Fantastic Female – Leila Thabet, Founder & CEO Naytal 

Naytal is the UK’s first online clinic that gives women instant, affordable access to leading maternal health experts. Women can speak to a selection of leading professionals including midwives, lactation consultants, psychologists, baby sleep experts and women’s health physios, in a one-to-one appointment from the comfort of their home. Find out more at naytal.uk

Naytal

How did you balance being a mother and professional? 

It’s an ongoing process and I’m not sure I’ve figured it out to be honest!  There are hilarious moments like chasing a toddler around the edge of a lake whilst trying to sound professional on a call with a potential investor.. And then there are the calamitous times when unexpected illness hits or you’re forced into isolation with a toddler thanks to covid, and it always seems to coincide with the busy periods when you can’t afford to take time off.  

There is a constant tension, and it’s so easy to get wrapped up in guilt in both directions – not feeling like you give enough time to either your child (and family) or your work. The trick for me personally is focusing my efforts on what I can do well, letting some things go by accepting that I can’t do everything and not being too hard on myself.

What have you sacrificed (both personally and professionally) at each stage of your career? 

At times I’ve sacrificed my personal life and wellbeing in jobs where I’ve worked long hours in a stressful environment for long periods of time.  I think that the world of work is changing for the better today though, as employee wellbeing and mental health is increasingly a priority for companies so I’m hoping we’ll start to see less burnout.

But I haven’t had to sacrifice my career to have a child, so I consider myself very fortunate as I know the sorry situation is that many women are forced to make the choice between the two today.

Naytal

Who inspired you and why?

I come from a family of strong, independent women, so from a young age I always looked up to them as my source of inspiration.  I was raised believing that nothing was out of reach simply because I am a woman, so whilst I appreciate that the world is harder to navigate in many ways for women – it’s not something that I have ever focused on or allowed myself to be held back by.  And I definitely have the women in my family to thank for that.

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

Work on your confidence, owning your place in the room and believing you belong there.  Too many incredible women suffer from imposter syndrome and we are often not as forward when it comes to our own self promotion and seeking the recognition we deserve within the workplace.  Pay rises are a big part of this, but it’s also about not being apologetic about your needs – whether it’s wanting a clearly defined path to promotion or asking for flexible working to balance childcare.

Do you think women feel intimidated in business?

Unfortunately I think that this is often the case.  A combination of the fact that the world has not been set up to support women in the workplace, and the fact that we can be very critical of ourselves at times.

I’ve been told by more than one (female) investor that male founders will walk into a room and sell the dream and vision for tomorrow, regardless of what they have achieved to date – female founders will walk into the room and analyse the existing data and talk about where they are today.  

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?  

In a park, chasing a toddler, on my 4th coffee of the day (we are usually up for the day by 5am – not my choosing of course!)

What do you love about your job?

The fact that we are helping women every day at Naytal.  We support women through such a crucial time in their lives – from pregnancy through birth and postnatally – where the right support at the right time can have long lasting effects on mum, baby and the entire family.

What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made?

Walking away from a job that wasn’t right for me, even though it was perfect “on paper”.  It meant walking away from long-term, financial security but you have to trust your gut instincts, and if something doesn’t feel right then you can’t force it – no matter how hard you try.  

What’s the worst career decision you’ve ever made?

Trying to fit into the corporate, bureaucratic world – I’m not cut out for it.

How do you organise your time?

Interesting that you ask this as I started a new weekly schedule at the end of 2021!  It was inspired by a post shared by Sharmadean Reid on Instagram about how she organises her week.

I break my week down in a structured way, which means that I always make sure I have time for the important things .  Mondays are for all of my internal team meetings as well as my board advisors – so I start the week with analysis of the previous week’s performance, and a review of upcoming business priorities.  Tuesdays are meeting free and kept for strategic planning and any undistracted work I need to do – either alone or with some of the Naytal team.  Wednesday and Thursdays are for external meetings with people like investors, journalists and partner companies or any interviews for new hires.  And then Fridays are for admin, finance and clearing my inbox.

It’s made a huge difference to my working life. Setting aside thinking time early in the week means that it is always a priority, and focussing on my inbox at the end of the week means I don’t get lost in the inbox black hole every day.

What do you think is your greatest strength?

My resilience and perseverance.  My boss at the creative agency where I worked for many years used to say “Leila gets sh*t done”, which isn’t a bad thing to be known for in my opinion!

What do you think is your greatest weakness?

I am very direct and honest, and this style doesn’t suit everyone.

How do you make decisions?

Gut instincts – but I rely heavily on data to inform this.

What do you read?

My hobby is reading fiction – I have to read for at least an hour every evening to wind down before bed or I won’t sleep.

What do you think are the secrets behind getting to where you’ve got to?

I’m not sure there is a secret! But I’ve always believed that I would run my own business, so I think it’s probably about self belief and backing yourself to be able to do something.  I’ve heard before that the difference between someone with a great idea and an entrepreneur is simply that the entrepreneur did something about it.  So maybe the secret is just to go for it – and do something about it, whatever “it” is!

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