Welcome back to Tech In Her Words, a spotlight series dedicated to inspiring and emboldening young women to pursue careers in STEM. My second interview is with Monica Menniti, a nurse and tech enthusiast on a mission to improve the way the healthcare industry utilizes technology, empowering practitioners and thereby helping people to live healthy, happy and independent lives.
In our conversation, we talk about Monica’s transition into tech from her career as a nurse and the kinds of challenges she experienced moving from a female-dominated industry to one that’s more heavily male-dominated. We also discuss the vital role that women play in the success of the tech industry as a whole and the value of pursuing a career that’s equally challenging and rewarding, as Monica has.
Marlene Spensley: Hi, Monica. It’s so nice to sit down with you! Virtually, of course. First off, congratulations on your recent TechWomen100 Award. What does it mean to you to have received this recognition?
Monica Menniti: Thank you. It was an honour, I was very excited and surprised. I was nominated by some of the senior management in my company, which in itself was a surprise. Then, to be shortlisted and actually have won was just really incredible. It is rewarding to be able to raise the profile of the work that I do so that more people get to hear about it!
Marlene Spensley: Can you tell me about your current role and the work that you do?
Monica Menniti: I work for MySense. We deploy a remote monitoring solution that uses IoT sensors installed in an individual’s home. The sensors feed data back to our AI platform, which then analyses activities of daily living and wellbeing, looking for soft signs of decline. It can identify changes in an individual’s condition, oftentimes well before there’s a typical clinical presentation of it. It then allows healthcare professionals, social workers or carers on the front line to intervene before the individual deteriorates and ends up in hospital. It keeps people living at home safely for longer, frees up hospital beds for the National Health Service (NHS) while reducing costs, and provides family members with peace of mind and reassurance.
Marlene Spensley: That sounds fantastic and very innovative. What’s a typical day like for you?
Monica Menniti: Anytime we take on a new project, we work with the client to understand what their needs are. We don’t just hand them the technology and walk away. My team works with the organisation from the ground up to design a patient pathway and identify criteria for success for all stakeholders: the end users and their families, the practitioners using the tech and the organisation as a whole. We then design and implement a project that will meet these goals, bringing the organisation on a digital transformation journey along the way.
I feel fortunate that my day-to-day involves meeting with many amazing people on the frontline of healthcare! Alongside designing and implementing our deployments, I work with practitioners on the ground to truly integrate the technology into practice. I teach practitioners how to monitor the AI data that they get back from the devices, and how they can use this to make clinical decisions that will improve outcomes. In addition to training frontline practitioners in using the technology, I assist them by discussing challenges, helping them solve problems and making sure each individual patient is getting the best out of the tech. I speak their language, having worked on the frontline myself: I know what they’re up against and I want to make tech as friendly and helpful as possible for them! What’s most rewarding are the incredible results we’ve seen over the past year, using our tech to successfully keep our users out of hospital and home where it’s safest.
Marlene Spensley: And how did you get into that coming from the healthcare profession? Did you always want a career in tech?
Monica Menniti: I never particularly envisioned a career in tech, but I became interested as I progressed in my career as a nurse and learned more about how healthcare systems work, as well as the challenges they face. After doing my master’s in public health, I began to see technology as the natural a solution to challenges that many healthcare systems face across the globe. We all know how important a role prevention plays in improving system-wide outcomes, and tech is the only option if we as a society want to take preventative health seriously. We can reach the most people, have the greatest impact and empower people to take control of their own health through technology. In my mind, there’s no other way forward for healthcare!
I made the decision to move into tech when I realised this is the way I could have the broadest possible impact on improving outcomes for both individuals and healthcare systems as a whole.
“I made the decision to move into tech when I realised this is the way I could have the broadest possible impact on improving outcomes for both individuals and healthcare systems as a whole.”
Marlene Spensley: Wow, that’s amazing. What sort of early challenges have you faced in your tech career so far?
Monica Menniti: I’d say that one challenge for women moving into a male-dominated industry is having your voice heard. I think it’s something that we all struggle with, and when you come with the additional “stereotype” of being a nurse, people can be even more tempted to brush you aside, or put you into a specific box. A big challenge for me has been demonstrating the value I bring with my background, and the immense value there is in listening to other women with the same types of background that have so much to offer to both tech and business.
Marlene Spensley: And coming from a more female-dominated career in nursing, what was that transition into tech like?
Monica Menniti: When you sit down at the table with tech industry professionals, or when you’re applying to jobs at a tech company, I think there’s a tendency [for them] look at your experience as a nurse and think, “I’m not really sure that she has what it takes.” Maybe [they are thinking] that I wouldn’t be dynamic enough, innovative enough or commercially minded enough to work in this space. It’s hard enough to break into the male-dominated tech industry, let alone when you come with these types of stereotypes attached to you.
But nurses are amazing. We make life or death decisions in a matter of split seconds. We rely on very technical training, evidenced-based clinical decision-making skills and our own two hands (and tired feet after long shifts!) to literally save lives. We are by and large (I think it’s 89% of nurses in the U.K. are female?) a group of extremely talented women that are too easily brushed aside. I think that despite the challenges of these stereotypes, nurses offer so much to the tech industry in no small part due to how hardworking and how innovative they naturally are in their roles.
