March 22, 2019, by Katy Johnson
Words of Wisdom From an Entrepreneur
By Sarah Iqbal, Digital Health Expert and Business Owner of SiQ Innovation Solutions.
Sarah Iqbal is a scientist who studied MSc Applied Biopharmaceutical Biotechnology & Entrepreneurship alumna at the University of Nottingham. SiQ Innovation Solutions is a connected health company and we asked Sarah to talk about her career path to date
What Is Your Role and How Did You Get to Where You Are Today?
The digital health industry is rapidly developing globally. However, many are abandoned after a pilot stage largely because they lack sustainable business models and understanding how technology was adopted in a clinical setting. While at the University, I used my MSc as a starting point to test my ideas with my professors and colleagues on what service I can provide to the intersection of technology and healthcare as a target market.
I became an entrepreneur in digital health to promote and utilise mobile technology in order to simplify clinical processes for both clinicians and patients, so they could better engage and make more informed decisions in health care.
What Are the Highlights and Challenges of Your Current Role?
Entrepreneurship comes with a host of challenges. Rewarding challenges, but harsh challenges nonetheless. Because digital health is not a mature discipline, I start every new project by undertaking a comprehensive education process to convince the customer of the benefits of healthcare digitisation. Demonstrating my own understanding and expertise in this area builds confidence with the customer and ultimately secure sales.
As an entrepreneur, there is no doubt that you will be wearing different hats; from manager and operations to human resource and administration. Some people may view that as loss of focus, but it is definitely a highlight as you get to view your business and all its functionalities as a whole. When you know what works and doesn’t work in your business on every level; you can narrow down on what area needs more focus. When you start hiring more team members to grow your business, you can identify the issues and articulate them effortlessly to your team so you can all pivot better.
What Advice Would You Give to Students?
When starting out as a business owner, always remember to have a good cash flow management – budgeting is key. Constantly reviewing the budget is also essential – both professionally and personally.
Another important skill to nurture as an entrepreneur is your ability to manage stress. Stress can be your friend, so do not be afraid of it. It can be the thing that drives and motivates you and makes you succeed. Your mental health is key and deserves your attention. Becoming an entrepreneur has forced me to find strategies to manage stress and anxiety so that I can remain productive and effective in my entrepreneurial pursuits. Whether or not you are naturally inclined to stress, find something that works for you (for me, it’s having a good scheduling system and delegation of a task!). You will need to adopt some strategies if you are serious about the success of your own business
My final advice is to be open to change – your business plan is a living document. The idea that you have in your first business plan will not be the same as you progress with your business. This is because the industry, technology, and people are always changing, and you will constantly learn new things as your progress. You may just be writing multiple business plans – you know you are on the right track when this happens.
How Did You Develop Your Skills While at University?
There is not one “right” set of characteristics for being a successful entrepreneur, certain general traits and practical skills will help you succeed. Problem-solving is an important skill in order to think about different ways of solving any given challenge. Are you able to see situations from a variety of perspectives and come up with original ideas? How good are you at coming up with sound solutions to the problems you’re facing?
At the University of Nottingham, I was exposed to a lot of problem–solving tools in the Creative Problem–Solving module of my course. This was actually where my initial business ideas started. Although, having an idea to solve an issue is one thing, but the execution is equally as important. The skills to communicate your ideas and the driven initiative to start a business are crucial for your ideas to come to life.
By examining your own personal strengths and weaknesses and comparing these with those of the typical entrepreneur, you can get a sense of how well this career will fit with your personality. The teaching staff at the University of Nottingham, as well as the careers service, have helped worked through this. Remember, becoming an entrepreneur is a career decision like any other. Do your homework, look at your needs and desires, and then decide whether this path is for you.
Where Do You See the Future of Your Profession?
I am currently working to further enhance my expertise in the healthcare sector, especially in digital health. Given my experience and knowledge in this sector, I am always encouraging research and development in this area. I am looking to be an investor in the STEM industry as well as companies engaging with technology in the life sciences. I would like to provide an opportunity to build a unique investment eco-system in the Asia Pacific Region. As this industry is in its infancy in this region, starting a scholarship fund to encourage entrepreneurship as a career would be of interest to me.
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