It’s an exciting time in the healthcare technology startup industry. Meet Sarah Doherty, the co-founder and CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of TeleHealthRobotics, a 2010 alum of the University of Pennsylvania.
What is your job title and what do you do day-to-day in your job?
I am the co-founder/CTO (Chief Technical Officer) of TeleHealthRobotics. We have developed a platform equipped with remotely controllable robotics, sensing systems, and telepresence that enables physicians to deliver healthcare services at a distance. My day-to-day tasks change every day and can involve anything from working on a grant to get funding through the NIH, conducting clinical trials, working on further developing our technology, honing our commercialization strategy, and developing partnerships with clinical and industry healthcare collaborators.
What was your path to get into this line of work and/or this specific job?
I started soon after graduating from Penn. I majored in bioengineering and minored in engineering entrepreneurship, which set me up well for this field.
Did you face any adversity or challenges getting into your job as a woman or for any other reasons?
I co-founded the business at 23 and was working with a lot of senior collaborators who had more experience than I did. It became essential for me to reach out to mentors and build/strengthen my network so that I could deliver value and contacts despite my limited work experience.
How did your education/work experience prepare you for this position?
The engineering entrepreneurship program definitely sparked my interest in starting a new company; it showed me that I could combine my interests in both business operations and technology. I didn’t want to be stuck in only one role in my long-term career, so this was the perfect avenue to pursue to combine both. My senior design project was formative because I was able to work in a translational medicine lab. My summer internships in research, consulting, and product development gave me a variety of experiences to help me know that I wanted to do something multidisciplinary in my career and I still draw from aspects of all of these positions. The mentors that I developed at Penn and through the Penn network are one of the most valuable things I got out of my college experience.
What type of experiences were most valuable for your work today?
The engineering entrepreneurship minor! I gained business competency and developed more comfort with ambiguity. The program oriented me toward technology innovation for practical purposes and product development, over and above research. I might not have embraced my current role so early on in my career, if at all, if I hadn’t done the minor.
What advice and tips do you have for budding women entrepreneurs?
Ask for what you need, invest time in building a valuable network, and ALWAYS FOLLOW UP. Everyone has doubts about whether they are the right person for the job, so don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way. Pay it forward to people who need your help, and you will naturally build a strong network that overtime will grow organically. I recommend diversifying your network because you never know what direction your career may take or from whom the next opportunity could come. The more diverse resources you have access to, the better. As you build your network focus on creating relationships over time through points of contact that build value for you and the other person, rather than just collecting names. This could include sharing articles, jobs, or connections.
Separately, I’d advise developing comfort with ambiguity and a measured amount of risk-taking. Coming from college, there are several advised paths to be successful, but working to sculpt your own path will accelerate your growth, help you better tune into your true professional passions, and likely be most fulfilling in the long run.
What is your favorite aspect of your work?
I am excited by the way we can tangibly change healthcare delivery; technology can revolutionize the way patients are treated. Working to create this direct, long-term impact pushes me each day. It is very rewarding to do something completely new and chart a novel course both for the healthcare industry and my personal career. I feel extremely fortunate to learn from the brilliant people that I get to work with; there is endless experience and expertise sharing in this field, and that has been instrumental to my professional development. I love sharing what we’re doing with the community, spreading awareness and getting feedback, as well. My goal is to improve healthcare delivery from a business perspective and, in doing so, hopefully encourage others to take the risk and innovate in their fields too.
What is a quote that motivates you?
My life motto is “Why not you?” People (and girls especially) are too concerned that they’re not good enough. Recognize that everyone needs help, and that asking for help is an indication of strength not inability or weakness! The most important step is being self-aware and introspective as you start any big process; know how much help you need and where you can get it.
Contributor: Megha Keshav