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So, to start, what do you all do in your roles? What does an average week look like for you? 

Steve: My role is ‘Head of Insight’ for Intelligent Health. I work closely with Julian and Zoe, and together we make up the Insight Team. We support the business and our partners by creating evidence that demonstrates the impact of our work. The insight and research findings we create helps to support the development of policy and strategy both with partners and our own business development and innovation. I regularly speak to clients to understand their insight and evaluation needs as well as sharing insights from our work. I also work closely with our business development team, often speaking to people with whom we are building relationships and seeking new business opportunities. We are also constantly innovating and part of our role is to help inform the direction of this as well as put the necessary research processes in place to measure and understand if things are working and having the impact we desire. An example at the moment is the development of our data and insight capture during a Beat the Street game which now gives us the ability to provide a detailed strategic assessment of a place.

Zoe: I am an ‘Insight Analyst’ working on analysing and making sense of the data we collect; as well as producing research outputs alongside academic partners, to build on and demonstrate the evidence and strategies we use. I have only been with Intelligent Health for just over a month so I’m still figuring out my average week!

 

What is your favourite aspect of your job? 

Steve: I enjoy how we create a compelling narrative from the evidence we generate that incites a reaction, compelling people towards taking action that will have a positive impact on people’s lives.

Zoe: I have enjoyed learning on the job so far.

 

What drew you to Intelligent Health/ Beat the Street? 

Steve: I first met Dr William Bird when I worked for Birmingham City Council, and then again with The Active Wellbeing Society. I was struck both times by the passion, enthusiasm and values that were behind the work. Then working as a consultant, and through joint connections, the opportunity presented itself to explore how I might help and now here I am!

Zoe: I previously worked as a University Lecturer and Researcher, specialising in physical activity for health, female health and how we can get people more active from all walks of life. I decided to move to work with Intelligent Health based on the exciting and impactful work that is being done and the potential to use the data collected for more impactful research that can further our understanding of how to engage different populations in physical activity to improve health and wellbeing for all.

 

What advice would you give to someone entering the industry?  

Steve: Ha, it’s funny when you say ‘the industry’. I think one of our best assets and equal challenges is that we span so many different sectors. We support Health and Wellbeing, Climate Change, Transport and Active Travel, and Education… So, I’ll refer to the industry of Research and Insight. My simple advice is ‘Always Be Curious’.

Zoe: As I am new, I think I should be taking the advice! From my current experience, I would say be open-minded and ask questions.

 

Who inspires you?  

Steve: Singling out any individual is hard. I have a strong sense of social justice, and I am inspired by people who fight for greater equity. As an example, I am recently inspired by the sheer will and determination of Alan Bates, and his fellow campaigners who have taken a staggering 20 years to finally bring about the beginnings of justice in the Horizon Post Office scandal. As an insight professional, when I come across comments like ‘the doesn’t let me do that’ e.g. a ‘computer says no’ moment, these are often the very places where change is needed. So, I try to hold the likes of Alan Bates in my mind as a reminder that the current situation might just not be as perfect as we think.

Zoe: So, many people inspire me whether that is having the determination to achieve and overcome obstacles despite challenges faced in terms of health or personally, or for just being amazing people who are making a difference in the world. I have met and worked with so many inspiring people as part of conducting research, from 70-year-old Iron Man athletes, to PE teachers, who are empowering the students they work with or amazing women going through massive transitions like menopause but still positive and ready to take on anything. Being around incredible people like this drives me to want to work on impactful research and work; like Intelligent Health does, that makes a difference in the world.

 

What was your very first job?  

Steve: If it counts, I had a paper round delivering the local freebie newspaper. I would stuff the bag so full that it was almost too heavy to carry. I still have one shoulder lower than the other today! I think I was paid £2.50 to deliver to about 1,000 houses.

Zoe: My very first job was working as a cook in a tearoom while at university, the kitchen was tiny and it was incredibly stressful at times. However, it taught me how to work with people in a stressful situation, organisation, and time management as well as some great recipes – including a great chocolate and Guinness cake.

 

Did you go to University? If so, what did you study and where? If not, what did you do instead? 

Steve: I studied at the University of Leeds, I started on a joint honours course in Economic and Human Geography. After the first year, I dropped economics, the field of behavioural economics wasn’t really up and going yet and the two faculties were definitely not joined up. Much more recently I studied for a part-time Masters, in Data Science at Loughborough University, concluding my studies in 2023.

Zoe: Yes, I spent all of 8 years studying at university! Firstly, I studied Biomedical Science at Cardiff Metropolitan University. I was particularly interested in a very small part of this degree looking at how physical activity and exercise can influence our physiology. After a year working in a hospital, I applied this by initially doing a Msc by Research in Sport and Exercise Science at Swansea University looking at the benefits of physical activity for children with Type 1 Diabetes. As I enjoyed the research side of this so much, I converted and expanded my research to a PhD in physical activity and health at Swansea and achieved my PhD in 2021. I then went on to work in a university teaching and continuing doing research.

