Interview by Marija Butkovic
Hannah Hare is a product development physicist who specialises in creating new products and technologies for healthcare applications. She develops new ideas from initial technical feasibility through to product integration, balancing the complexities of technology development with the realities of healthcare businesses. Hannah is leading TTP’s work in Women’s Health and has recently worked on improving the success rates of IVF, designing a new insulin pump for diabetics, and better blood pressure monitoring for mothers in the delivery room.
TTP is an independent technology company where scientists and engineers collaborate to invent, design and develop new products and technologies. Working across a wide spectrum of industries including health, telecoms, industrials and consumer, TTP creates breakthrough solutions that bring strong commercial value to clients and the benefits of technology to all.
Hannah, tell us a bit about your background and your journey in the tech industry so far.
I have always loved maths and science so it was an easy decision for me to study physics at university. I chose to follow this up with a PhD in medical physics, which I loved. However I was really missing the connection between the exciting research that I was doing and the benefit to patients, which is why I chose to make the move from academia into industry. Working in technology consultancy has allowed me to be constantly learning new things whilst applying my skills to challenges that real companies are facing, to help them bring new products to the people who really need them.
You're a part of TTP - an independent technology company where scientists and engineers collaborate to invent, design and develop new products and technologies. What does your current job role entail? What are some of the projects you've been working on in the past?
At TTP we put teams of scientists and engineers to work solving difficult, real-world problems relating to hardware. We work with ambitious young start-ups who are just getting going, as well as supporting larger companies. This leads to an incredible amount of variety in the project work that we do. For example, I have worked on the development of a new 3D printer but also on a new type of continuous blood pressure monitor which can improve the safety of mothers in the delivery room. In my role I lead new development projects and also speak with new companies who might be able to benefit from the skills and knowledge that we have developed.
How has your career progressed since your degree? Has it been an easy industry to get into or have you had many challenges?
I joined TTP straight after finishing my PhD. The experience of directing my own research during my PhD was definitely valuable, as it allowed me to be more independent more quickly. I have really enjoyed the opportunity of working with so many different companies on so many products. Of course there have been challenges – we work with start-ups where circumstances and priorities are constantly in flux – but this is also what makes my job so exciting and rewarding.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Adjusting to the work culture in industry. In academia most people have lots of time very limited funding, so you get used to spending lots of time reading up on things and learning on your own. Industry places a much higher value on your time, and is also more collaborative and results focussed. Help is always available from colleagues, but you have to ask for it, and it took me a while to fully grasp this.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Leading teams to help launch new healthcare products. I joined TTP because I wanted to work on projects that would make a difference to people’s lives, and it’s so rewarding when my work directly contributes to a new product launch.
What does the #WomenInTech movement mean to you? What are the challenges of being a woman in the STEM field?
I think my biggest frustration has been the assumptions that other people make about you. I had teachers at school asking “But why would you want to study science? You’re good at modern languages – study those instead, they’re much more feminine.” These throwaway comments make me realise how far we still have to go before young people can choose careers based purely on their own interests and skills rather than society’s expectations.
For me #WomenInTech is about women supporting each other. We may be a minority, but we are not alone. I hope that in time we can change the false narrative that some subjects, jobs and career choices are innately more suited to men or to women.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all women in these industries out there?
Speak up, and follow your instincts.
Most of the obstacles that I have experienced resulted from a lack of awareness, and not any intentional offense. Most people want to do the right thing! Instead of complaining to friends, consider having an honest conversation with your colleague/manager/client, explaining what the issue is and why it’s a problem for you. I have generally found people to respond very well to this, and until they truly understand the issue, they are never going to be able to fix it.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
We have so much going on right now! We are working on faster and cheaper flu tests, on improving IVF, on LiDAR sensors for driverless cars, on nerve stimulation for pain relief…
In your opinion, what will be the key trends in the health tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
I think the top trends are de-stigmatisation, personalisation, AI, IOT and sustainability. Healthcare is becoming increasingly user-focussed, as patients want to understand their health data and be in control of the decisions they make on their care. I see more tests moving from the hospital to the home, and data analytics tools such as AI providing more personalised insights based on larger data sets.
Join Women of Wearables for a design, prototyping and manufacturing workshop for hardware businesses, facilitated by experts from TTP in London, 20 November!
During this workshop, we plan to tackle all these topics and hopefully help early stage companies who will participate in this workshop to make more informed decisions about how to engage in both processes. This workshop is aiming at young companies who have just raised (or are about to raise) a funding round and now need to turn their idea into a real product.
Topics we will cover during this workshop include: hardware design, hardware assembly, finances, suppliers – how to find them, how to work with them, in-house vs. outsourcing – which is best (for the example cases) and why, prototyping – what, how, when, why, de-risking early and more!
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables. 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.