Alex Owens went from working directly in the medical field as a consultant to becoming a product leader for health-tech start-up LetsGetChecked. Here, he talks about his career journey.
LetsGetChecked is an Irish health testing start-up that has gone from strength to strength in recent years.
Founded in 2015, the company builds and delivers at-home testing kits such as hormone tests, fertility tests, HPV tests and wellness tests for cholesterol or diabetes. Tests are carried out at home using the kits, with samples sent to a lab for analysis and results.
Last year, the health-tech start-up entered the market for Covid-19 tests and announced plans of a new coronavirus testing lab in Dublin. The company also scored a $150m funding round, landing it in the unicorn club with a valuation of more than $1bn.
Alex Owens is the company’s product and technology medical lead. With a background in medicine, Owens brings a unique perspective to the role.
‘Soon, the majority of healthcare delivery will be digital-first’
– ALEX OWENS
What first stirred your interest in a career in medicine?
In school, I enjoyed science subjects, but also knew that I wanted to work with people. Medicine was a natural fit. After studying at UCD, I worked in the Irish and UK health systems. I enjoyed working in clinical medicine but developed a particular passion for how policy and technology can interact to improve public health. This led me to complete a master’s in public health and after that, to work in consulting with global health organisations.
What brought you to your current job?
After a couple of years in consulting, I was eager to move to a more hands-on role, where I would be directly involved in building products and solutions to improve people’s health. As medical lead with LetsGetChecked I get to do just that, working with world-class colleagues across our product, technology, clinical and content teams.
Together, we’re building diagnostic and therapeutic products that flip the script on the traditional healthcare model, expand access to health information and empower people to take control of their health.
What were the biggest surprises you encountered on your career path?
Like many people, the Covid-19 pandemic was the biggest surprise in my career to date. In March 2020 I was living and working in Geneva, Switzerland. As the reality of the pandemic set in, I made the decision to travel back to Dublin to support the pandemic response in St Vincent’s Hospital, where I had trained.
The decision to return was obvious from a personal point of view, but in terms of career, I was lucky to work for a supportive boss. After sending a lengthy email explaining my rationale for returning home – with no clear end date – they replied simply: “We are very proud and supportive. Go.”
Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?
Two people: my parents. I’m lucky to have had the support and advice of my parents through every big career decision I’ve made. They both have a background in health, so they understand the realities of traditional healthcare delivery, but they’ve also been open-minded as I’ve transitioned my career into the digital health space.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Product launches! There is a huge feeling of relief and accomplishment when we ship a new product or feature that was built through the determination and grit of a cross-functional team.
After months of hard work and no shortage of meetings, revisions, and testing, we get to launch a product that can truly make a difference in our customers’ lives. That feeling is not only enjoyable, it’s the reason I come to work.
What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?
I think in any job, having a good sense of humour and an optimistic outlook will stand to you. I’m someone who has both, so when there are setbacks or delays, I try to consider them as part of the bigger picture and stay in problem-solving mode.
What can people expect from career progression in the health-tech industry?
This space is changing fast. The shift towards digitised healthcare will not only continue at pace, but soon the majority of healthcare delivery will be digital-first.
As people aim to progress their careers in this field, a love for product and technology and a willingness to learn on the job will be critical.
What advice would you give to those considering a career in this area, or just starting out in one?
Quite simply: just start! Update your CV. Reflect on what value you can bring to a team. Hit send. The pace of expansion in this industry means you can’t wait on the sidelines, you need to get stuck in and embrace the uncertainty.
Applying for jobs will help you to quickly identify the opportunities that you’re most interested in and give you a good reason to ask friends, colleagues and strangers for help and advice. More often than not, people will be delighted to chat to you about their work, help you to craft your application and celebrate when you land your dream job!
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