Katie Thursfield, Director of Content at LetsGetChecked, on Pursuing Non-Traditional Roles in the Health Technology Sector
Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, Katie Thursfield enjoys spending time with friends and taking advantage of good weather. “Ireland is not renowned for its weather,” Katie laughs. “So when we do get sun, we like to make the most of it.”
When she’s not soaking up the sun in the great outdoors or listening to a great podcast in her downtime, you can find her mindfully managing her team as the Director of Content at LetsGetChecked, a healthcare solutions company that empowers individuals to be their own health advocates.
We sat down with her to learn more about her career, creating patient-focused medical-related content that helps bridge the communication gap between patients and medical professionals. Keep reading to hear her story and her advice to women who are looking to advance in the Biotech space.
Combining Business and Science
Katie started off in pursuit of an art major. “I had all the interest and passion for art, but none of the skill,” she laughs. After this realization, she decided to pursue a completely unrelated degree — Science in University College Dublin. “I loved science because it was logical and results-generated,” she says. “You could pick apart something that seemed incredibly complex into its basic components and pathways and make it easier to understand.” Guided by her love for art and intrigue of the human body, she chose to major in physiology.
“I suppose I chose physiology over the other science branches because you can often see it,” says Katie. “There's a visual cue, a visual representation of what you’re looking at, whether it’s a tissue type or cell structure. I always felt this is what led me to pursue it.”
After completing her degree in physiology, Katie knew that she didn’t want to work in the traditional lab setting. "I loved the idea of theory in science, and we had a lot of brilliant opportunities to work in labs, which [I] enjoyed. But I just couldn't see myself doing it long term,” she elaborates. “I wanted to branch into the business a little more to understand the bigger picture of the market.” So she started a master's degree in Business and Biotechnology. “Coming from a purely science-based course, it was a really interesting perspective as it brought science into the business world, and provided insight into how these global leaders in the biotechnology industry bring their products to the market, how they are developed and regulated, and how they respond to the market impact,” she explains. “It gave you a 360-degree view, from the financial side to marketing of pharmaceuticals and other biotechnology products.”
Her newfound passion for science in business led her to an internship at a 3D medical education platform. That internship turned into a full-time job offer, and eventually, Katie grew her career there, where she was able to work on impactful projects that helped students globally. “The concept was based on the gap in the market where medical students were missing a take-home tool to accurately represent the 3D relationships between the body, like how all the muscles intertwine and where tendons attach and how bones are laid,” Katie shares. “We created a platform for medical students to leverage.” This platform helps students conceptualize the human body beyond textbooks and cadavers.
Production of this tool required Katie to communicate the complexities of the human body in a comprehensive and digestible way to artists with limited scientific backgrounds. “It was about finding a counterpoint in the non-science world to open up that communication channel,” she shares. “For muscles, we would use meat as a reference, because everyone knows what that looks like. For tendons, we would use things like fiber material, and cotton wool. There's such a storytelling aspect to science.”
After nearly three years at that company, Katie began looking for another professional opportunity where she could leverage her storytelling and communication skills in the healthcare field.
“I came to LetsGetChecked three years ago because of the type of impactful innovation that they were putting into play. I was following their story and the route to care they were presenting as a solution to so many who need it was really motivating,” she shares. LetsGetChecked is a healthcare solutions company that allows customers to manage their health from home through direct access to diagnostic testing, virtual care, and medication delivery for a wide range of health and wellness conditions
Katie first joined as a Content Strategist and has moved up to Senior Content Manager, and now Director of Content serving both the marketing and product needs across the business. Her team’s main goal is to create patient-centered content that focuses on the needs of the consumer. “It's about understanding what the patient needs and making sure that they feel confident in taking control of their health,” she elaborates. “We know what the pain points are in the current healthcare landscape globally, so we try to identify what they're motivated by, and help them understand that we have this incredible solution that's accessible and affordable.”
One of Katie’s main focuses is strategically finding ways to get the right message out to the right people, especially those with limited healthcare access. “We hear time and time again that patients are feeling unheard, or they feel that healthcare is out of reach both physically and financially. Introducing a service that is such a new concept to people offers its challenges, especially as there is such a trust-building element. What we find is the patient’s voice is the most powerful tool for us because we’re always trying to improve and enhance the experience. Positive feedback about how our tests are saving lives is really the most powerful motivator.” ,” Katie shares.
