The Future of Females in Tech: Jo Halliday, Talking Medicines

As part of our blog series celebrating International Women’s Day and our partnership with Tech Nation, interviewing some of the UK’s most exciting female tech entrepreneurs, we spoke to Jo Halliday, founder and CEO of Talking Medicines.

Talking Medicines was born out of a belief that the patient should always be at the centre of healthcare, Jo and her team found a way to capture the voice of the patient; listening to the public using digital monitoring, focus groups as well as bespoke analysis. The data tech company helps to create a wider picture of how patients talk about and use medicines after leaving the pharmacy; helping to support marketing decisions for pharmaceutical brands and ultimately drive more effective medicines.

Talking medicines was one of the coveted winners at Tech Nation’s Rising Stars 2.0 and Jo herself won our Talent Works Inspiring Leadership Award, making her a true trailblazer for female tech entrepreneurs. We spoke to Jo about her professional career and her experiences launching her tech startup.

How did your professional journey begin?

I started my career in the corporate world joining Coca-Cola as a graduate straight from University. I was very lucky to be given a dedicated training scheme that took me through all of the commercial functions before heading into the role I wanted in marketing. The formal training & mentoring that I received in those early years has stayed with me to this day.

What made you want to start your own business?

Having had a successful corporate career, starting a family was a catalyst for change for me. I wanted to work but I also wanted more freedom & flexibility. I made the move into freelancing as a marketing consultant & that lead to work in some interesting companies who I would never have thought I would work for. It was during this time that I started working with younger more entrepreneurial businesses. My first big move into ownership was in a management buy-out.

What have been the biggest highlights and biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career so far?

There are so many highs and lows. Both are so important in the journey. For me, it helps that Talking Medicines is not my first business so that I can draw on my own experiences and find strength from that.

What skills do you think it takes to become a successful leader?

It is important to be able to focus & see the big picture. A successful leader in a start-up needs to be hands-on whilst also being laser-focused strategically & from a financial management perspective. It is easy to over-engineer products and services or run out of cash, a leader always has to be able to balance resources.

How do you deal with the highs and lows of starting your own business?

Resilience & balance are both essential. You must be able to handle the lows & keep the highs in perspective. Having more than one co-founder is, in my opinion, a better scenario as it can be difficult to keep that perspective if you are on your own. Having a strong inner team of founders makes that task easier, there is always a person who understands & shares beliefs to balance a bad day.

What’s your best advice for an entrepreneur just getting started?

Set everything up to the highest standard that you can from the beginning, don’t cut corners. Advice – which you can get for free – on accountancy & legal structures is essential to take. If you set up in a sloppy way then it will come back to bite you, so take the time to do it properly. Believe in your vision and build a team who can help you find a commercial buyer to validate this as early as you can. Then you will know that you can succeed & others will also believe in you.

Statistics show a lot of women aren’t pursuing careers in tech, what was the motivation for you?

I didn’t set out to have a career in tech, instead, tech is our way of delivering our data service. By knowing our commercial use and surrounding ourselves with the right tech talent we have learnt how to become a good tech company.

Did you find it hard to break through into a traditionally male-dominated industry?

I like to think that I will be judged by my results & don’t spend too much time worrying about male domination. More diversity will lead to balance, and I do hope to see more females in tech who do a good job.

Do you think we need to see more female leaders in tech? If so, how do you think businesses can make it happen?

Yes, and this is starting to happen with some very smart female leaders. They do an amazing job at trailblazing & motivating. The business support networks are increasingly visible for female leaders,  it is worth reaching out to them. I am a Womens’ Enterprise Scotland Ambassador, & hope that I can lead by example myself & help others. Female networks can be very powerful in support, mentoring and introductions. With two female founders in my company, we have benefited from those networks & hope to lead by example.

Talent Works has produced an employer’s guide which aims to help STEM businesses to attract and retain female candidates, covering everything from company culture through to how you advertise a role. Plus, you can find out more about the current state of women in STEM industries with a fact sheet put together by our Director and Shareholder Jody Robie.