Leigh Fell is the Founder and CEO of Caritas Neuro Solutions, a neuroscience research company based in Edinburgh, Scotland.
I had the honour of teaming up with Leigh for my freedom coaching programme, and play a little part in her amazing journey to making a difference in an area she is very passionate about: mental health and mindset.
With a solid 10-year experience in pharmaceutical clinical research and a background in cancer research, Leigh left her job three years ago and turned entrepreneur to establish Caritas Neuro Solutions, driven by core values such as Compassion, Collaboration and Integrity.
I was inspired by Leigh’s courage to take risks and her passion for helping others. She agreed to this unique interview, where she opens up to share what motivates and challenges her in this area of work that sits very close to her heart.
How did you get started in the pharmaceutical sector?
When I left university, I had no idea of what to do exactly. I studied psychology, sport science and nutrition. I knew I wanted a career in science that would benefit public health.
After applying for anything and everything to do with biology, I sort of fell into pharmaceutical. I realised the impact it has on people’s lives and my passion developed from there.
It was a while before I focused on mental and neural health; the majority of my experience was in oncology, a field already very saturated. It wasn’t until I freelanced in epilepsy trials that it dawned on me that all the illnesses my own family had experienced had been neurological. I’ve quite an unbelievably strong family history of epilepsy, depression, Alzheimer’s and stroke.
With a combination of personal motivation and the awareness of our ageing population, increasing incidence of neuro-progressive disease and escalating attention on mental health, I set an intention to be at the forefront of that revolution!
What inspired you to make such a radical life change and start up your own business?
My initial inspiration came from a speech by Peter Jeffries of Galvmed during the Scottish Life Science Awards Dinner in 2014. He talked about the social enterprise style model of their organisation and I was awestruck. Galvmed provides pharmaceutical products to farmers in developing countries at affordable prices while teaching them also how to run a sustainable business.
The fact that you could have a commercially-based business and make a significant social impact made me think that somehow I could apply this model also in my line of work.
What motivates you and is at the core of your work?
First and foremost, it was my own past struggles that motivated me to work in the field of mental health and mindset.
I suffered from severe depression a few years back and recurrent bouts throughout my life. When I recovered, I swore I would never let myself feel like that again and I truly could not bear the thought of anyone else having to feel that way either. More recently I lost a friend to suicide and I wish I could have done more to help her.
I feel there isn’t enough support out there for depression sufferers and that the illness is still very misunderstood.
I decided I want to make a difference and help people. I’m in a privileged position to have the skills to be able to actually do something about it.
How did Freedom Coaching benefit you?
Freedom coaching helped me to really identify with my chief executive role and have all the belief in myself that I need. I am no longer a junior in the industry as I used to think of myself.
It also made me reflect on the breadth of experience I have gained over the years, appreciate my knowledge and power, and apply these more consciously in my business.
I set some tangible business and personal targets for 2019, in relation to marketing activities for my business and my physical health. I learnt to let go of activities that don’t serve me and instead focus on positive actions that propel me forward.
I’ve started writing business newsletters and regular blogs that I enjoy working on.
My vision for what I want to achieve has become much clearer, which is exciting and more motivating in itself.
How do you manage your work/life balance?
For me it is super important to achieve the right work/life balance because it helps maintain good mental health.
I avoid long hours and working on weekends. I make time to get out in the hills with my dog every day. My health is my absolute priority and I make sure to stick to my schedule such as attending yoga classes or going for a run with friends.
It makes me sad when people tell me about the hours they put into their work, saying it almost with pride. I’ve seen how long hours can destroy people and unfortunately modern society puts this sort of expectation on people. Countries like France have got it right, making it illegal to work extra hours.
Good health is key for productivity and I don’t believe you can truly work to your full potential if you’re exhausted.
If you could rewind time, would you do anything differently?
Probably not, everything is a learning experience to get you to where you are.
I hated some of the jobs I did in my 20s. My first few roles felt boring and frustrating. At the senior level I am at now, I appreciate that all the experience and knowledge I gained in those roles turned out to be very useful and often gave me an advantage over others.
I believe that all the challenging times I faced happened for a reason and have given me the strength and knowledge I now need to run my company. I may not have enjoyed every moment of the journey but I have no regrets.
What has been the main challenge and what achievement are you the proudest of?
The main challenge is probably maintaining an optimistic mindset and managing my mental health. Starting a business is excruciatingly tough sometimes. It’s not always easy to keep your chin up and it doesn’t help if you are historically, genetically sensitive to dark moods.
But in a way, the history of my illness has also been my strength. Not only it gives me purpose and motivation, it has also built a deep resilience in me. I am a survivor of tough times and I know how to pull myself out of a dark mindset. Resilience is vital in running a business, and it’s been a blessing in disguise that my journey has taught me how to cope when life throws curve balls.
Any insights for people reading this interview who are just starting out?
Believe in yourself and go after your dream. No one knows your own abilities as well as you do!
Also ask for help and take advice from as many coaches and mentors as you can. Instead of money goals, make your purpose and experience your key focus. With invaluable experience, the money will take care of itself.
To find out more about the work of Caritas Neuro Solutions and to connect with Leigh, visit www.caritasneuro.com.
If you wish to connect with Francesca Dal Bello and find out more about her Freedom Coaching programmes, visit www.gr8fool.com.