Katie has been able to build an incredible team of mostly women who are medical writers, campaign creators, and UX copywriters, all working together towards a patient-focused mission.
“So much of what we're doing is translating a service that has been an interpersonal one, and taking that level of assurance and communication into a platform that you can access from the comfort of your home,” Katie explains. “Our best method is to make sure that we're putting ourselves in the shoes of the patient, figuring out how they can feel the most informed and know exactly what to do next.”
Advice for Women in Science
Being an active voice in the Biotech industry is exciting, but at times it can be challenging and competitive. “It’s such an innovative space. There's a lot of energy in it and I know that people are always striving to improve on what they have,” Katie shares. “It's by no means a stagnant area of the market.” Katie offers the following advice to women pursuing a career in science.
- Shake off your preconceptions. “I can completely appreciate that specific industries are associated with a male-led workforce, and that can be intimidating. I’ve been lucky enough to have strong female leaders in the form of professors and mentors throughout my degrees and career which helped shift that stereotype,” Katie says. “At LetsGetChecked, we have an almost all-female content team and a strong female representation in our wider marketing team. I think that many of the newer companies in the health technology sector in general strongly believe that gender isn’t what drives success, it’s an innovative mind and a strong work ethic. If you find an environment that motivates you to grow, give it your all.”
- Pursue different areas of science. The career options for scientists may seem a bit limited, but Katie encourages women to look beyond traditional medical or lab roles. “Science is an incredible jumping-off point,” Katie says. “I've now worked in two companies that have teams of doctors, nurses, and scientists that wanted to work in a setting that wasn't the most traditional.” Remember, the opportunities are there. “Don't feel pigeonholed into a handful of roles off the back of a science degree, because the areas of health technology and biotechnology are rapidly expanding and diversifying in the types of roles that are available. There are countless roles that literally didn’t exist 5 or 10 years ago simply because the technology wasn’t there, but with the expansion of telehealth services there is always a new avenue to pursue.”
Are you ready to combine your passion for science with business and technology? Check out LetsGetChecked’s open roles here!
💎Looking for a career in tech? Calling all software engineers in all career stages! Watch the video till the end to learn about Helix’s open engineering jobs.
📼If you’re developing a career in tech, whether in software engineering, data, DevOps, or test engineering, the engineering team at Helix might just be the place for you. Meet Jim Chou, VP of engineering at Helix, who’ll tell you all about the team and why Helix is a culture where you can thrive.
📼A career in tech with Helix means aligning with their mission of empowering every person to improve their lives through DNA. The engineering team at Helix builds the expansive software platform that delivers clinical care, research, and data analytics to health systems around the USA. They also integrate genomic data into patient care and public health decision-making. In response to COVID-19, Helix has launched a high-scale COVID-19 test system, performing tens of thousands of tests every day. Additionally, as part of their viral surveillance program, Helix provides reporting on COVID-19 viral sequences and surfacing variants of concern to the CDC and state-level health departments.
📼If considering a career in tech at Helix, it's essential to understand the languages the team employs. As Jim explains, their backend services are written in Golang, and their infrastructure lives in AWS. A common pattern they leverage is API gateways, fronting lambda indications, as they increasingly take advantage of serverless paradigms. The engineering team at Helix builds frontend applications in React and uses technologies like Redshift and Airflow in their data engineering. That said, Jim stresses that having prior knowledge of these languages and frameworks isn't an absolute requirement to apply! They value language-agnostic engineering experience and believe that a successful candidate can learn quickly on the job.
A Career in Tech at Helix - Career Growth Opportunities
For all of their roles, the engineering team at Helix offers progression to increasingly senior career stages based on the engineer's performance and potential. As engineers advance in their careers, they're responsible for increased scope and responsibility. And for those interested in people management, Helix also offers opportunities to hone necessary skills and transition to a management path.
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining Helix? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Jim
Jim Chou leads teams in building products that can positively affect the lives of millions of people every day. If you are interested in a career at Helix, you can connect with Jim on LinkedIn!
More About Helix
Helix is a personal genomics company with a simple but powerful mission: empower every person to improve their lives through DNA. Helix is dedicated to making DNA learning-accessible and actionable for everyone. They’ve been working hard to achieve their vision: create a world where every person benefits from their biological information and help all of humanity lead better lives. They are collaborators—scientists, engineers, designers, marketers, and more—working across two offices to solve complex challenges locked within the human genome. They are biased toward action as they strive to uphold integrity in sequencing, science, and communication. At Helix, transparency, collaboration, and empowerment drive team members in all that they do.