 

What is your decision-making process at work? How do you face challenges? 

Steve: I tend to see connections, and relate them to an outcome or the big picture whilst also being action-oriented, meaning I am keen to act. As you would imagine, I like to ensure any decision will also allow feedback so that I can understand what the data says.

Zoe: Again, I am very early days on this, but I love a list and having everything written down, then I can prioritise my work based on my to-do list.

 

How do you motivate yourself? How do you motivate your colleagues? 

Steve: I am generally a motivated person who is pretty much always on the go; so I find it is more of a question of how to direct my efforts where they are most necessary. Everyone has lots to offer and part of being a researcher and insight professional is to understand things from different people’s perspectives. I think if you lead with empathy this helps colleagues to be valued and motivated.

Zoe: I motivate myself with cups of tea, snacks, music, achievable goals and getting to see the outcomes of my work. In terms of motivating my colleagues, I think it may be too early to say, but from previous experience, I think a key strategy is being open and making sure that everyone is comfortable asking for help.

 

What does health mean to you? 

Steve: It’s very hard to define as each individual’s perspective will differ and what makes a healthy society might be described differently again. When I first heard of the Greek term eudemonia, I was quite taken by it. It is not a simple one-word translation but I understand it to mean you have a sense of fulfilment and purpose, things might be challenging in your life but you have the agency and control to achieve some self-determination.

Zoe: Health is the bigger picture for me, it’s everything from how you feel mentally, socially and physically, to being content with yourself, as well as being able to do what you want to do and feeling powerful, free and competent when you do it.

 

What has been your proudest moment working here? 

Zoe: I think it’s probably too soon to say but I have enjoyed engaging with different people at conferences and events as a member of the Intelligent Health team.

Fun facts 

Do you have any hobbies? 

Steve: I write and play music. Look up ‘Mottled Shades’ on Spotify – feedback is welcome, but I have a fragile ego 😊. I also enjoy exercise whether cycling, running, swimming or walking the dogs. I also consume a lot of podcasts, books and documentaries which mostly I forget but do find motivation from things I pick up along the way.

Zoe: Walking our dog, trail running, eating, baking, and talking about or doing research.

 

Tell me a fact about you that no one will know… 

Steve: I was born and lived on Merseyside, and the Wirral until I was aged 7, when I moved to Northamptonshire. I had a scouse accent when I moved but sadly lost it.

Zoe: I grew up in a vegetarian family, which for some reason was seen as really weird when I was a child. So, I did not try meat until I was at university – it was a chicken nugget from McDonalds so probably not the best first taste. I am still pretty much vegetarian.

If you were a biscuit… which, would you be? 

Steve: The one outside the box.

Zoe: Love a bourbon for its dunkability, and it appears hard on the outside but soft in the middle.

 

If they made a movie about your life, who would you want to play the lead role? 

Steve: Perhaps Paul Ready, some have suggested that at times I might have been a bit like the character Kevin in Motherland, (I was the only dad on the Mum’s WhatsApp group for years!). Or if that’s no good, then I’ll choose Cillian Murphy please (in my dreams).

Zoe: Jennifer Lawrence – she’s funny, a bit awkward, and clumsy like me and doesn’t take herself too seriously.

 

What 3 items would you take to a desert island?  

Steve: Guitar (can I have some spare strings), MP3 player loaded up with tunes (with an endless supply of batteries), Piano (I’d like to learn to play better).

Zoe: My dog, a multi-use knife and a mirror.

 

Anything to recommend – whether it’s a good podcast, book, film, or app you’ve loved recently? 

Steve: The IH Book Club is the place to come for such recommendations – the next meeting is 22 May at 1pm, see you there. (Nice, little plug Steve).

Zoe: A great book is called ‘Coasting’ by Elise Downing. It’s about how she ran around the coast of the UK solo, a great read that is inspiring for the challenge and her journey but also all of the people who helped her along the way. I also always love a good documentary and as a somewhat sports fan, I have been enjoying the Netflix Sports documentaries at the moment. All the highlights combined with the behind-the-scenes drama.

 

How do you keep active? 

Steve: After doing my Masters Degree, I was very unfit after it took so much time. So, I foolishly signed up for an Iron Man this summer as a goal. So lots of swimming, cycling and running, all the time, endlessly… (You’ve got this Steve!)

Zoe: I keep active by walking the dog, and getting out on the trails running with my husband and Monty, the dog, skipping along beside us. I also do Krav Maga, swim, and paddle board (when I can).