Welcome to our brand new feature, join us as we find the insider information from the newly formed ‘External Affairs’ team. We sat down with Emily Carter, Head of External Affairs, Melinda Stefan, Product Marketing Officer, and Khanyie Sowerby, PR and Social Media Officer. Let’s head straight into the questions!
(Be sure to keep reading to find out the context behind these photos…)
So to start, what do you all do in your roles? What does an average week look like for you?
Emily – I lead our newly formed External Affairs team. The team within itself has been built up from the External Affairs Strategy I developed when I first joined (and admittedly, is constantly fluid in line with changes across policy!). Under this umbrella is policy influencing, public relations, events and now also product marketing, all linked to the overall Intelligent Health brand. My role, and in turn the team’s role, is to build wider public awareness of Intelligent Health as a company. This greater brand awareness should result in more opportunities for us, predominantly in the way of influencing policy change and building more business opportunities. I’d say my role differs on a weekly basis, for example, I currently have my head down in event management, but the things that happen on a weekly basis include daily news monitoring (to keep myself informed and update the Policy slab), drafting formal documents such as briefings and calls for evidence, checking in with Khanyie and Mel, stakeholder engagement, weekly catch ups with Theo for the sales perspective and sourcing opportunities for us to raise our profile such as through speaking at events, attending high-level meetings and networking. I also get to go out of the office quite regularly to do this, which I love!
Mel – I joined the company as a ‘Marketing Executive’, working on mostly our Beat the Street programme. Now my new role as a ‘Product Marketing Officer’ will allow me to have a deeper insight into the work of other departments such as the Business Development or Insights team. I work with Emily and Khanyie, to create compelling digital assets to promote programmes, such as infographics, audiograms, and videos to share on social media platforms. I also own and develop brand identities and content for the ‘Workplace Wellbeing’ and ‘Eco-Travel’, these align with our Intelligent Health’s brand strategy. My role incorporates several types of marketing, from digital to print which makes my work quite varied each week. I have been working on the new IH brand and sub-brand guidelines that can assist the wider team in displaying the core values and visual elements of our company and programmes. Also, I have been working with Bhawna in delivering branded digital materials and interactive platforms for the new Workplace Wellbeing programme.
Khanyie – I work on the PR strategies and social media channels for Intelligent Health and more recently, I am responsible for the newly launched website. An average week for me is filled with varying tasks from consulting with the teams on what they are working on, updating our PR strategies in line with our overall Public Affairs strategy which Emily has worked on, staying in touch, and maintaining relationships with our stakeholders, building a reputable profile for the company and copywriting. Utilising the new brand guidelines, I design our new Intelligent health templates for digital platforms and create new artwork for existing and upcoming programmes events, and social media. I have also been working with the tech teams in delivering the website.
What is your favourite aspect of your job?
Emily – It’s a catch 22 really as I really value the diversity of the policy areas we work across, but it also means I’m having to stay up-to-date on many more issues than most who work in external affairs do when it’s generally one sector focus. Our overarching policy goals are framed by the positive impact being physically active can have on health. However, as our work stretches across so many other sectors, I am also monitoring areas such as community cohesion, urban planning, and the natural environment when considering the wider determinants of health. Keeping an eye on all these different sectors also enables me to keep everyone else up to date with “what’s in” at a decision-making level which then can inform other wider business decisions.
Mel – I really enjoy the diversity of my role too. My favourite aspect has to be working alongside so many like-minded people within the company and with external stakeholders as well. Everyone has been so enthusiastic and welcoming which has a big impact on day-to-day work. I love getting involved with projects, and joining others on unpredictable and new journeys. I love working with and meeting new people so this aligns with all of my passions.
Khanyie – I love that I get to do what I enjoy as a job. I have always loved reading, copywriting and all things creative, all of which are key aspects of my role. It’s made even better by the fact that I’m working for a company with such amazing values and changing lives every day. We are all working towards the same goal and it’s great to work with people on the same ‘wavelength’ as you.
What drew you to Intelligent Health?
Emily – I was fortunate enough that prior to joining Intelligent Health, I had three years under my belt working for a Sport England funded organisation, so I already had awareness of how organisations within this nexus operate. This in itself was a real hook for me, as prior to joining sport and physical activity I’d worked in housing policy. As much as there are a lot of transferrable skills, it’s always more straightforward to stay within a policy field you’re already clued up on! I must say Katherine convinced me to go forward for the role as I’d initially turned down the interview as it was a hybrid role in Reading (which I lived a good 2-hour drive from, even longer on the train). Once I joined, the real hook for me was the dearth of evidence and data we have to back up our arguments with! This evidence base influences the policy direction of the organisation. Ultimately, our programmes have the opportunity (and do!) change lives, it’s really wonderful having such good and demonstrative news to go out to stakeholders and inform them of better and more accessible ways to get more people more active and ultimately, healthier.
