This International Women’s Day, the spotlight is on the strong, inspiring and successful women, part of the BDD community. Whilst their successes are celebrated in public, the challenges faced in their careers were often overcome in private. Being met with a lot of doubt and skepticism, Dr. Nadine Hachach-Haram, CEO of Proximie and her team, powered through. As a surgeon and techpreneur, she shares what has been pivotal to her success and the advice she has for the next generation of female leaders.
These are her words…
On overcoming challenges, being doubted as a female founder, and proving them wrong
“Early on in the Proximie journey, we encountered a lot of skepticism, as is the case with many startups, and being a female founder – even in this day and age – unfortunately adds to these external doubts. It’s been thrilling to prove all of those people wrong.
Proximie launched in 2016 as a tool for surgeons to connect virtually to any operating room in the world, effectively widening access to surgical expertise in areas with low access and bandwidth.
When we first set out, people wondered whether or not we could match our vision to change the paradigm of surgery. There were also concerns about whether we could build something that was intuitive, yet capable of supporting the type of precision that is required in an operating room. Encouraging and making changes happen isn't always easy, especially in the healthcare industry, but if that change has potential and is really solving a tangible problem, then adoption can be swift and decisive.
To be candid, at first it was somewhat difficult to not take these doubts personally. But at the end of the day the mission of changing surgery and helping many more people is what drove me. Proximie was born out of a need, and my ambition as a surgeon was to find a solution and scale it using technology.
Today, I am proud to say that not only is Proximie in advanced discussions to help solve the global connectivity problems in healthcare using 5G and Space Technology, but deployed in tens of thousands of surgical interactions in over 500 locations, across 50 countries, on five continents.”
On getting by, with help along the way
“None of us can achieve success without some help along the way, and I have been fortunate enough to have consistent support. There is one specific person I’d like to talk about, who has had such a huge impact on me, and who shaped the woman I am today. My grandmother, Leila Sayegh, was well educated and a very compassionate woman who was constantly involved in helping families and doing different things to help women learn new skills.
She would involve us kids from an early age; it didn’t just build resilience and independence, but entrepreneurialism too. She truly embodied all of the things that I would eventually want for myself, and for my children: fairness, independence, a thirst for challenge, love for others, and personal strength.
My grandmother meant everything to me, and I was lucky enough to grow up around such a strong and passionate woman. I still wear her necklace today. She gave me that hunger and desire and that capacity to think bigger. To this day, my grandmother remains such an inspiration to me. This is the kind of empowerment every woman should receive, and it is what I hope I can reflect on for those around me.
Also, I know it’s very cliché, but I would really have to add my family as a whole. I have three children, a loving husband–and also my husband’s and my extended families–all of whom have been really supportive. They’ve provided the infrastructure to help me do what I want to do. It takes a lot of emotional and physical push to grow a business that’s disruptive. It has a lot of ups and downs. However, my family has been with me on the roller coaster ride of being a techpreneur. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
On mistakes that were lessons in disguise
“Being an entrepreneur doesn’t get easier as your startup grows; as one thing settles, something else gets more difficult in a new way. When we first set out with Proximie, I was told that this problem was too big for a practising surgeon and first-time female CEO to solve. Now, Proximie operates worldwide, being used in almost every surgical specialty.
Of course, mistakes will happen and challenges are faced in any business, but it is vital to remember why you started it all. It is critical to be courageous, think of the bigger picture, remember the purpose, and focus on the difference you want to make. I often tell my team to Be Bold!
With every obstacle and achievement that comes your way, it is essential to reflect on it and learn to continue to grow.”
On why the next generation of female leaders should believe in themselves
“I would tell them to believe in themselves and their potential. If you have an idea that you believe is genuinely solving a problem, share it with the world. So if that’s you and you have that insight and solution, then I would absolutely urge you to have the courage of your conviction and reach for the stars.
Remember to not be too reactive, think of the bigger picture. Running a medtech startup, any startup for that matter, is a bit of a rollercoaster. You’re going to encounter bumps on the way, but I think it’s important to try and not be too reactive to either the successes or failures.
We’ve gone through significant growth in a short space of time and with that there has understandably been the odd growing pain. Sometimes it’s best to sleep on things and the solution becomes clear. When things get complicated, always remember to learn from the lows and most importantly enjoy the highs.”
On being surrounded by an empowering network
“I am very lucky and grateful to have always been surrounded by a wonderful team and a strong and empowering network of women. Being around people who believe in you and see potential is priceless. I’ve met countless people from all walks of life at all stages of my career so far, and luckily many of those were mentors, teachers, and even collaborators.
Everyone in Proximie shares the clarity of our mission and vision. We are fortunate to have talented people join Proximie who believe in our mission of saving lives every day, who share our vision of changing healthcare for the better.
My family and workplace team are my daily dose of motivation. Growing a business that is disruptive takes a lot of emotional and physical energy, and these two groups help me pursue my goals.”
On how women should support other women in business
“I believe in inclusivity, no matter our positions, our age, and backgrounds, we all need support and mentors throughout our careers and role models that we aspire to follow. It’s truly important that we find other women who share our values and aspirations, and support one another, and guide them as much as possible.
I am a mother, surgeon, founder and CEO, and yes, we all have unconscious biases that affect our outlooks and at times even our actions. I want us to focus on a collective, collaborative approach to challenge the norm, to strive for improvements, to trail blaze and to inspire. All with the aim of making the world a better place for us and for the coming generations.”
On her ideal day, juggling it all
“Well, one thing I can say is that there is no perfect work/life balance, and some days are better than others. Work often takes precedence over our lives, and eventually it can lead to burnout.
As an entrepreneur, wife, and mother to three children, it can be difficult to juggle but at the end of the day you know what’s most important to you. While there is no go-to regimen that I can recommend here, the best thing you can do is create a schedule that works for you, think about the best way to achieve balance at work and in your personal life, seek support, and remember that balance is achieved over time, not each day.
On what is missing in today's world, to support female entrepreneurs and professionals rise to success
“Apart from facing challenges that every entrepreneur faces, women walk with an extra baggage of biases that slows their pace in their career growth. Becoming an entrepreneur has its challenges just like anything and everything else, and this is where mentorship and guidance comes to play.
While we may not be able to change the gender perception of women being entrepreneurs/leaders, we can be there for one another. Become mentors for those with common goals, helping them in networking, connect them with investors, along with various other supports.
The rise of female entrepreneurs is a positive shift and is something we should encourage as much as possible and set the example we want to be.”
On behalf of BDD’s community, we wish all women a Happy International Women’s Day!