Zeinab ArdeshirZeinab Ardeshir co-founded PillSorted, a personalised pharmacy service, nearly three years ago with the aim of disrupting the traditionally transactional pharma experience and instead delivering a compassionate, more relationship-focused experience.

The healthtech – which works with a number of NHS services to deliver medications – uses technology to get medication dispensed and delivered to patients in a timely manner, which in turn means that pharmacists are able to optimise their time consulting patients.

Zeinab holds a Doctor of Pharmacy from Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences and a Postgraduate diploma for Overseas Pharmacists from Aston University and prior to Co-founding Pill Sorted, spent nearly 11 years working as a pharmacist at Boots and Tesco.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, your current role

I’m Zeinab Ardeshir, the Co-founder, CEO and Chief Pharmacist of PillSorted. I’m a qualified pharmacist and worked as a community pharmacist for 17 years before starting PillSorted, in various countries.

I’ve always particularly loved community pharmacy, because it’s such a rare blend of science and human relationships.

I set up PillSorted in November 2019, right before the pandemic hit, to deliver a pharmacy experience that combined compassionate care and technology. PillSorted is a product of my love for community pharmacy and my desire to ensure pharmacists are providing the best care possible. Pharmacists are often seen as glorified retail assistants, however I believe their potential is untapped and they could be delivering more holistic care. We provide a completely personalised pharmacy service for people who are on multiple medications, delivering their medication and dosage information to them each month and reviewing their medications constantly. Many of our patients are elderly people who have different medical prescriptions, so our service is designed to provide ongoing support and make managing their prescriptions easier for them.

There are many manual and repetitive tasks in community pharmacy, which is where companies like PillSorted can help. In the same way that we can get groceries delivered on-demand, I  wanted to create a company that could provide something similar for antibiotics. I want PillSorted to play a role in providing preventative healthcare for the community, which is so important given the NHS staff shortages we’re currently seeing.

As the CEO, my focus is on customer care and the clinical side of the business, where my Pharmacist background helps. My co-founder Mohammad ensures that the operations run smoothly and together we make sure all teams work in unison.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I made a very conscious decision to move from being a pharmacist to an entrepreneur pharmacist, as I’ve always prioritised taking care of patients – it’s been my north star in all my career decisions.

Moving from a clinical focused background to being a Founder of a healthtech has definitely been a big change and a learning curve! I enjoy the multifaceted aspect of leadership, from marketing, finance, people management and moving the business forward and towards a common goal.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Starting a company was one of the pivotal changes in my career and definitely hasn’t come without its challenges. I started from thinking I wasn’t good enough, to realising that there are many questions that no one knows the answer to, and that it’s okay not to know everything.

I’d like to think I’ve embraced all the challenges as learning opportunities and am always asking questions.

And, having a great mentor helps too.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Growing PillSorted from zero to where it is now is my biggest achievement to date, but it’s just the beginning. It has given me the chance to take care of patients more than any other time in my career and has been truly rewarding. I feel very lucky to have an amazing team of people in all aspects of the company.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in your success?

The obsession with delivering the best care possible has always been at the heart of my career. I’m also brutally honest with people around me and more importantly, with myself. Being true to oneself is absolutely key in making consistent decisions. I also have an incredible support network, particularly my children, who motivate me and are in my corner.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel their career in technology?

Go ahead, be brave and ask questions! We have an amazing female software developer who is incredibly detailed in her work and has a positive attitude. She has been brave to join a sector that is completely new to her. She has been the only developer in our organisation for a while, has asked lots of questions along the way and has pioneered the creation of our operating system as a result. There will always be people in your corner.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I think like many male dominated industries, it is challenging to find the right career advice at the right time. Becoming a founder, venturing into business, or asking for investment can all feel like daunting tasks just as being the only female tech developer in a team can be daunting. We need to think of ourselves as pioneers and feel confident that mistakes are learning opportunities and nothing more. Barriers become much easier to overcome when they don’t stem from a fear of failure.

What do you think companies can do to support the progress of the careers of women working in technology?

Creating a culture of nurture and mentorship enables women to flourish.

Companies need to provide training, to create career progression pathways, to proactively offer them to women and to encourage women to keep these decisions in their forecast.

Our employees trust their time and careers with us and we need to enable their career progression and the feeling of success being part of a winning team.

There are currently only 21 percent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry

It starts in school. Educating girls to flourish in STEM topics and showing the excitement and impact that science brings to people’s lives is important. Women are naturally nurturing characters, so showing the impact that the STEM sector can have is especially important.

During their careers, encouraging women to consider choices that include learning and stepping up to the opportunities, are of utmost importance, as they would never know if they enjoy a new profession/ skill until they try.

For women who have been fortunate enough to succeed in their careers, holding the hands of the younger generation, helping them envision different perspectives so they make informed choices, is the most important contribution.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

I have used Coursera for my learnings and would recommend using any of the notable online courses. It is a true blessing to have this wealth of knowledge at your fingertips and being able to learn at your own convenience. I’ve learned a lot from YC Startup School and also following thought leaders in the industry. I prefer a mix of learning methods such as podcasts, well written subjects, and short videos. There’s a plethora of knowledge and I’d advise making it a priority to block time out of the day to learn and think.