It’s amazing how simple decisions can lead to great things.

When the European debt crisis hit Portugal, our Executive MBA Alumna Daniela Seixas started her program at IE with the intention of taking a healthcare module for 6 months that could not take place given a lack of students. What she ended up taking instead was the entrepreneurial track, where she met classmates that formed the brains behind a great idea.

Fast forward a few years and now she’s the CEO of Tonic App, a mobile app for professional communication and content in healthcare. From the doctor’s mobile phone to the patient’s bedside“-this was how the app created “by doctors for doctors” was highlighted by the Portuguese press a few weeks ago.

A doctor of medicine by training, Daniela is the perfect combination of science and entrepreneurship-where she was recognized as a “natural entrepreneur” by her professors at IE.

Aside from being an active entrepreneur, Daniela is an affiliate professor, consultant in several medical associations and has been working with the European Commission as an independent expert.

Acknowledging the fact that the most common challenge for a woman in the workforce is to be often underestimated, she now uses this in her advantage-a recommendation that she shares with all of us.

We hope that you enjoy reading our interview with Daniela and get inspired to take more risks!

1. Tell us about yourself and your actual role at the moment.

I’m a medical doctor by training and I’ve practiced 16 years of my life as a neuroradiologist. I had a clinical and academic career.

Now I am the CEO of Tonic App, a digital health company building a professional ecosystem for medical doctors and their patients.

2. How did you get where you are today and how has your experience at IE helped you?

It’s actually a funny story.

When the European debt crisis came, I’ve decided I wanted to better understand what was happening and its impact on healthcare. There were significant cuts in the public healthcare system at that time in my country.

So, I’ve enrolled at IE for an Executive MBA, where the last six months of the program were to be dedicated to healthcare management. But there weren’t enough students and I ended up choosing an alternative: entrepreneurship.

Tonic App’s project was born out of those six months, co-founded by Christophe de Kalbermatten, Dávid Borsós, Andrew Barnes, and myself. And then it completely changed my life!

3. How do you achieve work-life balance?

Someone compared being a CEO with being a high-performance professional athlete-I agree.

The responsibility and pressure are many times overwhelming, especially in a fast-paced startup. Having said this, achieving a work-life balance is difficult. It is a constant struggle, also because the CEO role, in itself, keeps changing as the company grows.

I’ve had to transform myself already several times. What works for me is doing what relaxes me the most: exercise, reading, and socializing. And of course, the role is much easier when you have people in your personal life who love you and support you.

4. What advice would you give to women who want to succeed in the workplace?


5. What kind of mindset should younger generations have to break the glass ceiling?

The start is always believing you can do it and never let yourself be disheartened by people who make you feel otherwise (there will be many).

Then there’s the second part: study a lot and work a lot in what you are passionate about. The rest will come. And if it doesn’t, at least you’ve enjoyed the ride!

6. How do you mitigate various unconscious bias at the workplace as well as for your own career planning?

Being conscious that everyone, including yourself, are prone to biasing and prejudice is important, because this awareness helps you, hopefully, to better identify it and act upon it.

In my company, I try to mitigate biases by empowering people. For example, empowering women to take more risks and help them with their work-life balance that sometimes is harder, or by challenging developers to participate in the company’s product and marketing strategy.

7. What challenges have you experienced as a woman in business during your overall career?

The most common challenge professionally is to be often underestimated as a woman. I use this now as an advantage. Interestingly, I’ve found to exist more bias in my past medical career comparing to being an entrepreneur.

8. Could you share a professional failure that you’ve had and what you’ve learned from it?

Well, this is a cliché, but all failures are actually learnings, right? But answering your question, for me, it is always about failing people in some way. This happens more often than one could wish, even if you strive to perfect your interpersonal skills.

9. What or who has been your greatest influence in your professional path and why?

I will highlight Irene Tracey, my Ph.D. supervisor at Oxford, and a brilliant neuroscientist. Irene has this incredible talent: when you are feeling down, thinking that your work will go nowhere, you just go into her office, talk with her for 5 minutes, and come out believing you’re a superwoman!