Inspirational Woman: Karina Malhotra | Founder, Acumentice

Karina MalhotraKarina is a healthcare and technology expert. She founded Acumentice with a view to sharing her NHS expertise and combining it with the development of new technologies.

Since 2014, Acumentice has been advising, supporting and delivering improvement programmes, that make real change to healthcare pathways and patient’s lives through technology - adding value and improving patient experience. Karina is now working with many NHS trusts to help with digital transformation and modelling tools that harness data and operational intelligence to best recover from the Covid-19 pandemic

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

Doing work that has purpose and can make a difference has always been important to me and my career path  into the NHS and the wider healthcare sector reflects that.

I started my NHS journey on the NHS Graduate Training scheme which gave me extensive and broad insight into healthcare management across the organisation. I subsequently moved into operational management roles in the acute sector and became an expert on data quality, elective care management and NHS information & technology systems.

With a recognised talent for understanding data, system workflows and their impact, I became an NHS director and senior leader, providing expert support to executive teams at some of the UK’s largest Trusts. This experience not only allowed me to share my extensive knowledge but also solidified my passion for health care.

After recognising distinct gaps and need for improvements in elective care management, I launched Acumentice six years ago. Acumentice prides itself on working with the NHS to provide Healthcare Management and Digital Transformation consultancy and I’m immensely proud of what we have achieved creating positive and sustainable change to several Trusts. I additionally co-founded Qubit Health three years ago which is a technology and  software solutions provider to the NHS, reducing dependence on manual and unsafe workflows through the use of automation.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

I have always held more of an overarching vision of what I wished to achieve in my career rather than ever having a specific plan. Even though I lead programmes and projects which involve planning for a living, it is not something I define within my life as I strongly believe malleability is essential to embrace. I have always known I had an entrepreneurial streak - growing up in a business-centric family in India, I was surrounded by the subject ever since I can remember and indeed was especially fascinated with the idea of creating something from scratch that brought value to society and could enrich a community. In hindsight, the steps I have taken in my career thus far  have been preparing me to seize the opportunity of entrepreneurship when it presented itself and of course, when the time was right.

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

When launching Acumentice, the initial phases were challenging and somewhat daunting. Especially when quitting a permanent job in the NHS where my career path was much clearer than in my entrepreneurial journey. When starting up a business, you generally find that you are trying to cover all bases yourself. In my case, I was running the internal operations of the business as well as delivering client facing projects.

Overcoming this was a combination of determination but also smart working and always finding ways to be more efficient. You cannot increase the number of hours in a day but you can tactically manage how you use them to give you the best advantage. Of course, eventually we hired experts to support key business functions but knowing the business inside out in itself has been a valuable learning experience for me.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Setting up two successful companies that ultimately set themselves apart by the value we bring to patient lives are my biggest achievements. In particular, launching a software application in a space that receives little attention within the health care sector i.e. back office administration, but supports solving a real and direct issue impacting patient care with real measurable impactful results.

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

I always felt that entrepreneurial success was about courage, focus and determination; however, if you lack vision and belief in the value you are creating then the other qualities can fade. I believe that knowing that we, as a business, are creating real value not just for clients but in patients’ lives has given me the ability and drive to forge ahead - no matter what.

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

Developing subject matter expertise in your technical field remains a key foundation for success. However, I believe understanding and learning about the human condition and our connection to technology is the most exciting and significant area to explore, for anyone to truly excel in the field. Understanding the broader scope can lead us to find creative ways in which tech can solve problems people didn’t know they had. With this, key traits are awareness and adaptability. Technology is an ever-evolving sector and being aware of developments and indeed adapting your career and technical skills path to meet the evolution of this sector will help to seize opportunities as they present themselves.

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

Currently, tech remains male dominated and the well known barriers of the lack of female mentors/role models or potential for gender bias in the workplace still persist. The way to address this is not novel - we need more representation of women in the industry and wider recognition of those who have become a success so that others may learn and be inspired. Initiatives in opening STEM education pathways and changing social stereotypes remain key to achieving this as a foundation. In addition, businesses across the board must take responsibility in being role models; moving away from all biases and work towards creating opportunities that promote a supportive, and diverse workforce.

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

Convert their commitment to inclusion and diversity into real actions with measurable impact. It starts with company culture, ensuring it reflects this commitment. This may range from recognising the pinch points for women in the industry and offering mitigations to address them practically whilst ensuring these mitigations do not affect future advancement of careers, to addressing issues surrounding the gender pay gap to ensure that the best diverse talent is attracted and indeed retained. There is a plethora of evidence out there which has shown diversity has a direct impact on growth and success of a company - this is not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do.

There is currently 17% 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? 

I would remove all gender stereotypes in society - be it on what each gender is capable of as well as those surrounding where their interests may lie. Stereotypes can be self-limiting in what we might be comfortable pursuing, so addressing this would be transformative. There is, for example, an urban myth that women do not engage with or enjoy technology as much as men. These are more an artefact of the stereotypes that have pervaded over time as opposed to a real representation of women today.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech? 

I feel that no matter which field you work in it is important to have a wide range of resources in your repertoire. The cross fertilisation of ideas from other sectors offers a great opportunity to widen horizons and allows one to think laterally.

Here are the top 3 publications that I am devoted to reading regularly to cover a breadth of current affairs, business management and technology. They all have associated websites/events and podcasts that are worth reviewing as well -

Harvard Business Review

The Economist

Wired

As for books, I have a long list but once again I limit my top recommendations on broad topics which are focused on honing personal values, understanding the human condition and managing disruptive innovation that can come from new technologies as these are key to eventually unlocking value creation in both business & technology.

To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee

Thinking, fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman

The range of books by Yuval Noah Harrari

The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M Chistensen


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