Mel – I really appreciated the work that Intelligent Health does across the industry. Raising awareness of the importance of physical activity across the sector. Working here I feel complete; on the one hand, I can use all of my previous experiences to put into this full process to achieve something much bigger, influencing people and feeding into policy. On the other hand, I genuinely appreciate what I get back from the team. I share in the joy of the outcomes, that we all achieve. It is a meaningful place to work. The impact can be seen through our Beat the Street programme and also the new Workplace Wellbeing webinars amongst many other things. Intelligent Health can make a real difference, and it can change people’s lives through the work we all do.
Khanyie – I’d worked in health industries for 6 years, mostly in nutrition, pharmaceuticals, and medicine but naturally within the industry I worked with people in recreational sport which highlighted the links between physical activity, nutrition, and mental health. Intelligent Health represented an opportunity for me to directly be involved in projects that use real data to gain insights into what people really need in their communities, and their personal lives to better themselves and the places they live in. I’ll always be in awe of the level of influence and outcomes of the work being done by Intelligent Health.
What advice do you have for someone new to the industry?
Emily – Really consider if the policy direction of the organisations you’re applying to work for is something you can fully get behind and have an interest in it. You really need to have some kind of passion and care about what you are campaigning for to do it justice. Since childhood, my passion has been to amplify the voices of disadvantaged communities and to improve the lives of those who are struggling in various aspects. Giving people an opportunity to make healthier choices is naturally an area of interest for me. On the flip side, I once interviewed for roles in the farming industry and road haulage, neither of which I had any interest in, unsurprisingly, I wasn’t successful (thankfully!).
Mel – Well, Social Marketing is all about developing activities aimed at influencing, changing, and maintaining people’s behaviours, which as we know can be one of the most challenging tasks. Inspiring and motivating someone to make that change isn’t easy, it takes time and effort. However, through marketing and communications, we can help to shape the success of our Beat the Street games. Encouraging people to make lasting daily changes that implicate them and their wider communities. Following our messaging, it is amazing seeing people change their lifestyles, becoming happier and healthier. From a Marketing perspective, you need to understand people’s motivations when they begin their journey and the way through. I would say use your instincts, use data, and be as specific as possible, but most importantly, be an example of the change.
Khanyie – From a PR perspective, I think you always have to take a step back and think outside of the box to best represent the organisation. There are so many departments that will be passionate about the work they are doing, and the challenge is taking in information like a sponge and reiterating concisely our key messages, values, goals, and aims for the organisation as a whole. Almost like bringing everyone’s voices into one strong speech.
Who inspires you?
Emily – I’m probably quite boring here and at risk of coming across as overly ambitious… the biggest inspiration for me was actually the first Chief Executive I worked under. I very much saw him as a mentor. He was appointed as the CEO of this trade body at the age of 29. In terms of career paths, I had taken a similar path to him in policy and campaigns, we both had Politics degrees, we had both been involved in political parties (different ends of the spectrum!) and both started our careers in housing policy. He taught me everything I know about reading legislation, preparing for and drafting calls for evidence, and briefing notes. I’d always hoped that I’d be able to achieve what he did by 29, but time is ticking for me now as I’m almost 28 and we’ve had however many years of covid! Maybe by the time I’m 31?!
Mel – Inspiration for me, depends on what level I am mentally, emotionally, and physically. I find people who have achieved things against all odds inspiring. Or people who have come back from an injury or any setback to achieve success. One example that springs to mind is Lindsey Vonn, one of the most decorated American alpine ski racers. She has been my inspiration for a long time. Not necessarily her success but her sheer determination, and how she has gotten to where she is today. Coming back time and time again after so many injuries, she shows me that sometimes we have to crash (fail) in order to push boundaries and hard work will always pay off. This strong positive mindset – ‘always get back up’ – motivates me every time I struggle. Seeing how resilient others are, helps me to improve my own resilience.
Khanyie – My mum has always been my inspiration. She came from such humble beginnings where people would laugh about her aspirations to become a teacher, travel the world, and live in England someday. Where she came from, education wasn’t a priority for females, let alone working. The goal was to grow up, get married and keep a home. My mum would walk a 6-mile round trip to school every weekday without shoes. She excelled in her education and against all odds ended up where she always wanted to be and is now a Senior Lecturer at one of the top Education Universities in the UK. If that’s not an inspiration, I don’t know what is!
