“Every single day, I am exposed to new information, new technology, new ideas, new ways of just thinking about a particular topic,” says Megan Bettilyon, director of inventive government solutions and Global Good special projects. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new.”
Nothing about Megan’s position is predictable, and that’s exactly how she likes it. She thrives on the diversity of her roles, from serving as field manager for the Arktek™ before its commercialization; to working with partners at the United Nations; to traveling to D.C. to collaborate with our government relations team on Capitol Hill; to managing IV’s programs that involve cooperation with the U.S. government; to other projects relating to climate change, nutrition and global health. “I get paid to learn,” she says. “I get paid to investigate and understand how these new technologies and these potential partners could have an immense impact on the work we’re doing in low-resources nations. And that is extremely exciting for me.”
Beyond the excitement of her work, though, is a more fundamental connection with the culture at Intellectual Ventures (IV). There’s a palpable energy, Megan says, that drives the people and research here—a shared personality and mission, a sense of being surrounded by kindred, curious, creative spirits. “I’ve been a ‘nerd’ my entire life,” she says, “and I am damn proud of it. When I was a kid, it was a hard name to be called, but I have embraced it. And at the Lab, there are just as many people who are just as nerdy or geeky as I am about the things they love. Everybody there has a passion, something they truly jive on, and that is cool.”
From Algae to IV
Before joining IV, Megan—who was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah—had explored a wide range of social and scientific interests. As an undergrad and then graduate student at the University of California San Diego, she studied everything from anthropology and Middle Eastern archeology, to marine biodiversity and conservation, renewable energy, domestic energy security for low-resource nations, even the enormous promise of algae. One of the common threads of her studies, though, has always been technology and how it impacts the world. “I’ve always been fascinated by how technological progress in any society can have a profound impact on the society itself,” she says.
So when Megan first learned about IV and the Global Good Fund—which harnesses the power of technology and invention to solve humanitarian challenges in the developing world—she was immediately intrigued. “I looked it up,” she says, “and was like, ‘Wow, this is what I do. This is my Nirvana. I looked online to see if they had any jobs, and they had just posted a program manager position the day before—it was a complete fluke.”
That was more than four and a half years ago. Megan has since worked on numerous projects for IV, and she can recall many highlights from among them. Yet the biggest standout has to be one of her earlier positions when she was working as the field manager for the Arktek™, a storage device that has the power to keep vaccines at their proper temperature for more than a month, even in scorching desert heat.
“The Arktek is still definitely, absolutely my favorite,” she says. “We’ve changed the way mothers in these remote villages handle healthcare and the vaccination of their children. They now know that a health post with an Arktek has safe and efficacious vaccines every single day of the month. They no longer have to wait until that one day when a nurse has the vaccines, and she would go out and do a campaign. Now they can come out to the clinic any day they want.”
So much about that experience has stuck with Megan—working closely with nurses at remote health posts, giving trainings and performing ad hoc repairs, working through monsoons, no electricity and other chaotic challenges in the field. But the biggest takeaway, by far, was the impact on the health of thousands of children in developing countries around the world. “These devices vaccinate children that were previously unable to be vaccinated by efficacious vaccines,” says Megan. “This is huge. It means more kids are being vaccinated, and the farther out we’re able to reach, the more children we’re going to be able to help.”