💎If a career in business development is something you’d like to pursue, this video is for you! Watch till the end to learn how you can join the life sciences and growth team at Helix and be part of the healthcare transformation this company is spearheading.
📼Helix is hiring for business development and account management roles. Meet Daniel Lee, the senior vice president of life sciences and growth at Helix, who’s looking to expand the team with people who will not just make sure customers are happy but who can also grow existing accounts!
📼So, before you apply for a business development role with Helix, you may wonder what the life sciences and growth team does there? Well, Helix understands genomics. They utilize various genomic and electronic health record data to help pharmaceutical and biotech companies discover and bring new drugs to market, specifically tailored for individuals.
They’re also incredibly involved with the COVID-19 response across the United States. Not only do they do testing, but more importantly, they work very closely with the US government and other agencies to develop and implement a nationwide viral surveillance infrastructure. This tracks new COVID variants as they emerge across the US, plus whatever may be coming in the future. As Dan notes, they like to call it “Finding Pathogen X.” Sounds exciting or what?
📼And what's the day-to-day like for a business development role at Helix? One thing Dan guarantees is that no day is similar to the next! You may find yourself responding to a customer inquiry, developing a new product, or figuring out how to scale a product and bring it to market. Dan's team attempts to understand the effects on patients because, at the end of the day, that's where Helix is trying to make an impact.
Business Development at Helix - What About Career Growth?
Startups are fantastic for career growth because you get your hands involved with everything. And at Helix, they have a real passion for growing people. Plus, Helix is going through hyper-growth! That can only be achieved If they simultaneously grow their employees to meet the challenges they face. And so, not only do they implement formal training, but they also supply a significant amount of mentoring. They want to ensure that every employee is put in a position to succeed!
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining Helix? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Dan
Dan is a senior executive in the healthcare industry who seeks out challenges to build, grow, and transform businesses. He enjoys unraveling complex problems and issues both domestically and internationally. Driven by intellectual curiosity that has led to a multi-disciplinary background in strategy, business development, finance, commercial, R&D, and operations, he leverages high learning agility, systems thinking, and business savvy to lead through disruptive change. Dan thrives in fast-paced, fluid environments and has a passion for cultivating leaders. He devotes special attention to building cultures where people can thrive and is known for developing talent. If you are interested in a career at Helix, you can connect with Dan on LinkedIn!
More About Helix
Helix is a personal genomics company with a simple but powerful mission: empower every person to improve their life through DNA. Helix is dedicated to making DNA learning accessible and actionable for everyone. They’ve been working hard to achieve their vision: creating a world in which every person benefits from their biological information and is able to help all of humanity lead better lives. They are collaborators—scientists, engineers, designers, marketers, and more—working across two offices to solve complex challenges locked within the human genome. They are biased toward action as they strive to uphold integrity in sequencing, science, and communication. At Helix, transparency, collaboration, and empowerment drive everybody in all that they do.
As it turns out, that's exactly what she's doing right now as the Senior Director of Global Talent Development at biotechnology company CSL Behring.
"It feels like a dream role in that it covers a broad range of the talent development areas I love and I get to work on a global scale," says Kristen, who didn't know much about CSL Behring when their recruiters reached out. But as she learned about CSL's commitment to saving lives and improving quality of life for people with serious rare diseases, as well as their HR group's ongoing transformation, she knew she had to accept their offer.
We sat down with Kristen to learn more about her career trajectory, how she got into Industrial/Organizational psychology in the first place, and what it's like working at CSL, including what's changed at work as the world adjusts to living in an extended pandemic.
Finding her passion academically and in the job market
Kristen's work in talent development would be meaningful even if she didn't have an incredibly personal connection to it—but she does.
Her dad worked on Wall Street during the 80s in a very stressful job, and Kristen connects his untimely death at the age of 47 with the demanding environment he faced at work. "I've always felt that the stress of his job had a lot to do with the tax paid on his heart," she says. "That was a critically defining moment in my life"—she was a sophomore in college at the time—"and I realized through that traumatic experience that if I could dedicate myself to increasing the satisfaction and reducing the stress people experience at work, that would probably be pretty meaningful and rewarding to me."
