers, goods are readily donated from hospitals and clinics, and are given to recipients usually via clinicians on missions trips and other aid ventures. Goods can also be used locally; wildlife sanctuaries have benefited, along with local businesses in Victoria’s Western Health district; local clinics may run short, and mechanics find the unused, sterile kidney dishes useful! However, Martin envisages a future where tech enables donors to match recipients’ needs directly online, saving further costs, time and resources that can then be put to use expanding the reach of their work.

A hospital in Papua New Guinea using donated goods from the Medical Pantry.

A hospital in Papua New Guinea using donated goods from the Medical Pantry.

“Our ultimate goal is for the Medical Pantry to not exist at all - for there to be no waste from the healthcare system,” says Martin. “But, while there is waste, the Medical Pantry will find a second life for medical supplies and stop it heading to landfill. I hope in future, this will be a national program with collection/distribution centres in each major city in Australia. I believe the data collected will raise awareness and feedback to those in healthcare to help achieve zero healthcare waste.”

Currently, Medical Pantry is in the running for up to $100,000 in local government grants to help with more permanent warehousing, distribution and storage. (People with Victorian addresses can vote for Medical Pantry to receive funds in this grant, until 5pm, Monday 17 September.) However, to fulfil its dream of recycling goods in other cities and expanding its reach, it will need more funding and support beyond this grant. It’s amazing what impact local work can have on global health.

To reach out to Medical Pantry regarding funding or other support, please visit medicalpantry.org or facebook.com/medicalpantry.

All images in this article courtesy of Medical Pantry.

Best Reads This Week, September Edition

We’ve been quiet for awhile! Hello again :)

It’s great to be back!

We’ve got a lot happening at The Medical Startup- thankyou for bearing with our site facelift as it happens.

For now, entertain yourselves with a roundup of some great articles we’ve enjoyed from around the Web this week.

  • Beth Comstock’s a CEO- and an introvert. Tips and strategies at Girlboss.com.

  • Clinical trials are underway for novel early-stage cancer screening through a simple blood test. (The article’s from January but still relevant!)

  • Our friends at Lysn have been listed as one of the top 5 Mental Health social enterprises in tech to watch, along with other inspiring startups. Check out the full list at Social Change Central.

What are some articles and resources you’ve enjoyed recently? Share your finds below!

Melbourne startup Nebula Health Raises $250,000 in Seed Funding For Best Perioperative Patient Care

First published June 6, 2017

What makes patients’ lives easier?

Having clear, up to date communication with their doctor and treating team.

The problem is, time pressures and administrative structures in most hospitals and clinics make this difficult both for patients and clinicians.

Australian surgeons Dr Paul Paddle and Dr Chandrashan Perera have created a solution for this. Nebula Health delivers smartphone reminders and advice via app directly from the surgeon to the patient, improving the quality of pre-operative care, post-op recovery and long-term health of their patients, in an easy-to-use and efficient manner.

 

Nebulahealth1.jpeg

Nebula Health’s new patient-focused app will help patients prepare for and recover well from surgery, with clear instructions tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Photo courtesy of Nebula Health.

As Chief Medical Officer Dr Paddle explains, “The concept for this app was borne out of my own experience and frustration. As a practicing ENT surgeon, I strive to check in on my patients at every step, before and after their surgery. However, in the time-pressured realities of medical practice today, it’s often not possible. With this app, my patients receive personalised directions every step of the way. In return, I receive real-time notifications of their compliance. As a result, my patients have more confidence in my abilities, are more satisfied and have better health outcomes.”

Frustration with the limits of current best patient care are what drive startups formed by doctors, nurses and other clinicians. Perioperative medicine is a standout opportunity for healthtech innovation, given the enormous breadth of surgical patients and cases, spanning from neonatal to paediatrics and adult surgery, and the non-surgical complications that can occur (such as cardiac events) amidst the high turnover of operative cases. A precision medicine solution like Nebula’s app could potentially also help those patients on waiting lists who are anxious about surgery or wanting advice in between appointments.

