Julia Paget: the Complete package
When it comes to Julia Paget’s career, one word springs to mind: courageous. Julia has travelled the world as an embryologist, taking every opportunity that presented itself. She has learned every facet of running a fertility business and worked in some of the most respected IVF clinics across the US, New Zealand, and the UK. In 2010, Julia co-founded Complete Fertility in Southampton – an IVF clinic that joined the Virtus network in 2018. Today, Julia spear heads a new role, and perhaps her biggest challenge yet, as Head of Development for Virtus as a Service (VaaS), a key strategic project that will enable Virtus to expand rapidly through partnership opportunities.
Here, Julia discusses lessons learned throughout her career and the possibilities that lie ahead.
Can you share a little bit about your background in assisted reproductive services?
In the early 90s I trained as an embryologist in the UK, before moving through several IVF clinics in New York, such as Reproductive Medicine Associates (RMA) and ART Institute of Washington, where I worked with Dr Jacques Cohen as a Senior Consultant Embryologist.
In 2002, I transferred to New Zealand as Lab Manager of Fertility Associates, Wellington, before returning to the UK to work at the Lister Fertility Clinic in London, one of the largest and most successful IVF clinics in the country. Through various consulting and locum appointments, I’ve worked in around 20 IVF clinics and in 2008 an interesting opportunity presented itself – to set up a new clinic with two fantastic IVF doctors, Professors Ying Cheong and Nick Macklon. After gaining investment via a public/private partnership with the NHS, we founded Complete Fertility Ltd in 2010.
The journey of creating a new clinic was exciting, challenging and often exhausting: from developing a quality management system, costing models and HR pathways to designing a logo, creating a website, and choosing wall colours – everything had to be done from scratch. I learned about building a business from books and friends and from tackling each challenge head on. Along the way I’ve worn many hats: lab director, operations manager, quality manager, head of fertility, clinic director, HFEA Person Responsible, as well as covering reception, holding patients’ hands, and cleaning the waiting room. This wide range of roles showed me how each job position and every member of staff is essential to our success. Complete Fertility has grown to become the largest regional fertility centre in Hampshire, with three satellites across three counties. We were proud to join the Virtus family in 2018.
What does your role as Head of Development for Virtus as a Service (VaaS) entail?
My new role combines my love for the clinical and operational elements of fertility services with the start-up and commercial aspects of building new clinics.
VaaS was conceptualised by our COO, Teena Pisarev, as a programme to harness partnership opportunities with other healthcare organisations. Through VaaS, clients can tap into Virtus’ expertise via a series of six “modules,” which cover everything from designing and building a clinic to ongoing management support.
My role involves building relationships with clients, designing the VaaS modules and modelling the pathways for these collaborations. Whilst creating standardised materials, we are keeping Virtus clinics and staff at the forefront of our minds, making sure that any content we develop is of benefit to our own workforce as well as our clients.
VaaS is an opportunity for Virtus to rapidly forge collaborations with like-minded healthcare organisations around the world. In a couple of years, I envisage VaaS working with a variety of client fertility clinics, supported by a team of Virtus experts. I’m excited to be on the VaaS journey from the beginning and to play my part in shaping its future.
How does your experience establishing Complete Fertility support your new role?
Complete Fertility provided me with the exposure of working within a large public body hospital group (a NHS Trust) alongside the entrepreneurial needs of a start-up, so I’ve had a foot on both sides of the divide. I’m comfortable helping smaller, independent companies transition into new domains and supporting larger hospital groups requiring new clinics to fit into existing structures. The hardest challenge of any project is usually in sustaining forward momentum so that it doesn’t fizzle out. I’ve learned along the way that to get things done you need to keep pushing ahead, to keep everyone informed and engaged, and to never assume that someone else will pick up the complicated parts.
When you reflect on your career, what are you most proud of?
We are privileged to work in such a rewarding field and, like many of my colleagues in Virtus, I have had countless positive career moments. A particularly fond memory is of my first ever pregnancy from an ICSI - knowing that you placed the sperm in the egg of a new human is very humbling. Then there’s the moments when patients bring their babies to visit us in the clinic. Having a job that allows you to play such a worthwhile part in other people’s lives is amazing. Creating a baby is usually something that is private and intimate – but our patients have to trust us with being part of their very personal journey. Being able to guide them through that experience as smoothly as possible is an honour.
I am also immensely proud that Complete Fertility has come to mean so much to so many and has helped to create so many families.
What’s your advice to people looking to advance their career?
I’m passionate about enabling progression within our workforce so that talented people stay interested and don’t look elsewhere for opportunities. My advice for ensuring career progression is to frequently demonstrate that you want to learn and are self-motivated enough to go the extra mile. Show interest in every area of the business, ask to shadow colleagues from different departments and offer to get involved in operational aspects or on specific projects – these are the places where you learn the most about the business and how it all fits together. Above all, set your fears aside and put yourself forward for opportunities when they arise.