Human on the Inside with MediStays’ Assoc. Prof. Sarah Everitt

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5 min read

We’re big believers in the power of human skills. But don’t just take our word for it – the evidence for excellence powered by human (‘soft’) skills is everywhere! In this engaging, ever-enlightening series, we speak with industry leaders, innovators and game-changers to learn a little about their personal career journeys, and how human-led strategies, philosophies and cultures are proving a force for good in their working worlds …

Welcome Sarah, and thanks for stepping into the #SuccessIsHuman Spotlight! You’re the Managing Director and Co-Founder of MediStays – a fast growing website enabling patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals to find and book accommodation close to hospitals and medical facilities. Together with fellow healthcare professionals, you founded MediStays as a Social Enterprise in 2016.  In 1 sentence (ok, we’ll give you 3), what does your role entail?

My role at MediStays is to ensure people on a health journey can access trusted accommodation when they need it most. As the co-founder and managing director, this initially required my hands-on involvement across every aspect of our company. I’m now fortunate to be hiring a talented team and refining my own role to lead MediStays into our next phase of growth and development.

Alongside MediStays, you’re deeply entrenched in the world of clinical research, holding roles at the University of Melbourne (Clinical Associate Professor – Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology), and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (Clinical Research Fellow) – an organisation you’ve been with for over 17 years. You’re also a mentor for the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, and recently included in Telstra Health’s 2021 Brilliant Women in Digital Health lineup – congrats! How does all this work speak to your personal purpose and what drives you as an individual?

I am driven by opportunities to test new ideas. While this often means sitting outside my comfort zone, I know it is where I have the greatest opportunity to make a positive difference in people’s lives and to be fulfilled by the work I do. 

Tell us a little about your personal education pathway/s – what led you to where you are now? How closely do your formal qualifications match your current career?

My undergraduate degree in Medical Radiations (RMIT) enabled me to work in cancer clinics at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (Peter Mac) in Melbourne, and in Edmonton and Calgary, Canada. Returning to Australia, I changed tack and combined a PhD at Monash University with a clinician-researcher position at Peter Mac, followed by a postdoc and academic appointment at the University of Melbourne. My formal qualifications underpinned my learning in an environment where I was privileged to collaborate with talented clinicians and scientists. In contrast, the skills required of me at MediStays are broad and couldn’t be encompassed by one ‘formal’ academic qualification. There are many similarities between my ‘careers’, the skills I draw on and the opportunity to improve people’s lives through advancing science and technology. Humans were always at the heart of our research and treatments at Peter Mac and this is the same at MediStays.

If you could share one piece of career advice to your 21 year old self it would be …

Very simple, keep saying yes to opportunities.

Maximising the potential of individuals, communities and businesses through the power of human skills is the reason Maxme exists. Can you tell us a little about the role and / or value of human skills in your workplace right now?

This is a timely question!  We have recently recruited several key roles at MediStays, and our focus was to find individuals who live by their values and share a common purpose. To achieve this in a Covid era and recruit to remote working environments, recommendations from our networks have been powerful. As a leader, it is rewarding to observe how our team members draw on their skills when working remotely. By communicating with honesty, respect and humour they have quickly forged trusted relationships with me and each other. They understand and acknowledge each other’s contributions, are driven to achieve positive outcomes and share our successes as a team. I am also humbled by their belief in me, as a founder, and for their courage to leave established careers in large companies to work for MediStays. This speaks volumes to their commitment and passion for the work they do and impact on the patients and carers we support.

Self Awareness sets the critical foundation for all Maxme learning experiences. With that said … what’s your strongest trait / personal super power?

If I reflect on my professional career, my willingness to step out of my comfort zone and pursue new opportunities has been positive for me. Recognising when I am ready for a new challenge, and harnessing my energy and passion to work hard on a new ‘project’ has been very rewarding.

And on the flip side, what’s one human / ‘soft’ skill you’ve had to really work on improving over the course of your career?

I am quite private and my natural disposition is to stay under the radar. Throughout my career I have needed to invest in my communication and public speaking skills, especially to share the results of my research at conferences. At MediStays, this has taken on a whole new dimension because rather than talking about the work I do, as a founder I am asked to share more about myself as a person. This is a work in progress (and the irony of me accepting your kind invitation for this interview)! 

If you could share one piece of career advice with recent secondary or tertiary graduates, or other individuals keen to work in a trade, what would it be?

At MediStays, we have diverse professional and personal backgrounds, and the common thread uniting us together is a desire to make a positive difference. For graduates keen to work at an early-stage company, my advice would be aligning your passion with the company’s purpose. Your hard work and contributions will be rewarded by the opportunity to work in a rapidly changing environment with a strong purpose.

You’ve been granted approval to add one University graduate to your team, but have 100 applicants, all with outstanding academic results. How do you find your perfect candidate – what are you looking for?

As above, the perfect candidate for MediStays would combine their academic results with strong values and a sense of purpose. They would also be a quick and adaptable learner, one who is prepared to have a go and not afraid to ask questions or make mistakes in order to grow.

In the words of John Dewey, “education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.”
What’s next on your #learning agenda?

I’m incredibly fortunate to be immersed in an environment where I love the work I do and learn every single day! It is also a privilege to apply this learning knowing it will ultimately make a positive impact on people’s lives. The learning is varied by topic and by medium; including hands on ‘doing’, discussions with mentors and listening to podcasts. As MediStays grows, my personal #learning agenda is focussed on my leadership role.