Associate Scientific Director – HAVAS LYNX – Healthcare Agency of the Year

Being an Associate Scientific Director of Havas Lynx is something that I am extremely proud of. The role provides a platform where I can use my healthcare communications experience in helping others communicate their messages. Stepping out of a clinical was never going to be an easy transmission – but I genuinely feel I can have a greater impact on the health of others at Havas Lynx than I ever thought possible in the NHS. Havas Lynx consistently prove  themselves to be thought leaders in healthcare communications, recognised this year with multiple Cannes Lions Awards. Most notably Havas Lynx took home the ‘Healthcare Agency of the Year’ a truly significant moment in their relentless and rapid climb to the pinnacle of healthcare communications.

I cannot stake any claim to helping them achieve such an accolade, having joined after the fact. I can however ensure that we will go on to win many more awards that I plan on being a big part of. I would ‘modestly’ draw comparisons between the progress of Havas Lynx and my own career. In that I have grown, adapted and climbed at a rate faster than those around me. I want to back up this claim and share my story of how I ended up being appointed in this role.

The Journey (self indulgent from here on in)

I have a varied and eclectic past. I left university in Kent with a Sports & Exercise Science degree in 2003 and started to follow a path taken by so many that have such a niche degree. By 2008 I had been a telemarketer and field salesperson for Canon UK (flogging photocopiers) and taken the skills I learned here into a role as a pharmaceuticals salesperson for Teva. I was drawn by the ‘medical’ side of pharmaceuticals by my natural love of science but it was not the job for me. Too many days spent in the road pleading for 5 minutes of a GP’s attention. So I quit my job and went to work in the south of France as a windsurfing instructor to British school groups, I was killing it financially bringing in 70 euros a week! The summer ended and I returned to England and reality loomed above my head like the sword of Demacles.

In the next 12 months I moonlighted as a telemarketer as I researched my career options. I ticked a few boxes required to become a ‘Cardiac Physiologist’, I had no idea what one was but the job spec also ticked many of my boxes. There were just three barriers; I would have to obtain another degree in Clinical Physiology, the pay was nothing to shout about and with 70 applicants for each post – it was certainly competitive. That summer I used my annual leave to be one of the oldest people to ever have gone for work experience at the Royal Surrey County Hospital. It was the best decision I had ever made as in reality I had engineered myself a 2 week job interview – before the job had ever been advertised. When they eventually did have a vacancy, I applied and thanks ultimately to my work experience in the department, I was successful against 70 others – awesome. My Sports & Exercise Science degree meant that I had suitable physiology credits to complete my qualification in 3 years instead of the usual 4 and in 2013 I received a 1st Class Honours Degree in Clinical Physiology, specialising in Cardiology.

The novel step of taking work experience to gain a competitive advantage really got me thinking and gave me the one insight that I would offer every other person as a seed of advice. If you want to progress do not do what is expected of you very well. Simply do what is expected of you, just do something that is not expected of you too. To give you a really crude example of what I mean – a salesperson who sells the most may not progress into management. A salesperson who sells well but has also completed management courses in their own time, is much more likely to progress. Incidentally this is something that I always do – before I even start a new role I am thinking about how I can differentiate myself from my peers and implement new approaches to familiar paths.

Being newly qualified at 30 years of age meant that I had some catching up to do. When the idea of a patient education website presented itself, I knew it would expedite my career. What I did not know is exactly how many amazing opportunities would come as a direct result of having a ‘digital footprint’.

Starting a patient website was hours and hours of hard work.

In 18 months I compiled over 100 cardiology explanations and wrote 3 fully illustrated ebooks with over 75,000 words of copy. In this time I became extremely adept at digital marketing. SEO, link building, guest posts, ego baiting, anchor text, metadata, etc etc – you name it I did it. The website was impressive, ranking number 1 on Google for multiple topical keywords and achieving over 3 millions visits per year. The website certainly set me apart from my peers, I was promoted, won the NHS ‘Improved Excellence’ award and established myself on the Board of Allied Professionals for the Heart Rhythm Congress all within the first 20 months of starting the site.

What I hadn’t predicted were the benefits outside of my immediate employment – the website opened doors. Collaborations with Medmastery.com, Havas Lynx and multiple charities followed, plus I became a Digital Consultant for Medtronic (a multi-billion dollar medical devices company). I left the NHS only 3 years after qualifying to be a Technical Consultant for Livanova (a medical device company) to oversee the development of a novel education app. Unfortunately the job was not all I had hoped it would be and amidst the acquisition of the company by Microport – the app funding was pulled. Craving for a return to the digital, I reached out to Havas Lynx to see if they had any opportunities. David Hunt, the very youthful and impressive CEO invited me to present at their internal training sessions called LXAcademy – I chose the topic of Cyberchondria, focusing on how we could tackle the issue with the use of behavioural science. It seemed to be well received as I was soon offered an interview. The interview brief challenged my ability to provide alternative HCP insight into pharmaceutical communications. I might be the only person in the history of the world to have sealed a job offer with origami, I will spare you the details – but I do always look for a way to separate myself from the competition.