#humanofthemonth — Munna Choudhury
We met Munna at our #70healthtech party, and we hit it along. Great human, mom of 4, inspiring person. Check out our Q&A, we're sure you'll love it!
1) You're juggling all sorts of jobs/ consulting gigs - what are you doing and how does it feel?!
I left Accenture in 2010 after almost 13 years working on consulting engagements across multiple industries – Financial Services, Government and (my favorite) Healthcare. I was also expecting our 4th daughter so probably ready for a break from travel and long hours! After a 3 year career break, I resumed consulting as a contractor affiliated with a-connect, alacramed and also Accenture. Contracting was the most efficient way for me to get back into consulting with the flexibility that I required at the time.
Life does feel like an incredible roller coaster or juggling act; sometimes I feel I am in a continuous mode of “planning” for both projects and home. It’s definitely not easy being on top of all the logistics associated with 4 energetic young girls and my consulting project pipeline. However, my passion for life sciences (and medicine) and the excitement that the healthcare industry promises, is what keeps me going. I also feel fortunate to have established a large network of wonderful, highly talented people through my work and I would definitely miss that aspect if I was not working.
Equally, I feel it’s important to be a role model for my daughters...again, not easy since I am not the most “patient” person and cooking is not my strength!
Luckily, the children do show occasional interest in my projects and have been known to ask the odd question about Alzheimer’s and smart pills or inhalers...but the slant is usually towards “if I find a cure for Alzheimer’s, how much money could I make and will I be famous?!” Nonetheless, these moments of interest are bliss (sadly not frequent enough!).
I try to involve the girls in my work by giving talks at their school - both junior and senior students on hot topics that may be of relevance; most recently, the future of healthcare & innovations in medtech. It’s great to see the young girls interested in the tech side of healthcare and already very much aware of the changes happening. My girls are incredibly connected with fitbits and their health & well-being.
So in a nut shell, I am juggling projects and family. I strongly feel people need to understand that, while we can be frivolous and talk/joke about work-life balance, actually making it work in a profession as demanding as management consulting, is hard. My hours are never fixed and each client is unique. This can place massive demand on time and everyone involved needs to make sacrifices. Therefore support for working women like myself is always welcome.
2) Talk to us about some of the projects you were involved in the healthtech space.
At Accenture, I managed a variety of strategy and business consulting engagements across Europe, Asia (Japan) & USA mostly in the life sciences sector, maximizing value from the drug discovery & development process and the broader healthcare landscape. I remember when I managed the globalisation of clinical data & regulatory processes/capabilities for a leading Japanese pharmaceutical. The client teams were across Europe, USA and Japan so I worked across geographies to create a new global operating model from 3 highly decentralized operations. I appreciated the challenges with managing for geographical, cultural and language barriers and the differences between Japanese and US work cultures.
Another project was a bench-marking study with 10+ pharma/biotech participants. We interviewed senior management & researchers across discovery & development to identify challenges & determine best practice for being a high performing drug discovery organization. This was a great opportunity to delve deep into an organizations processes with discovery and commercialization of drugs and highlighted key issues around functional silos that (can) exist in big Pharma and the importance of effective communication between discovery & commercial functions.
Recently, I was asked to develop a rare disease strategy for a leading UK pharmaceutical. This was very different to my usual projects linked to a blockbuster drug strategy. I realized the importance of liaison and communication with the rare disease community, i.e. patients & their families, advocacy groups, and therapeutic area experts in order to create an effective launch strategy.
I have seen the life sciences industry evolve over the past 15 years; therefore I have adapted to these changing industry trends as reflected in current projects assessing the impact of technology in healthcare & its delivery and the importance of value based health outcomes. Recently, I have been working on collaborative research projects with academics and a start up at Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge. I am helping the CEO/Founder who is developing medical devices that offer innovative new treatment for patients recovering from neurological impairment. This medical device consists of advanced visualisation therapy with body tracking technology and can potentially transform clinical care and assessment in gait impairing conditions (such as a stroke). It’s also a great example of how AI is being used in healthcare and has highlighted many of the implementation challenges associated with AI. So i am learning a lot about the practicalities of starting one’s own business (funding issues!) and how difficult it can be to commercialise a great idea.
I enjoy writing (it’s part of my “academic nature” ) and have authored several papers addressing key issues in Pharma R&D. I also get a buzz from speaking at conferences and have done so since my early PhD days when I presented at all the Orthopaedic Research Society (and other) conferences in USA. I am speaking at the FierceBiotech Executive Summit on 30th October on Digital Health. I hope this opens lively discussion on what is deemed to be a hot but vast topic. I am sure I will learn a lot from presenting and from the audience themselves! I plan to share some practical insights from recent AI projects that i have managed.
3) Work-life balance can be tricky for any job - what has it been like for you?
Always a tricky one. I had a great nanny when I returned to full time work after my career break but with four girls, i almost felt I required 2 nannies.
Once I started contracting, it was not possible to keep a full time nanny due to the ad hoc nature of projects and so my savior (mum/family!) were always ready to help when required. I have always been quite involved in my children’s school work and so it was challenging coming home from work and having a random homework question thrust upon me to answer NOW! I have been known to be on the tube with iPhone doing English comprehensions too.
Now they are all older, it’s slightly easier (although the maths questions get harder!). I also try to select contracting roles that suit my circumstances ...so being away 5 nights in a hotel for several months is not my ideal project anymore... In order to manage everything, some things must be sacrificed. So I do like to wake early while the house is quiet and catch up on reading material or thinking time...I have always been an early riser even at uni and love to start the day with a 5 mile jog through Granchester meadows watching the sun rise. However, this is harder in London so a quick run around the block or power yoga using YouTube does the trick!
I do work late after the children are in bed but try to keep weekends for family (although I have been known to work on Sunday evenings in prep for Monday morning).
4) Any (out of the box hobbies) that keep you balanced?
Nothing really out of the box but I love the cold fresh air on my face first thing in the morning (even if its pouring with rain) so a brisk walk/jog or swim helps me wake up. I practice hatha yoga and always challenge myself with new postures. I love climbing but need to improve my technique...one day i might have time to take lessons!
5) So what's next for you?
I am planning to return to Accenture or other consultancy in a part time capacity or possibly look for a CEO role within a start up...More imminent, another consultancy with which i am contracting, has proposed me for a project at big Pharma to manage the in licensing and integration of a new technology platform for biologics manufacturing. We are in the final stages of the competitive process so fingers crossed we win this and I start from September.
6) Some words of wisdom for a younger self.
I love to read but there never seems enough time nowadays! So i wish i had read more widely whilst a student...I mean more of the classics and arts and even experimented with learning more languages. I have travelled extensively but wish I had visited more remote locations – especially parts of Africa. I love teaching...I would love to teach abroad to less privileged children one day. Also, I think i need to have more confidence in my ability...so don’t under-rate yourself and take risks..it doesn’t matter if you fail!