Humans of RMIT: Joy Hussain

Dr Joy Hussain, GP, RMIT PhD student and Open Talent Pathways participant

We just had our final pitch event for Open Talent Pathways (a Melbourne Innovation Districts entrepreneurial program initiative) last week. The start-up idea we pitched is for a concept we’re calling Skinscape, which would enable individuals with skin conditions to take a swab of their skin and have its microbiome analysed to help in determining the right treatments or lifestyle changes that might be needed.

The idea really came out of both my work as a GP, based up here in Brisbane, and also my PhD, in which I’m looking at the benefits of sauna bathing and therapeutic heat. My PhD involved a lot of sweat analysis and when you start to look at sweat content one of the first things that starts to jump out at you is that actually all of these skin microbiomes effects our sweat content to a large extent and we just don’t know very much about it and I realised that ‘wow, there’s a whole lot of information here that we’ve been largely ignoring… I’ve got to take a closer look at this.’

So, when I had the opportunity to be a part of Open Talent Pathways (co-developed by MID partners RMIT, University of Melbourne and the City of Melbourne), and discovered that because of COVID-19 I could take part in the 12-week program from up here in Brisbane I was incredibly excited.

The program was golden for someone like me who has been a scientist or a practitioner for pretty much their whole adult life and so I didn’t have much of a background in business or marketing. Open Talent Pathways has given me a really nice crash course in how to put together a really strong business pitch. It’s also made me realise that communicating a message to lay people is a very different process to communicating with fellow scientists.

It also helped me to really focus on what the problem is we are trying to solve with our product, rather than just coming up with all these product ideas and sexy solutions without really thinking about the problem in the first instance.

I’ve also really enjoyed having the freedom of how to think throughout this program. For most of us, as scientists, in our day jobs and when we study, there’s not alot of play in thinking. You’re kind of trained to think inside this very rigid box. In Open Talent Pathway, we had this freedom to think outside that box and it was a whole lot of fun.

I think it’s also made me realise just how different the world of research and science and the world of business and entrepreneurism are and that they probably shouldn’t  be so different. You know, why are we thinking in such different silos when really these silos have to come together at some point. And my feeling is that they shouldn’t just come together at the top but throughout the whole process of research and that’s why a program such as this is so important.

I only have a few more months left of my PhD and after that I will keep practicing as a GP but I’d also like to, if I can, find an academic appointment that would allow me to combine my research with this business idea. I really feel like I am much better equipped to go down this entrepreneurial pathway now.