"Communication is essential and always under-estimated"
Dare to step out of your comfort zone. That is what Matilda Åberg-Wennerholm, Nordic Medical endorsement manager at PHILIPS Personal Health in Sweden, did when she enrolled at the EIT Digital Summer School in Eindhoven. She was surrounded by master school students. That was exactly her reason for signing up. Her greatest lesson? "Communication is really essential and always under-estimated."
This year, all ten EIT Digital Academy Summer Schools opened their doors to professionals. Previously, Summer Schools places were reserved for EIT Digital Master School students only. Some pilots in recent years have shown that there are advantages for both students and professionals to studying together. That was Åberg-Wennerholm's experience too.
Why did you sign up for the EIT Digital Academy Summer School on Digital Wellbeing in Eindhoven?
"My main reason for attending this school was to get an up-to-date view of new monetising models within the area of digital health and wellbeing. I was also hoping to learn more about behavioural change management and the challenges linked to it within the concept of business modelling. I was a bit curious, too, about EIT Digital as an organisation. I was interested to learn more about it as a driving force/ "call to action" with regards to why digital and preventive health is highly needed. The existing healthcare system is not sustainable and in strong need of development. In another words, it is a very exciting field to work in!"
Did you know what to expect when you signed up?
"I expected a completely different environment to the one I normally operate in. Since completing my Masters in Technology Management, I have been working in different med-tech companies for almost 15 years. Currently, I work for Philips in the Nordics. Lately, I have also been working on a research project at the Medical Management Centre at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm relating to digital health tools for chronic and lifestyle-related diseases."
The EIT Digital Academy Summer School differs from other business summer schools in that it puts professionals in the same classes as EIT Digital Master School students. How do you feel about that?
"The opportunity to be in the same learning environment as students was one of the main reasons I joined! I am a true believer in interdisciplinary settings and concepts. To improve the cross-sector environment between students and professionals further, it would have been good to have a few more people from industry to balance the perspective a bit more in discussions. It was sometimes a challenge to incorporate the industry management way of working, which might be a bit more complex than the business cases we have worked on."
What do you get out of working with students?
"It is always nice and fun to work with a younger generation and I enjoyed being part of the group. We had quite a journey working on the need as well as the solution and I think the whole team developed on a daily basis. It was very interesting for me to have discussions with the students on the potential of digital solutions. Perhaps even more interesting was discussing what kinds of barriers there might be. The students have a strong belief in technology and connected devices, but they also have a quite different view of the potential business value which created interesting discussions in our team. Implementing a specific technology into a wider context is always a challenge. New technology is all about how people are using it, something which is very important to remember in business modelling and which we also practiced."
What do you think you brought to the students?
"I hope I provided them with a balance between being creative and critical as well as some insight and inspiration for their coming career. I truly believe in team diversity, something which I hope I inspired them to strive for. Hopefully I also managed to share the mind-set of technology and business being one, rather than two separate entities."
Is it an advantage to be surrounded only by students?
"Yes indeed. It really helps you to grow to place yourself outside your comfort zone and start from there. I therefore encourage more colleagues from industry to take advantage of the kind of learning environment that EIT Digital provides - it is very rewarding! Naturally, working on a topic which you like very much is of course very fun. I also liked spending time at the high-tech campus in Eindhoven, but I might be a bit biased coming from many years working for Philips."
What were the main things you learned?
"Using your skills in co-creation while at the same time keeping moving forward. Keep an open-mind and listen very carefully. These are things you can always re-learn and practice."
What are you taking back to Philips Personal Health after this week?
"Digital transformation is a strong enabler for health and wellbeing, but creating digital solutions is a very delicate matter when it comes to payment models, validation and implementation. To be successful we need to work together - industry, academia and the public sector. We need seamless solutions with different kinds of input, something which this summer school delivered very effectively. The topic of digital health and wellbeing is very broad, but I think the cases we worked on well represented the major challenges that we are facing globally which can be translated into very local needs, so they were very relevant. Finally, EIT Digital and the network you provide within industry and academia is both useful and inspiring and something I will consider in my future career. I also very much enjoyed the lecture by the Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management in Rotterdam."
Would you recommend the EIT Digital Summer School to other professionals?
"Yes, I would. I learned many things, but above all I learned that communication is really essential and always under-estimated. Marketing or communication of a technology is super important and sometimes makes the difference between success and failure. I find it relevant and natural to educate myself on the topic of digitalisation with EIT Digital since development in this area is moving very fast. The real challenge is how digitalisation can truly change people's behaviour for long-term improvements to quality of life."