What was your very first job?
Emily – Besides babysitting from about the age of 13, my first proper employed job was at age 16, as a Christmas temp at Topman. I must admit, I thought I was really cool and I was devastated when they didn’t continue my contract after Christmas. I got a 25% staff discount, and was paid £6.18 an hour, which as a 16 year old in 2011, was an amazing wage. After that, my next job was at a soft play centre, where I got laid off for not being able to wash up quick enough (I’m a perfectionist, okay?!)
Mel – It’s really interesting to reflect on where I started out. My first role was aged 14, it was a summer job, I grew up in a little town in East Hungary, which is famous for its spa. There was a nice ice cream shop there, run by a lady. It was my first summer work and I was only there for 2 weeks. The owner was actually really horrible, our personalities clashed once as I served too big of a portion of ice cream (she hit my hand). That was the rise and fall of my ice cream career. The owner later begged me to return but I refused after her abusive treatment.
Khanyie – Oh goodness! My very first job was at age 14 at a family friend’s café. I wasn’t allowed to do much but I would always help out washing dishes, making cake and traybakes, and some minor cleaning tasks. It ended up being my first proper job at 16 where I could finally wait tables.
Did you go to University? If so, what did you study and where?
Emily – I spent four years at Nottingham Trent University from 2014 to 2018. For my undergraduate, I studied BA Politics with honours and completed with a first and an award for political engagement. I then graduated the following year with a Masters in Broadcast Journalism, which I completed whilst working full time. I saw a quote a few days ago that said “I once trained to be a journalist, it was there that I discovered that I hate journalists.” I think that just about sums up why I found my career in policy instead!
Mel – I studied Business Economics with Marketing (BA Hons) in Budapest. Then when I moved to England, I studied Environmental Science through The Open University, which was a higher education diploma. Currently, I am studying a nutritionist coach course, which I am aiming to complete near the end of the year.
Khanyie – I went to the University of Sunderland for, a BA in Broadcast Journalism, that was fun. We looked into so many things including, Radio, TV, Magazines, fashion journalism. After University I got a job as a Broadcast Journalist. Through my work, I met lots of people who worked in PR, I made friends with a lot of them and began to find out more about marketing and PR in general. The BBC began cutting budgets and let go of colleagues who had been there for 30 years plus. This made me rethink my future as I didn’t like the uncertainty. The role itself was within a more specialist field with fewer opportunities. I worked at ITV for 2 years and after my contract ended, I decided to return to the University of Sunderland, where I studied for an MA in PR and Marketing. I found it really helpful having my past experience meshing with these new skills. I was fortunate enough to work in a PR & Marketing agency during my studies where I worked with 10 Industries from Hospitality, Automotive, Charities, Manufacturers etc. In my first role after completing my degree, I worked for a nutrition and pharmaceutical manufacturer. I never thought I’d end up in the health industry. My degree covered so many topics, but I have always excelled in health.
What is your decision making process at work?
Emily – Where it’s appropriate, I’m really big on consultation. I find the best approach is to take levels of expertise from others who specialise in their given areas. I think it’s best practise to learn knowledge from others to result in the best outlook overall. We can’t all know everything, so teamwork is essential. I’m also quite strategic in my thinking so where a decision lies solely with me, I always consider exactly what outcome I’m hoping to achieve and then consider tangible steps to get there.
Mel – Understanding and visualising ‘where to go’ and working to deadlines helps my processes. The quality of the outcomes then influences my future decision-making process. I ultimately don’t make big final decisions though, but I can influence the work of the decision-makers.
Khanyie – Similar to Mel, the final decision doesn’t lie with me, but there are certain areas that come under my responsibilities such as the Intelligent Health social media accounts. I consider what outcome we are wanting. I will then decide who I want to involve to make the right decision for the project. Even if the process finishes with me, consulting others is important. I will then pull on the right resources to make an informed decision. Sometimes I will pass things through Emily for sign-off.
How do you motivate yourself? And Emily, how do you motivate your team?
Emily – I’d say for me, I know I am responsible for my own motivation. It is down to me to get up and get going. It links well into my decision making, for me, motivation is what do I want as the outcome. My overall motivation is very much a forward-thinking one, I’ve always wanted to have children and to be able to provide them with the best lives that I possibly can.
