‘I thought working in industry might make me deskbound, but my job is so much more’
Having qualified from the Royal Veterinary College in 2001, I worked for a spell in mixed practice before deciding to locum.
To be honest, I found it terrifying at first, especially as I was only one-year qualified, but working with so many different people in so many different practices really helped me to understand that we are all doing the same job, just in different ways. It helped to set the path for my future career.
Next, I spent some time working in small animal practice in north London before returning home to Yorkshire, where I worked at a number of independent small animal practices. I have benefited in many ways from every practice I have worked at, but never shied away from changing jobs if I thought it would help my career.
'Working in practice benefited me in many ways'
My husband and I are qualified indoor snowboard instructors and, before we were married, we considered spending a winter season in the mountains. Due to changes at the practice I was working at, my role was in transition, so it felt like a natural time to go. We took the plunge and spent the winter snowboarding in Verbier, Switzerland, with our two black Labradors, and, as it turned out, dog-sitting a German shepherd dog. Even in my ‘winter off’, animals were destined to play an important role in my life. At first, I was concerned that I would forget my veterinary knowledge after a six- month break, but it turned out to not be a problem at all.
When we came home, I returned to locum work, which I had been able to set up before we left. It was an easy decision because we had a wedding and a long honeymoon planned, so it suited me to be able to work flexibly for the next two years. As it turned out, it also helped me to secure a permanent role in a practice for my return from our honeymoon.
In 2016, I felt ready to move on from general practice. A maternity cover role for a veterinary adviser had become available at Yorkshire-based Animalcare, so I applied.
Moving into industry
My move into industry was an enormous change, but it is one that I have never regretted. During my time at Animalcare, coincidentally a company led almost entirely by women, I have worked in multiple areas of the business, including technical support, pharmacovigilance, regulatory affairs and product development.
So much is involved in the development and supply of pharmaceuticals that many vets working in practice are probably unaware of, and veterinary skills are an essential part of the business.
'There is always something new to learn, sometimes from unexpected sources'
Today, I am the senior veterinary manager. My role is very diverse, but includes providing clinical advice and support to our key accounts team, marketing and sales teams, as well as vets in practice.
I use my knowledge of veterinary practice and medicine on a daily basis and feel that I am still making maximum use of my degree even though I don’t see patients.
Exercise is important
It is no coincidence that exercise is an important part of many vets’ lives and I am no exception. There are many transferable skills, as relevant in practice as they are in sport – individual motivation, leadership and team work. Most importantly, I find sport really helps me maintain a good work-life balance.
Among other things, I run frequently, volunteer with my local running club committee, and act as head coach and secretary of the York and District Road Race League. I play club hockey and am a member of the Zoot Europe triathlon team, competing in multiple events every year – although sadly not this year because of Covid-19.
Setting a record
Last year, I was part of a team that set a Guinness World Record for the most people running a marathon tied together. There were 122 of us running for Cancer Research Wales at the Wales Marathon.
Teamwork skills came in handy on the day as we had to get everyone to run at the same speed, move through the aid stations and cross the finish line together. We weren’t tied together when we used the Portaloos though! I am very proud to be a Guinness World Record holder.
The high point of my veterinary career so far is undoubtedly the fabulous teams and wonderful people I have worked with, many of whom have remained close friends.
Notably, I am extremely lucky to have worked with a number of experienced, hard working and amazing veterinary nurses. Frequently underestimated, they guide new graduates more than we acknowledge.
Through working in many practices and then moving into a totally new role, I’ve also learned never to presume that you know everything. There is always something new to learn, sometimes from unexpected sources.
Top tips for younger vets
• Consider doing locum work. Building an appreciation of the different methods and protocols in use in different clinics allows you to adopt the best practices and decide on your own approach.
• Don’t be afraid to move jobs. If you feel that you are looking for something different, strive to find what you want and make the change. People move jobs for all sorts of reasons, but make sure that you have a definite goal and a plan in place.
• Keep an open mind. Don’t make a judgement on a different career until you know more about it. There are so many opportunities out there for vets. I thought an industry role might involve sitting at a desk answering the phone. The reality is that it’s much more diverse and I couldn’t be happier that I took the chance to change.