She majored in psychology during undergrad, and after taking a class in Industrial/Organizational psychology her senior year, Kristen realized she wanted to continue studying in that subset of the field and applied to grad school. "I/O focuses on human behavior at the individual, team, and organizational levels. That's everything from putting somebody through a hiring process and onboarding them, to motivating them and helping them improve their performance. At the team level, it involves all aspects of helping teams become high performing. At the organizational level, it focuses on areas such as company culture, organizational design and change management," she explains. "It's a super degree that trained me to think big picture and work at both the macro enterprise level and micro individual level. It's also a very versatile degree in that I could have gone into many different areas of the HR function – I just chose to specialize in Talent Management based on what I'm most passionate about."
As Kristen worked to finish her dissertation, she joined a consulting firm and worked with various clients on their management practices and employee engagement issues. She loved the diversity of problems and people she worked with, but over time the travel began wearing on her and she realized she didn't like not being able to see the long term effects of her projects. "I got sick of going into companies, making lots of recommendations and getting new things started, and then not getting to see how the changes and improvements actually played out in the company after the project was finished," she says.
Kristen knew she wanted to find an in-house role, but her particular area of consulting made it clear that she didn't want to work just anywhere. "I was doing employee engagement work so I really saw the underbelly of every organization I worked with. I knew all of their pluses and minuses. And there were really no clients that I would want to work for, except for one that stood out above all of the rest," she says.
She called that client, a joint venture pharmaceutical company that is now part of Takeda, to let them know that she was looking for a new role and asked if they had any positions she could apply for. As it turned out, they were just creating a new position focused on leadership development. Kristen went in for the interview, got it, and stayed at that company 8 years until she and her husband decided to move back to the east coast to be closer to family. She found a job leading leadership development at another pharmaceutical company and stayed for several years, taking on new roles that expanded her responsibilities globally into performance management, career development and succession planning. Although she loved the work, during that time the company was acquired and as the culture changed for the worse, she realized she needed to move on. That's right when CSL Behring came calling.
Directing global talent through a global pandemic
Kristen says that interviewing with CSL felt like she'd found a dream role that brought together many of the areas she is passionate about. "When I was meeting people and hearing them talk about the position, the company and CSL's strong patient focus, it really aligned to my values and the work I like to do. The organizational culture felt more familial rather than corporate," says Kristen.
The role itself, which involved leading an internal transition to create a global Talent Development team, was a perfect complement to Kristen's experience and ambition. "It was just a phenomenal opportunity to come into HR at a time when they were still building. I could really help shape what the talent development space would look like and create a global function for the organization," she says.
Kristen spent the first few years in her role shaping that transition, which officially went live in January 2020. She had just a few months to enjoy it before a whole new priority took over: preparing to transition CSL's workplace and their talent development programs into a completely virtual world.
"Our team sprang into action—we have a fantastic team across the globe who are highly collaborative and always willing to go the extra mile—and the way they handled everything when the pandemic hit was impressive," says Kristen. We quickly pulled together online resources and delivered virtual courses on timely topics such as working remotely, managing virtual teams, dealing with change and uncertainty, and emotional intelligence, to name a few.
We also needed to quickly convert existing training to virtual, which was relatively straightforward to redesign, she explains; they just had to figure out how to adjust their in-person programs to fit a virtual setting, and in fact had already started experimenting, pre-COVID, with ways to do that, in order to offer more scalable and flexible training opportunities and achieve better ROI. Previously, they had experienced a problem with participant cancellations when other work priorities came up that would often leave facilitators teaching to half empty classrooms. Now, explains Kristen, CSL facilitators in Switzerland, Germany, Australia, and across the U.S. offer trainings at various times for employees around the world. "This gives employees more class options to choose from and it's ultimately a better learning experience, because participants hear from each other and learn about different parts of the business, different cultures and different perspectives. It's also great for the facilitators to be exposed to that," says Kristen.
Kristen's team is also responsible for all of CSL's onboarding, but that wasn't as straightforward to transition to a virtual experience in some parts of the world, particularly in the first few days after everything shut down and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security hadn't revised the stipulations for how a new hire's legal documents needed to be handled in a virtual world. "That was a little trickier," says Kristen, smiling.
In the end, the U.S. stipulations were revised and Kristen's team was able to adapt to digital processes for now. As the return-to-office date continues to shift for CSL and many other companies, Kristen and her team have stayed agile, updating their training playbooks and creating plans for whatever future awaits.
"It's important to keep all of what's going on in perspective," says Kristen. "We will come out fine on the other side. We just have to stay focused and flexible."
If you're interested in learning more about CSL, visit their PowerToFly page here.