In terms of my motivating my team, I try to be open, I include them and involve them in decision making. I make sure I’m catching up with Mel and Khanyie regularly. I want to form an overall picture on what they are working on to make sure as their line manager, their workloads are manageable to foster an environment where we can get the best out of each other as a team and provide support and guidance where necessary. In previous employment, I’ve lacked this approach and care from managers, so I know how important communication is to maintain direction. I also keep them updated with what I am working on. Essentially, communication and an open-door policy are key to motivation.
Mel – I would agree with Emily. I am involved with a lot of different projects and processes and because I work across so many things, I feel responsible for others processes as well. I think if I’m not 100% motivated it can impact the project negatively for others and I hate that feeling. My biggest motivator is depending on others, and them depending on me. If you really enjoy your daily role, that is often enough to motivate you. Sometimes, work can become more of a routine, but that alone can motivate you. I find honest and valuable feedback and a catch-up call with teammates helps. Small things can often have the biggest impact…
Emily – I also, agree with the point Mel made about good feedback, it is so important to tell people when they’ve done something well. If you never get feedback, motivation can be lost quite easily. External feedback also helps.
Khanyie – I have two big motivators. Firstly, enjoying the job that you do. I am very lucky and I thoroughly enjoy my job. Not many people can say they have a job that doesn’t feel like a job. Learning all the skills I qualified for at University have got me to the stage I’m at now. Working with a supportive company, who have an ethos and values that resonate with my own personal ethos and ethics. Making an impact and difference to other people, knowing you contributed to the results in changing people’s lives and helping people lead healthier happier lives. As a company, we represent that. I feel extremely lucky to be in the position that I’m in. The second thing for me is it’s important to be a working mother for my son, Jonah. I’m doing it for him and my family, I want the best for us all. Since having Jonah, I want to be the kind of person Jonah can look up to. Inspire him. I grew up in a hardworking family and that has really rubbed off on me.
What are your hobbies?
Emily – Good food, cooking good food, eating good food. Can you tell I’m a massive foodie? I almost wish I didn’t enjoy food so much, as if I didn’t I’d be a lot skinnier. I’m definitely more of a savoury person. My favourite food changes like the weather, but I’d say my current favourite cuisine is Indo-Chinese fusion food. I love to sing and dance, but I am equally terrible at both. I’m also a bit of a gamer, my fiancé built me my own gaming PC a few years back and currently, I’m hooked to Hogwarts Legacy. I also LOVE going on holiday and exploring new locations, between 2021 and the end of 2022 I went on 10 trips in total.
Mel – Studying is my main hobby, I spend all of my spare time on nutrition and the impact it has on our body, which really fascinates me. I’m involved with physical activity 3-4 times a week. In the nice weather I like going on family walks and I enjoy any type of physical activity, whether it’s a team sport or something individual. I have been and will always be active. My kids are also my hobby! We have recently started playing ‘Families Against Conformity’ with my kids it’s basically the child version of ‘Cards Against Humanity’ which I enjoy playing with my adult friends.
Khanyie – My biggest hobby at the moment is reading. I have no free time to do other things since becoming a Mum a year ago. I love dancing, I used to teach a dance class, and we went to dance competitions, I would like to return to that, I still watch their shows. It was a street dance class, mixed with contemporary. I spend my free time listening to music, dancing, and singing with Jonah, my little boy. The other day Westlife came on the telly and he LOVED it! That made me very proud haha. Book-wise, I love fantasy or autobiographies… completely opposite genres, from completely unrealistic using your imagination to a story about someone you ‘know’.
Tell me a fact about you that no one will know…
Emily – I have my belly button pierced, which was an act of defiance when I was 14. I also got my first and only tattoo when I was 16 (another act of defiance), it’s the number two in Roman numerals symbolic of my Gemini star sign (I am a true Gemini, and best be believing I’ll be asking what your birthday is to determine what your star sign is!). I also took part in a Miss England regional pageant once and placed as a judge’s favourite for Miss Black Country (ha!). More than one fact, but I think I’m quite boring!
Mel – Well… I have dyed my hair since I was 20… When I was a child, I used to collect napkins from around the world. Different prints and designs. This started in my early childhood, my Great Grandmother was a collector of textile tissues, nicely embroidered ones. I remember sitting on her lap whenever we were together. I think you’d call them handmade handkerchiefs… She had some nicely made napkins from Transylvania (some of my family originate from there). I stopped collecting them as an adult though, but it is a nice memory.
Khanyie – I have my belly button pierced too, I also have some other piercings which I shan’t disclose… and further proving me and Emily are the same person, I also competed in a pageant and won! It was when I was aged 13 in South Africa, my Mum has newspaper clippings of it as I made the news.
