The On Call with Insignia Ventures podcast introduces: A Leader A Minute! A Leader A Minute is a new mini-series featuring startup leaders at companies we’ve covered or featured on our show. We go beyond the perspectives of the founders or CEOs and get to know the other key executives who are driving the growth of these companies and creating an impact for the customers and communities they serve. They share first-day experiences, the growth they’ve experienced on the job, leadership styles, and what excites them about the future.
For each episode we do a Q&A interview for our blog and also produce a one-minute highlight for our TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. We also highlight open roles in the functions led by these executives in case you would like to join their team and work with them as well!
In this fourth episode of A Leader A Minute, we talk to Oliver Suendermann, Clinical Director at Asia’s fastest growing mental health tech company Intellect, who talks about his transition from NUS educator and psychologist to clinical director at Intellect, how his role at a fast-growing tech startup has influenced his perspective on being a psychologist, and what excites him about Intellect this 2022.
@vcinsider 1 min to get to know the #psychologist behind the clinical approach of Asia’s fastest-growing #mentalhealth #tech company Intellect #fyp #podcast ♬ original sound – The VC Insider
About the Featured Leader #4
Oliver Suendermann is a UK-trained Clinical Psychologist, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, educator, supervisor and researcher. He was a Scientific Advisor to Intellect before joining full time as Clinical Director. Prior to joining Intellect, he was Deputy Director of the NUS Masters Program in Psychology.
Join Oliver in building a scalable mental health support system for APAC:
- Full-Time Behavioral Coach
- Clinical Content Writer
- Check out other roles in Product, Engineering, Business Development and Sales, and Marketing
On Call with Insignia: What were you doing before Intellect? And how did you find out about the company?
Oliver: Before I joined Intellect, I was the Deputy Director of the Masters in Clinical Psychology program at the National University of Singapore (NUS), training the next generation of clinical psychologists. My role also involved doing research, teaching and supervising undergraduates and post-graduate students, as well as directing our training clinic, the Clinical and Health Psychology Center (CHPC).
Well, I basically knew Intellect from the day it started. So about three years ago, [in] 2019, a colleague linked me up with Theo and we were discussing his vision. And I was pretty excited about what he had in store, really. And I have been advising the company on clinical matters ever since. We’ve also set up a research collaboration and have been doing larger scale research at NUS as well. So that’s how I got to know [Intellect].
On Call with Insignia: And recently you’ve joined Intellect as its Clinical Director. How would you describe your role as Clinical Director at Intellect?
Oliver: I do a few things in Intellect. As clinical director, I oversee the (1) clinical operations, (2) the engagement side of things, (3) the clinical research as well as (4) the clinical product innovation and development. It’s really bringing those four buckets together and making sure that we’re working towards our goals really.
On Call with Insignia: What would you say is the importance of having somebody like yourself within the team in driving this value proposition that Intellect has of having this Asia-first mental health care system?
Oliver: My background is both academic and clinical, which I think is a very good fit for this role because it includes innovating the clinical tools, services and products, but at the same time researching the efficacy of those [things]. So everything we do at Intellect is data driven and evidence-based.
We want to make sure that the products and the services we develop actually do what they promise to do. And so there’s this constant iteration where we create a product, we put it to the test and then we try and refine it. For that reason, I think it’s good to have someone with an academic background, as well as clinical practice.
“Everything we do at Intellect is data driven and evidence-based.”
On Call with Insignia: While you’ve been advising the team for the past three years, you’ve only recently joined Intellect in the last two months. How has your time in the company thus far influenced the way that you see your own profession being a clinical and behavioral psychologist?
Oliver: First of all, the one thing you’ve gotta be a little bit more flexible with is the format and the way we deliver our clinical services.
Traditionally, psychologists are trained or they learn to conduct like one hour sessions with our clients and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but that’s just purely history and tradition. So traditionally it’s face-to-face one hour, maybe once a week, but through teletherapy, we can access treatments a lot more flexibly from really anywhere in the world.
Also importantly, through varying modes such as text-based and bite-sized support, or combination of all those virtual face-to-face and text messaging, which allows for shorter and more accessible sessions and support as well. So I’d say the one thing I really learned [so far and continue to] wrap my head around more is that therapy can be and should be a lot more flexible and adapted to the client’s needs [when it comes to the] format and the type of delivery.
“Therapy can be and should be a lot more flexible and adapted to the client’s needs [when it comes to the] format and the type of delivery.”
On Call with Insignia: And speaking of teletherapy, and obviously Intellect has this great app that’s being used by millions of people already around the world. What’s your favorite feature on it, especially considering your background and what do you like to recommend to people, for example, that they try out in the app or you yourself use often?
Oliver: There are a few things I like, but I’m particularly attracted to the guided journals. We have all these different journals we have. If you log on to the app, you can see journaling on gratitude, and we’ve got something on goal setting and striving for your goals. I liked that a lot because I know that it’s incredibly difficult to change your habits.