 

MAP launch 2016.jpeg

Melbourne Accelerator Launch Party 2016. Photo: The Medical Startup

Since completing their time with the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP), Nebula have visited Silicon Valley with the other MAP graduates and iterated the initial concept of their product into a helpful perioperative app. What was the journey like as a clinician and startup founder? “We tested thirty (surgical) patients using a prototype. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and it encouraged us to develop this concept into a market-ready product.” explains Dr Chandrashan Perera , Nebula’s CEO. “Patient testimonials from this trial turned six surgeons into early customers. From this traction, we were able to close our seed round. This funding will allow us to grow the team and scale our services to more patients.” Indeed, at least two more medical doctors have joined Nebula‘s team, and Nebula’s vision has impressed angel investors including Rod Lyle, a board member of ASX-listed medical technology company Pro Medicus.

It’s been exciting following Nebula Health’srapid journey from the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP).  Other medical successes include compatriots CNSDose, a pharmacogenetics company who are now part of the Texas Medical Center’s Innovation Accelerator, and other graduates of the MAP program.

Currently, Nebula Health are looking for more surgeons in hospitals and clinics who are interested in their software. For a demo or more information, please contact Li (at) nebulahealth.com.

Congratulations and best wishes to the team!

What It’s Like Attending Your First Hackathon

First published June 5, 2017

 

No matter your level of experience – or self-perceived lack of- hackathons are a great way for you to get started in tech.

At hackathons, you meet others interested in a good cause or tech solution for a pressing problem. Think “build a tech product in two days” and you get the idea. They’re usually themed; for example, Healthhack in Melbourne last year; the internationally-run Hacking Health (in Brisbane this year) and even food hackathons and fintech hacks in various cities. You’re usually presented with a problem to solve, either in advance of the event, or at the start of the event itself. Run as competitions, prizes and opportunities are usually on offer, ranging from prize money to course scholarships and introductions to advisors and mentors.

I’d bookmarked a ton of hackathons across Australia that kept cropping up at the wrong time; so it was a nice surprise when I Googled “hackathons” while visiting New York, and found out about AngelHack’s “Women in Tech Demo Day.

 

The Flatiron District, Saturday morning! Pic: The Medical Startup

 

I didn’t know what “Demo Day” meant. Basically, it means the event’s been announced some time ago, and you work on your project solo or with your team members in the weeks or days leading up to the event. This differs from more traditional hackathons, which may run for, say, 48 hours, and working around the clock to build that prototype with your team, even at 3am.  I’d signed up to Demo Day the week before, and with my NY schedule already packed, thought, well, no harm in just rocking up and observing if that’s all I can do!

But actually, AngelHack are good at knowing how randoms like me stumble upon opportunities like this. Using Slack, they created streams for each Women in Tech DD (#WITDemoDay) in each city (they also had Washington, D.C and Dallas events that year), so attendees could connect and form teams online, and work on their demos together to present on the actual event day.

There was also room for those who turned up on the day and decided to form a group while at the venue, which is what I ended up doing.

#WITDemoDay. Pic: The Medical Startup

Getting to the venue was exciting enough, being a Big Apple tourist. Held at sponsor Capital One’s offices in the Flatiron District (iconic enough for its own blog post really!), there was mingling amongst women and men of various ages and backgrounds throughout the event. Students, developers, graphic designers moving into code, project managers, professionals from other industries breaking into tech, and the random who flew from Australia (I got a few stares!) were all there. Very refreshing to see men at an event promoting opportunities for women. After an intro and warmup activity (and finding another Aussie!), we formed new groups or got into the ones we’d already arranged prior; and set to work on a tech solution for involving more girls and women in the tech world.