If you were a biscuit… which would you be?
Emily – Biscotti… A biscuit with nuts in it (because I’m a bit nutty, duh!). NO, I have changed my mind… Groovy biscuits from ALDI (which used to be unironically be called Disco biscuits). A bit out there, questionable style, and slightly sickly.
Mel – Neapolitan type layered into 3 with a wafer – bigger version – named after the biggest lake in Hungary, Balaton. I like a dark chocolate biscuit, but I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I too like biscotti, with a coffee or something with almonds in.
Khanyie – My friends gave me this nickname at school, *stands up and reveals a snoodie with Bourbon imprinted*, do you remember that song, ‘Would you risk it for a chocolate biscuit?’ well it all originates from there. I was absolutely raving to it at a sixth-form disco and the rest is history.
If they made a movie about your life, who would you want to play the lead role?
Emily – Just for visual accuracy I’d say Alicia Vikander, she played Lara Croft, I used to get that I looked like her a lot from people when I was younger.
Mel – Just because I’m blonde with blue eyes… (reader she is not), I’d probably say Cate Blanchett. Ha, of course, I’m joking, gosh I’m not sure, maybe Salma Hayek?
Khanyie – Danai Gurira, she’s been in The Walking Dead and Black Panther. If I had a movie about my life, I know she would do me justice. The power she brings to all of her performances is next level.
What 3 items would you take to a desert island?
Emily – Overthinking my third choice here… My first item would be a pair of tweezers, multi-use. Second is Coconut Oil – multiple uses again – teeth, skin, hair, cook fish I’ll be catching. Third, a book. I would have to take Goodnight Mr Tom; I’ve had my copy for 18 years! I could read it over and over and not get bored. If I was going for practicality I’d take a mirror as my third choice, which again has multiple uses, to make fire, if it’s sharp as a weapon.
Mel – I would opt for safety, so I would take a lighter to make a fire, something to provide water with, and a picture of my family.
Khanyie – My 3 items would be, a mirror – I could reflect light and create a fire. Emergency services will see you if you reflect light, and of course, you could use it as a mirror. 2nd a Swiss knife has so many uses. 3rd – A fertilised hen’s egg – own chicken coop. It could become a source of food, plus it’s some kind of company to have.
Anything to recommend – whether it’s a good podcast, book, film, or app you’ve loved recently?
Emily – The Rest Is Politics podcast which is presented by ex-Labour communications head honcho (and inspiration for Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It) Alistair Campbell and ex-Cabinet Minister and Conservative MP Rory Stewart. I tend to listen to it three times a week (in line with the frequency of episodes). It is one of the most popular podcasts in the UK and a must for anyone that wants quite a balanced (I’d say) view on political issues globally.
Mel – The Huberman Lab podcast – he is a neuroscientist, who looks at the brain, and discusses so many health topics. Another thing I’d recommend is a short film – Lindsey Vonn: The Climb, it came out in 2015 and is a 52-minute documentary surrounding her process, and how she came back from different injuries and setbacks, it provides a look into her strong mindset.
Khanyie – I’m going to recommend a book that I find myself coming back to over and over again… It’s called ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrnes. It is all about your mindset, drawing positivity to yourself, manifesting things, and how you think. It covers topics such as money, health, wellbeing. Examining how to work the best for yourself, without being influenced by external factors. We know how easy it is to be influenced by society as a whole, this refocuses your mindset, looking at your own journey. Any steps forward are steps forward, no matter how slow. It is also great because you can flick to any page and just have a look at that.
How do you keep active?
Emily – Quite embarrassing really, but not being able to keep still and fidgeting a lot (honestly, look out for me in meetings I cannot for the life of me sit there not moving – it’s usually me jiggling my foot). Recreationally, I’m very much a walker. I live in semi-rural Worcestershire and have lots of green spaces right on my doorstep, including the wonderful Clent Hills. I must admit though, I struggle to motivate myself to go for walks when the weather isn’t the best. I’m such a Summer baby!
Mel – In terms of keeping myself physically active, I exercise 3-4 times a week, I do resistant training (weighted exercises), and a bit of cardio as well. But I like challenging my body, so I try to learn new skills by doing some kind of calisthenics training. I also try to improve my mind power by building vocabulary to break down some language barriers, and by playing cards with my girls, the point is to unwind.
Khanyie – Chasing after my toddler Jonah!
Thank you so much for joining us, and sharing so many great insights, keep your eyes peeled for the next insider special!