How has your journey from childhood to the Vision Health Pioneers Incubator shaped you as an entrepreneur?

I grew up dreaming of becoming a world-renown surgeon who saved people’s live with ground-breaking techniques. Crazy huh? I didn’t end up doing medicine, but instead went into Nursing. Life happened and over the years, and I left nursing for a while and did all kinds of work – I suppose you could call me a Jill-of-all-trades so to speak.LIfe pivoted again, and after some difficult periods, including the loss of people close to me, I returned to Nursing. This time focusing on working with people with substance misuse issues. After 15 years as a senior Drug & Alcohol (D&A) nurse, I took a much-needed 12 month leave-without-pay break. My other passion is writing, so part of this break was an artist residency in Berlin for 3-months to work on my children’s novel.Not only did I fall in love with Berlin, but I also realised that my time working in D&A was completed. So I resigned and stayed in Berlin. A very difficult but ultimately great decision. But I found myself without a job. Or a career. That was fine for a while but I knew I needed something soon. Both my children are graphic designers, and my own love for creating inspired me to consider something more design-focused. Because creating is a happy space for me. Foolhardy to do a 180 degree shift in career at this stage of life? Probably . But I wanted to try.Not sure how I came across UX design, perhaps from chats with my adult children, but I what struck a chord in me about UX was the focus on the user (pardon the pun!). And then I discovered UX writing! The thing is, while I do love doing art, given a choice I write. So UX writing ticked every box that’s important to me.It was a challenging process, that’s for sure! Still trying to master the art of brevity —fiction writing, policy, educational programs, client information packs, etc are not UX writing! But my life-long focus of supporting people and UX’s strong focus on the user pulled me through.I’m now a designer who uses words.After leaving my nursing career, I thought that I wanted to pivot entirely away from health. But then I connected with Tom, inspired by his post on LinkedIn about creating a new website specifically designed for men who are dealing with unwanted sexual experiences. We got chatting. Several close male friends have been impacted by sexual trauma, as well as a significant number of people I had the honour to work with in my previous career.So I said I’d love to help if I could — and here I am. Working on something that brings all of my life and professional experiences together. A significant part of my role in D&A was advocating for users (pun intended!) — and I’m still doing that now. It’s also why I’m passionate about inclusion and accessibility in the digital realm. I still get to make a difference in people’s lives.I’ve always been creative, open-minded, and a dreamer of possibilities. And I’ve also been passionate about and focused on caring about and for people. Being an entrepreneur, especially for our mission, brought all my creativity, my life experiences, and my work experiences into one place. I think it’s allowed me to be flexible and roll with the myriad pivots we’ve taken. To listen to and learn from others. To be humble and open. And adventurous!

  • Looking back from where you are now to where you started, what advice would you give to your younger self?

    Believe in yourself. For all those times that you hear the call to do something different, to try something new, to step out of the box, let it happen and ignore the naysayers. You’ll hear people tell you to find one path, to be consistent. You have your own version of consistent. You don’t fit the mold and that’s a good thing. Stay open but also trust yourself. Your calling is to work with people – but you need to remember to look after yourself. There’s a unique path you’ll follow, even if it doesn’t seem that all the things you’ll do are necessarily related – or appear consistent. So if something doesn’t work for you that’s ok – it’s an opportunity rather than a failure. As Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
  • What’s one lesson from your time in the incubator that you wish you knew when you started?
    That’s actually a hard question to answer. One important one is to actively make time for and prioritise self-care, to embed that mindset in the journey from the outset. It can be easy (for me) to say, “I’ll just do this….” because there’s so much to do, and much later realise I forgot to look after myself. Another one for me would be to have a system to document everything that happens along the way — the decisions, the pivots, etc. I didn’t realise the importance of this until deep into the program. This is especially useful when bringing new people (volunteers) on board so that we have an up-to-date version of where we’re at.

Learn more about Petra’s work and about Hope for men here!