Victoria Betton featured

Inspirational Woman: Victoria Betton | Chief Innovation Officer, Mindwave Ventures

Victoria BettonVictoria is chief innovation officer (CInO) at Mindwave Ventures, a social impact design and technology company.

She previously founded mHabitat - an NHS-hosted digital health consultancy, and Co>Space North - a digital health and tech for good collaboration space. She is a qualified social worker and coach with over twenty year’s experience in local government, third sector and the NHS. She has Masters degrees in Women’s Studies, Social Work, and a Diploma in Public Sector Relations. Her doctoral research was on the theme of mental health and online social networks. She is a member of the HIMSS UK Advisory Board, Leeds City Region Digital Board, and a Trustee for Solace, a refugee and asylum seeker charity, and she is co-author of Teen Mental Health in an Online World.

At Mindwave, Victoria is responsible for keeping the company at the forefront of innovation; she leads on PR and marketing along with developing the business and collaborating with partners.

You can find Victoria on Twitter @victoriabetton, and her Pets as Therapy dog Bibi on Instagram at bibithepatdog.

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

I am the  chief innovation officer at Mindwave Ventures, which is a social purpose company that enables impact at scale in healthcare through digital technology and data. Previously, I founded mHabitat, an NHS hosted digital health consultancy and Co>Space North, which is a digital health and tech-for-good collaboration space.

Having qualified as a social worker and coach, I now have over twenty years of experience working in local government, the third sector and the NHS. I have masters degrees in women’s studies and social work, as well as a diploma in public sector relations. My doctoral research explored the relationship between mental health and online social networks, which is something I am particularly interested in.

I am a member of the HIMSS UK Advisory Board, Leeds City Region Digital Board, vice chair of tech UK’s Health and Care Council, co-chair tech of a UK/NHSX/NHSD user-centred design working group and a trustee for Solace, a refugee and asylum seeker charity. I am also a mentor for NHSE Clinical Entrepreneur Programme and NHS Digital Academy and a fellow at the Zinc Academy.

I also co-authored Teen Mental Health in an Online World in 2018 and I am currently busy writing a book on the past, present and future of digital health through the lens of COVID-19.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I’ve never really had a concrete career plan, instead my career has evolved organically by following my curiosity and setting myself challenges I want to solve. There has been a healthy dose of serendipity along the way and a few paths I would change if I had the chance again, but ultimately, I’ve learnt something from everything I’ve done.

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

Like most people, I’ve experienced all sorts of career challenges. I’ve navigated my way through them by asking for help from people I trust. I feel it is better to break down problems so that they are manageable and work my way through them by luck and design in equal measure.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

If you would have asked me what I wanted to be around the age of eight,  I would have told you I wanted to be an author as I’ve always loved writing - having a book published a few years ago was a big deal for me and it is something I’m incredibly proud of.

A pivotal moment in my career was in my mid-twenties, when I was successful in an application to set up one of the very first Patient Advice and Liaison services in the NHS. I went from never having managed a project or people, to creating a brand-new service and employing staff alongside creating a new cafe and information centre. It was this experience that taught me that I can achieve quite a lot if I put my mind to it and that I have a high degree of tenacity. It gave me a solid foundation for everything I’ve done since. I’ve used that experience when setting up other projects, programmes, networks and an NHS hosted digital health consultancy that I founded in 2014.

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

I have done lots of different things in my career and I’ve found being curious and interested and asking questions has always got me a long way. When I set up the digital health consultancy, I made many mistakes and asked for a lot of help. Luckily, my friends and colleagues were very kind and receptive. I enjoy solving problems and I’m pretty determined, which also helps.

However, I don’t believe we live in a meritocracy. I was fortunate to come from a family who gave me support and a self-belief in my ability to achieve things. I wouldn’t underestimate the importance of those foundations that are not available to us all equally.

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

Creating networks is really important to building a career in your chosen field. There are tons of tech meetups and events (many of them free) and groups, as well as conversations to join in on LinkedIn and Twitter.

I would create a profile, share your ideas, ask questions and get stuck into building a wide-ranging network that you can add value to and benefit from. Be curious, ask questions and set out to help others.

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

There are still many barriers and the sphere of digital health (which is my field) is still male dominated and BAME communities are underrepresented. However, there are some great networks trying to rebalance things such as One Health Tech and the Shuri Network.

I think it is important to find a mentor and even a sponsor who can help open doors for you. Finding peer communities to share learning and support is also really important. I’ve tried to pay back the support I have received over the years by doing lots of mentoring, particularly with younger women.

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

Companies should actively take steps to create a diverse leadership team, which the evidence tells us is good for decision making and good for business. They should have the right underpinning policies that ensure staff are treated fairly and encourage people to speak up. They should nurture their women and BAME staff, as well as find opportunities to support their development and progress in the company.

There is currently only 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?

That’s a difficult question as there are multiple things that need to change to have a positive impact. It goes back to girls choosing technology subjects in school and believing that there are careers out there for them. I love initiatives like Stemettes that show what’s possible for girls through experiential activities. I’d like more of those please!

It would also be great to see men refuse to participate in all male panels at conferences as we need lots of women role models and visibility of women in all aspects of the technology landscape.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

If you’re interested in digital health, get involved with One Health Tech and the Shuri network. Sign up to digitalhealth.net for news and networks go to conferences like Digital Health Rewired and the annual Digital Health and Care Congress run by the King’s Fund.


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