While I have definitely faced these challenges, I push forward knowing that I will continue to work hard to overcome these unconscious biases and raise the profile of the amazing women I work with every day in healthcare, with whom I’m privileged to share a background with. I’m glad to have found an organisation that believes in me and sees the value in raising the voice of nurses and frontline workers into the industry.
Marlene Spensley: What do you think are the positives and benefits of being a woman working in tech?
Monica Menniti: The contribution of women is not only valuable to this industry, but also essential. Whether designing products or business processes, engineering and building, taking a product to market or delivering at scale, women play a vital role in success. We provide an arsenal of problem-solving abilities, tenacity, empathy and insight that you can’t afford to be without in this industry (and any other industry, for that matter).
We also add kindness, sensitivity and human insight into sometimes a very rigid environment. The human element we bring is absolutely essential when designing and building a product — hardware, software — it doesn’t matter. You need to have the voice of real people, and it needs to be usable for the people that it’s designed for, in a way that it seamlessly incorporates into their lifestyle. Women know how to design, build and deliver products that people want and most importantly, actually use.
“The contribution of women is not only valuable to this industry, but also essential. Whether designing products or business processes, engineering and building, taking a product to market or delivering at scale, women play a vital role in success.”
Marlene Spensley: I totally agree. I am trying to encourage more girls and women to pursue a career in tech. How do you think we can do that?
Monica Menniti: I think that one of the main ways is to show them what’s possible, which is why I’m really glad to be participating in this. I believe that first of all, we need to listen to the women that we do have in the industry and place the value on their voices that it deserves. By creating these types of empowered women and role models, other women start to realise that it’s possible for them, too.
I know a lot of nurses that think, “Oh, that’s not something I could possibly ever do,” or “tech just isn’t me — it doesn’t fit with my skill set.” But I would disagree. There are so many capable women that need to be shown that their skills are valuable. We can help do that, and I try and lead by example every day.
Marlene Spensley: Part of the challenge is changing the perception of tech culture and what it is about. Do you have any thoughts around how we can do that, how we’re perceived as an industry?
Monica Menniti: All of us in the industry, men and women, can reach out in every place we see the opportunity to, whether big or small. It doesn’t always have to be big things like speaking at events. Even just small acts of reaching out and including women wherever you can helps inspire them, because it lets them know that what they have to say is important. Even if it’s something small like including them in a training session or asking for their opinion and incorporating their feedback goes a long way towards showing women that what they say matters.
Helping women realise that their contribution is not only important but [also], in fact, essential, empowers them to approach the industry, fully knowing what they offer, rather than what society tells them that they lack. We need to show women that the tech industry not only wants them, but [also] needs them, and that they can approach with complete confidence.
As women in tech, we know what the challenges are, and we can help break these down for those that come after us. Think: How did I get into this industry? Now that I’m here, what can I do to make that same journey easier for other women?
“Helping women realise that their contribution is not only important but [also], in fact, essential, empowers them to approach the industry fully knowing what they offer, rather than what society tells them that they lack.”
Marlene Spensley: Is there one thing you wish you knew when you were starting out, particularly on the tech side of things?
Monica Menniti: I wish I knew how hard it was going to be. I think I would have paced myself a little bit more. I tend to just take things head on no matter how challenging they are, but I wish I knew the journey that was ahead of me, and I would have been a bit gentler on my mental health.
Marlene Spensley: Why has it been so hard? Do you mean in terms of the amount of work you’ve had to take on, or how much of a transition it’s been from nursing?
Monica Menniti: There’s a lot of work but I love working hard, so that’s not the main challenge. The reason that it’s been challenging is because I didn’t expect that there would be such significant barriers to adopting technology that has the potential to provide so much benefit. There are bureaucratic barriers, there are barriers around commissioning, around deploying, around time, budgets, engineering, etc. You have great technology that you just want to get into the field to help people, but there are so many steps along the way to do that. It can be really frustrating at times when you just want to help as many people as possible.
After realising the extent of these challenges, however, we began designing solutions to overcome them. These issues are now something that we tackle every day, and we do a really good job of it. I’m very proud to be part of designing the solutions that make it easier to get technology into the hands of people that need it. While it’s challenging, it is rewarding at the same time. It’s definitely what gets me up in the morning.
Marlene Spensley: Of course, and it sounds like you’re doing something revolutionary, which is probably why you’ve had so many barriers to overcome. It’s always hardest being the first, isn’t it?
Monica Menniti: Absolutely, that’s what comes with being first. It takes patience, but we will get there. It’s only the beginning.
Marlene Spensley: Thank you, Monica. That was a very interesting and enlightening conversation. I really appreciate your time and insights today.
Monica Menniti is a nurse, tech enthusiast and global citizen who specialises in bringing technology to the frontline of healthcare. A firm believer that technology is the answer to many of our population health problems, she works to get tech into the hands of the people that need it, and once it’s there, show them how it can be used to change lives. With a Master of Public Health and 8 years of industry experience in healthcare, her mission is to improve the way the healthcare industry utilises technology, empowering practitioners and thereby helping people to live healthy, happy and independent lives.
Marlene Spensley is a Strategic Partner Manager at Hitachi Vantara, developing the UKI channel ecosystem to build incremental profitable revenues with our partners. Marlene has spent her career within the technology channel, working within a number of large partners and distributors. She has a background in hybrid multicloud, DevOps and digital transformation and is passionate about the potential of technology innovation. Marlene was a recent TechWomen100 winner and is an advocate for women in technology.