So if you set some goals for yourself, say you want to work on procrastination or perfectionism, we do have the more substantial learning paths you can do. So over several weeks you can work towards those goals. But if you want to integrate these kinds of therapy principles into your day-to-day life, the guided journals are really good, so it’s really helpful to keep track of what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis.
And there’s actually good research that shows that — we’ve done some in-house research here as well where we looked at how people do [when they] engage in these daily journal activities — they tend to have better outcomes on wellbeing. And so if you were to press me, I’d say it’s the journaling. I think it’s really, really useful.
And it’s quite doable. It’s accessible and you can very easily integrate it into your day-to-day and keep track of what you’re doing, and reflect on your journey, whether it’s a recovery journey or your personal growth journey.
And if I may add one more thing, I love our wellbeing analytics as well. We’re not only measuring a lot of data and analyzing it at the backend, but we also give it back to the user. So we have wellbeing trends and reports, both for B2C and B2B. So clients who download the app get wellbeing reports, and we do that on a corporate level as well. So our HR partners get analytics as well about how their teams are doing. And I think that’s a really cool feature.
“We’ve done some in-house research here as well where we looked at how people do [when they] engage in these daily journal activities — they tend to have better outcomes on wellbeing.”
On Call with Insignia: When I first downloaded the app, like the guided journals is definitely the first thing that caught my eye for sure. I want to shift gears also to Intellect’s team, which is growing and so what advice do you have for anybody who’s looking to join the Intellect crew, having worked closely with the team for a while now and recently joined yourself?
Oliver: I’d say the first thing is you gotta be a little bit comfortable with the uncertainty of very fast-evolving processes. We’re a hyper-growth startup company and we’re hiring quite aggressively, which is great but it also means that our work process changes all the time. That means you’ve got to be hands-on in solving problems, be able to pull your sleeves up and do what needs to be done, really.
But at the same time, it’s quite exciting. That’s part of the reason why I was so excited to come on board, because if you work in a big organization or a company or at the university, they have very mature structures. It’s very good [that there’s] a lot of safeguarding in place, but [there’s] also a lot of red tape and it can be quite frustrating to get things done.
With us at Intellect and I’m sure a lot of other hyper-growth companies, there’s a lot less red tape and you just get more things done and you do things quickly. You test them out and it’s just much more fast-paced and it has to suit you, this kind of style of working.
“With us at Intellect and I’m sure a lot of other hyper-growth companies, there’s a lot less red tape and you just get more things done and you do things quickly.”
On Call with Insignia: Speaking of the working environment, what has been your favorite moment so far at intellect?
Oliver: Oh, that’s easy. That’s meeting my colleagues here in person after two years with more or less being stuck at home and working from home, in the Singapore office that is. Unfortunately, I have not [yet] met the many other colleagues we have in the other markets around Asia.
On Call with Insignia: What excites you about this coming year for Intellect?
Oliver: Quite a few things. So apart from our core product, which is building a very scalable mental health support system for APAC, we have phenomenal digital mental health products innovations in our pipeline.
The core feature they all have in common really is that they’re more personable, relatable, engaging, immersive, and I believe also more effective. We really want to bring the human element into our services a bit more.
We’re also trying to work with big organizations to help [our] HR partners to be more predictive about risks as well through monitoring mental health and helping people to be a little bit more proactive and preventative about their mental health journey, basically building good mental wellbeing and resilience, rather than being reactive. So we have various products coming over this year and the next year as well.
“We really want to bring the human element into our services a bit more…we’re also trying to work with big organizations to help [our] HR partners to be more predictive about risks as well through monitoring mental health…”
On Call with Insignia: It sounds really exciting, and it just comes full circle. This whole telehealth and teleconsultation isn’t really meant to replace one-on-one, but it’s an opportunity to really level up that human experience at scale, and as you said, make it more personable, engaging, immersive, and effective.
A fun question to wrap things up. What’s your favorite practice to take care of your own mental health?
Oliver: Yeah, that’s very good. We have to practice what we preach. If I have to name one thing, it’s playtime with my two year old daughter. That’s a lot of fun and it allows me to switch off as well, which is super important, and not always so easy, with the whole work-from-home boundaries a little bit blurred, but running around and having fun with [my daughter] is probably what helps me to switch off the most at the moment.
On Call with Insignia: I’m sure a lot of young parents can relate to this as well. Thanks Oliver for coming on the show. One more thing, what positions are open now and especially when it comes to your role, what folks out there can look out for when it comes to intellect.
Oliver: So the best advice I have is to check our LinkedIn and all the open positions we have.
There’s quite a few at the moment we’re hiring for. In my team specifically we have two hiring positions at the moment.
One is for a full-time coach. So we’re looking to hire someone who has a strong coaching background in the corporate world to help us develop our coaching and also counseling.
And the other position is a clinical content writer. So we have an urgent need to develop more clinical products. So we need people with a sound psychology and research background who can basically create content for our self guided programs, but also the webinars we do and all the engagement work we do with our partners. And that’s just for my team.