Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Maxine Mackintosh is the co-founder of One HealthTech – a community which champions and supports underrepresented groups in health innovation, particularly women, to be the future leaders in healthcare. She does this alongside a data science PhD in London where she is mining medical records for new predictors of dementia. Her professional work has led her to the Royal Society, Roche, L’Oreal, Department for International Development, and NHS England. She is part of a number of communities and committees including the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers, the British Computer Society and the Digital Health Forum. She really really likes fancy dress.
What is the idea behind One HealthTech?
Like most things, it’s evolved a lot! It’s now culminated in being first and foremost a community, but as an organisation, One HealthTech is pivoting to be the platform upon which people can host, build and grow, inclusive digital health communities. What Leeds needs is different to what London needs which is different to what Dublin needs, and each local region colours their own community. The idea behind it however remains the same. It’s the fact that despite healthcare being very female (the NHS is 77% female), there are very few women in entrepreneurial, technical and leadership roles in health tech. The problem with that, is as healthcare becomes increasingly determined by and driven by technology, we are losing out on all that intellectual capital, and simply not future proofing the workforce of tomorrow’s healthcare systems.
When did all start?
We held our first event in December 2015, from a little meetup on a cold December day, we’ve come a long way to over 11,000 members! We started off as an offshoot of an American network but we went our separate ways (happily though!). Scaling a network across such different healthcare systems and cultures is challenging, but we learnt a lot.
Tell us more about your entrepreneurial journey as woman in tech and business.
Well One HealthTech has morphed into an entrepreneurial endeavour of its own. We grew very quickly on very little infrastructure and only volunteer time, and so reverse engineering that structure now is challenging, plus doing all the bits you learn, like registering organisations, sorting out your processes, hiring etc. It feels like an odd “startup” though to speak as it’s lots of amazing volunteers chipping in their energy and time. But turning something chaotic and energetic like OHT into something that is financially self sufficient so it can grow and start to deliver serious impact to women, that’s a whole extra territory of challenging work. I am doing a PhD at the moment however, and that definitely feels like you’re an entrepreneur. You run your own research, manage your own time, pull yourself out of your own lows and celebrate your highs with yourself. Doing a PhD has some big similarities with starting up an organisation, or building a product in its earliest phases.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Focus. Or lack thereof. There’s an innate hyperactivity in my approach to the world of health and tech. I am perpetually exploring, always running around, learning lots and meeting lots of lovely people. Like literally all the time. All the nicest people work in health tech I swear. It’s amazing. But with the hyperactivity you can easily start spreading too thin, or feeling overcrowded in your head. I’m sure that will settle with time but I need to tame my perpetual excitement. Or at least learn to channel it better. I suppose that’s an internal obstacle. External obstacles aren’t really out there for someone as privileged as me (white, middle-class, PhD parents). Not compared to other women with different circumstances.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
At One HealthTech event having a 65 year old and 16 year old lady both come up to me and tell me how welcomed they felt to an intimidating sector, and it’s given them the boost of confidence they needed. That’s the real good stuff and where all the warm fuzzies lie. That, and getting out of the friend zone with my now partner. The struggle was REAL.
What are the challenges of being a female founder / entrepreneur?
Conflicting messages - Lean In? Recline? Be more male? Find female champions? Be yourself? Follow a role model? Who even knows.
An accepting tolerance for BS.
Staggering imbalances in the focus of money and power, and those trying to access it. Relatively easily divided by a gender variable. And everyone likes to hang out with “people like them”.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
Refer back to previous questions on focus ;-) I am working on working on fewer projects. I want to look back at my PhD (about to enter my 3rd year) and think “Daaaamn girl, you wrote some kick ass algorithms”. That requires hours of focus, skill development, brain pain and crying. One HealthTech is really my project, and with that I am focused on working with the team to make it financially sustainable.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
Absolutely! I have the women-in-tech initiative to thank for giving me the programming skills I needed to get into this PhD and gave me the boost in technical confidence I wanted to contribute to the health tech space in that way. Plus, women in tech events always have waaaaay more wine and fun involved. Which are the vectors for the more effective collaboration and networking (this is not an evidence-based statement).
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
The same I would give to men. That’s sort of the problem.
What will be the key trends in the wearable tech and health tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
A move from redundancy to usefulness, which is most of the consumer-based health tech wearable space (data capture has too much variability, it’s not very clinically relevant (by and large) and does not integrate well with other valuable health data sources).
Slightly more “intimate” wearables, from ingestibles, to contact lenses. Bulky items that sit on your skin are missing out on loads of potential biomarkers. Insulin patches for diabetics are certainly storming ahead in this space.
Not so much a wearables trend, but more sophisticated reimbursement models to incentivise better use of wearables and personal health tracking and feeding that into the wider health system. What do those health economic models really look like?
Who are your 3 inspirational women in wearable tech and health tech?
I have to say Tania Boler from Chiaro as I will never forget the faces of the (all-male) judging panel at a startup stage when Tania explained and then gestured the insertion of the Elvie product in her vagina. Priceless. She’s also formidably bright and brilliant.
Elin Haf Davies who uses wearables for clinical trials, particularly in children. She’s inspirational because founded Aparito AND she keeps rowing across oceans… as you do.
Rachel Dunscombe, as she has done some great work at Salford Royal around trying to integrate wearables data to personalise treatment, through integrating with things like electronic health records. It’s reeeeeally hard so anyone who has a stab at trying to scale the impact and use of wearables across a health system is an inspiration for me.
I know you asked for 3 but my 4th is Louise Sinclair, who is my co-founder, and often wears a dress covered in gnomes for events, particularly if it’s a genomics event. Gnome - G-nome. Get it?! Cracks me up every time. Fashion meets wearable meets health meet crappy jokes.
LinkedIn: Maxine Mackintosh
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.