 

Food, glorious food  Pic: The Medical Startup

By the end of the day, wireframes and working prototypes for websites, apps, and even social media companies had formed. I’d made new friends, heard some very inspiring guest speakers, and gotten to soak up the fun atmosphere. Maybe it was the 39-degree heatwave outside, but it didn’t feel ultra-competitive- certainly, other groups had been preparing for weeks or days, and people wanted to win the $20,000 General Assembly course scholarship and other prizes, but for my new group who were talking about Pokemon Go (which was hot at the time), we were just racing the clock to present a simple prototype in time.

 

The 2016 winners of the Women in Tech Demo Day, NYC! Read more about them at Forbes by clicking on the image. Pic: The Medical Startup

Throwing yourself into a foreign situation like that forces you to quickly get comfortable being uncomfortable. Some of us were enrolling in beginner’s coding classes; others had graduated from computer science degrees and now wanted to use their skills in the real world. Still others had genuinely never typed a line of code in their lives, but wanted to see what it was like. And then it was also interesting experiencing hints of a startup culture in a different country, particularly a world business capital like New York. You learnt a lot in eight hours.

The presentations were really enjoyable. The winner turned out to be the Aussie I mentioned earlier, who presented HerReality, a virtual reality solution for educating girls about careers in tech through the eyes of the narrator. One of the other prizewinning teams was a group that had formed on Slack that same week and met for the first time in person that day! Women@Forbes writer Leah Ginsberg was one of the judges, and was so impressed by the finalists that she wrote about them later on. Imagine forming your team and attending your first hackathon, winning your first prize that same day, AND getting into Forbes! Wow.

I hope all this inspires you in some way to take a chance and try a new challenge. Whether it’s attending your first hackathon or another tech event, it’s great to stretch your boundaries and get a head start on tech terms and startup lingo- and pitching practice. (Not the baseball kind.) (Couldn’t resist.)

AngelHack’s Carlye Greene with guest speaker, entrepreneur and consultant Roopa Unnikrishnan. Pic: The Medical Startup

In the medical world, you can immerse yourself so deeply in medspeak that you forget how to dial it down and share your knowledge with others outside of med. It’s the same with code. I’ve since been to other events where, at pitching time, the audience struggles to understand the real-world application, the one-sentence pitch to non-coder investors and stakeholders, that is buried beneath the tech jargon. I think people are starting to mix more, however, and the cross-pollination of experiences will bring more cohesive events like Women in Tech Demo Day together.

It didn’t matter that it wasn’t a medical event. I learnt a lot and had a great time. And you could argue that improving tech education for girls could help a future nurse, doctor or other healthcare worker use their valuable tech skills throughout their careers!

This year’s AngelHack/Capital One Women in Tech Demo Day is coming up this month; check it out and register at womenintechdemoday.com. Also visit Angelhack.com for other hackathon opportunities around the world. 

This may ring a bell for Aussies who have been to Girl Geek Academy events– if you haven’t, register nowthey’re run by an awesome team and are branching into the States.

Also check out hackathon.io for lists of other hackathons around the world.  

Breaking The Boundaries You’ve Set Yourself: Thoughts and Events To Inspire Your Tech Journey

First published May 28, 2017

 

How do you learn about tech as an outsider?

For awhile, before The Medical Startup became an idea, I was toying with creating something in tech.

I was a full-time doctor in a Melbourne hospital, spending all my spare time studying for fellowship.

When you’re at that stage in your career, you’re usually facing another four to six years of focusing on fellowship full-time.

I was surrounded by peers who were working towards the same goal.

It was all we knew at that time. We’d forgotten what life was like pre-training, it was deemed a “waste” if you paused for breath, and it took a long, long time to learn to breathe above water again.

So it seemed impossible.

But when you start to act towards those “strange” goals, the world opens up beyond anything you’d imagine. 

Attending events and online webinars helped tremendously. I was surrounded by others who were teaching themselves, too.

I started learning how to adapt to new environments, even more new than running a Code Blue at 3am.

I started learning the lingo of life outside of medicine.

And the love of learning I have for medicine sustained me through this journey, too.

So here’s a thought for the next time you’re thinking, “I can’t do this” or “It’s impossible, I have no background in this area.”

