Taking a Difrent approach to entrepreneurship


Rachel Murphy is an experienced entrepreneur, whose drive and focus led her to become a Director, then a CTO, delivering digital services for national organisations such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council and NHS Digital. However, it took becoming CEO of digital transformation specialists Difrent for Rachel to settle in to the first permanent role of her career. As ICHP partners with EIT Health for their Women Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, we caught up with Rachel to ask her advice for entrepreneurs starting out and to find out how she challenges the status quo.

“I thought you would get some amazing revelation when you ended up on the board of a company and you would look around the table and it would be incredible. Needless to say that did not happen.

“On the journey I met lots of super capable people but I didn’t have that ‘oh this is incredible moment’, but I had and have had lots of incredible experiences and it doesn’t necessarily come from the top of the shop all the time and that’s the bit I think that keeps me grounded with people and teams.

“I am incredibly informal but I’m also very approachable and very authentic – I’m not interested whether you’re the CEO or the cleaner, how I interact with people is the same.”

Rachel Murphy joined Difrent in 2017, describing the role as a ‘lifetime dream’, the last three-and-a-half years have been the only time she has worked permanently in her life. Twenty years ago however, Rachel was focused more on rising up through the ranks, and she describes herself as being ‘ridiculously ambitious’, though for her this has not always been completely positive.

When asked what advice Rachel would give to her 20-year-old self now she says: “I would give the advice to just cut myself a little bit of slack.

“I have a very, very high standard that I hold myself to that has served me well, but also it has put a lot of pressure on me over the years, and not always was that needed. I would probably advise me to trust myself a little more and have that confidence.”

Rachel says the roles she has enjoyed the most are those where she has really impacted patients and citizens.

Offering advice for entrepreneurs starting out today, Rachel says: “I would definitely encourage going and doing your own thing. I think entrepreneurs are wired slightly differently and I think you’re driven by a desire to do it better or do it by yourself, not have to report in, and I would say absolutely go and do that.

“I would also ask for help, I’ve always asked for help and I would really encourage people to do that. It’s amazing the amount of people who will help if you ask for it.”

As a woman entrepreneur Rachel says she has not been aware of experiencing gender prejudice in her career development, though she credits her family with instilling her with a constant strong drive to overcome obstacles. Rachel is the eldest of three children, with two younger brothers who she also describes as being very ambitious.

She says: “We’re all really competitive and really ambitious, so it was all ingrained before we arrived at school and we arrived at the workplace.

“So do I feel I had to push harder? I don’t know because my family upbringing meant we were pushing quite hard anyway, and I mean that in a positive way.

“I’ve never felt that I’ve been overlooked for a role because I’m female, I’ve never believed that I’ve been paid less because I’m female.

“I’m out and I’m gay and I have had that to deal with in the workplace and I’ve had homophobic responses, only once or twice, but not the female thing.”

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #ChooseToChallenge, and Rachel has set out to challenge the status quo with the company she has built, choosing to purposefully create something different than the ‘big four’ tech firms.

She says: “The best services we build are user-centred and they are multidisciplinary teams that come from very diverse backgrounds. And by definition I have built a company that is very, very diverse, and so I’ve had to challenge the status quo there.

“My rationale for building Difrent was everybody talked a good game, but no one could really deliver it, and that was my motivation for building the company in the first place.

“I don’t think you can have loads of clones delivering these services, you need people who have a bit of a background and a history themselves. It is a real collective of pretty random individuals that are together pretty incredible. I want people to bring all of themselves to work and be authentic.”

Find out more about Difrent and see Rachel’s team’s work here.

If you are part of a women-led or co-led start-up, you can apply to the EIT Health Women Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, for access to an unparalleled network of investors and mentors – helping nurture and support rapid growth.