Think laterally about what you’re telling yourself.

Is it really impossible?

 

You’re not just a doctor.

You’re a woman in tech.

You’re not just a nurse.

You’re a father of three.

You’re not just a clinician who sees patients one by one at scheduled appointments at your clinic.

You’re facilitating their wellness beyond their current condition. How they are at home, at work, at the shops and their daily lives.

You have to stop thinking of yourself as a single job description. 

Otherwise, when you’re stuck, how will you remember who you are again?

Think about those who have the courage to uproot countries and settle in a new culture, starting from scratch with their careers again. Often, their degrees aren’t recognised at their new home.

Or think of those who graduate from one degree, then use their determination and self-belief (even when it’s down) to apply to study post-graduate medicine or another degree.

Don’t underestimate yourself.

We’re all learning, after all.

And that shiny, suited person speaking up on the big stage? They had to start somewhere, too. 

This is literally just a random post after reflecting on recent events and conversations. You have to normalise curiosity and your hunger for knowledge. 

Thinking about it, there are a ton of events coming up around the world that may help you along your journey; I’ll list them below. Perhaps you’ll find some of them useful, too.

A couple are med tech, but most are actually more general and will help you learn the vibe and get comfortable in the tech and entrepreneurship worlds, too.

Who knows what new friends you’ll make, and what skills and knowledge you’ll bring back to your usual lives? You’ll almost certainly realise that you already know more about tech than you thought you did.

Be inspired.

Let me know in the Comments or by email if you have been or end up going to any, and how you enjoyed it/what you took away from it. I’m also speaking at an AMA leadership event tomorrow, aimed at junior doctors but hopefully useful for others, too.

Below:

  • The Sunrise Conference” by Blackbird Ventures in Sydney. One of Australia’s most renowned tech venture capital firms. (Last year it was streamed online; here are a couple of tips we took from some of the talks.)

  • The Melbourne Accelerator Program Launch Party 2017. Last year, two Melbourne digital health startups founded by doctors were part of the program. Nebula Health and CNSDose have both benefited hugely from MAP, with Nebula now partnering with hospitals and surgeons, and CNSDose breaking ground as part of Texas Medical Center’s Innovation program.

  • General Assembly, a tech education company running coding bootcamps, one-day workshops and even two-hour events across their centres in Australia, Asia, the US and UK. Visit generalassemb.ly to find your nearest centre and see what’s available. I’ve found their events very helpful.

  • HIC, Australia’s premier health informatics (digital health) conference, run by HISA, the Health Informatics Society of Australia. It’ll be in Brisbane in August, and I’ll be presenting as part of the UX (User Experience) workshop, along with others interested in digital health. I really recommend joining HISA, HiNZ, HIMSS (including their APAC branch), COACH (Canada) or other organisations as a way to get access to valuable resources, networks and skills for eHealth.

  • COACH, Canada’s annual health informatics event early June.

  • HIMSS Asia-Pacific Summit, in Singapore in September. (As a member of HiNZ, you also get full automatic membership to HIMSS Asia-Pacific.)

  • HiNZ, which we wrote about last year; it’ll be in Rotorua this year.

  • The Global Ideas events in Melbourne, inspiring global health innovators with skills including tech and human-centred design thinking. (Read about founder Dr Lloyd Nash’s journey here.)

  • Vogue Codes, an Australian event running in Sydney and Melbourne in August aiming to inspire more women to take up careers in STEM. Speakers include the founders of ClassPass and Shoes of Prey as well as female members of Australia’s startup and tech communities. Being a woman in STEM who loves fashion and the arts, (even if I don’t look the part!), this event really speaks to me, knowing that although society places us into simplistic career boxes (“Medicine!” “Science!” “Engineer!” “Designer!”), we’re much more than just a “science person” or “arty person” 100% of the time.

  • Vivid Sydney’s Ideas program, coming up this week.

  • Girl Geek Academy, an Australian organisation aiming to educate 1 million girls and women in tech by 2025. It also has events in the US.