Working in industry using skills learned in practice
My calling to pursue a veterinary career path came at around the age of 5 when I confidently announced this unusually serious and committed decision to my family. To their surprise I never faltered from my objective and subsequently found myself, age 14, helping at the local veterinary practice. In what now seems like no time at all, I was enrolled on the course at Bristol university and studying for a veterinary degree.
A passion for companion animal practice
Throughout my veterinary education I convinced myself that I was destined for mixed practice, motivated by the diverse challenges it brought and the range of settings I found myself in, whether that was a farm yard, stable or warm clinic room. However, during my final-year rotations, I realised that my true passion and talents lay in companion animal practice. Something intangible drew me to that consulting room and that's where I decided to start my career.
What was a nice surprise in my first role as a small animal vet was the variety of small animals I treated; it turned out that my boss was a goat specialist, which kept things interesting. As time progressed and I developed as a vet, it was soon obvious that I was more of a medic than a surgeon as I found complex medical cases particularly rewarding. I also enjoyed the relationships I built with regular customers and their pets.
"I soon realised that the more you inform and educate owners, the more they learn to recognise disease early and comply with treatment regimes"
Working in practice means that individuals get passionate about different aspects of their job; for me, I have always had an interest in geriatric care and genuinely feel that more can be done for our elderly patients. I soon realised that the more you inform and educate owners, the more they learn to recognise disease early and comply with treatment regimes. This led me to set up client information evenings during which we discussed ageing in dogs and cats and how owners could help their animals to experience a better quality of life as they got older.
Increasing awareness of disease in older animals
I built on this idea, working with the nursing team to add ‘senior wellness checks’ alongside client information evenings. These proved popular, even attracting clients from other practices and, as a result, we were actually able to diagnose some conditions early in the disease course, well before the animals were showing obvious clinical signs. Increased owner awareness was particularly useful for cases of chronic renal disease as it enabled us to implement early intervention and, hopefully, help the animals live longer, healthier lives. Of course the patients weren't the only ones to benefit; I also learned a lot. While client bonding and increased revenue were good for the practice, organising the evenings and presenting to clients during them helped me to develop new skills that have proved useful in my current role.
Finding new challenges
Having been in practice for 3.5 years, honing my skills through routine work and performing some more advanced medical and surgical procedures, I decided I needed a new challenge. I spent six months locuming in a variety of practices in order to gain experience both clinically and from a business viewpoint, while I considered the directions that were open to me.
Working in industry
Working in industry had not been something I had considered up to that point, but the opportunity to develop new skills, work in a new environment and focus on my medical expertise was an appealing option. So it was that, in September 2014, I started work for Virbac as a veterinary technical adviser.
"Having been in practice for 3.5 years, I decided I needed a new challenge"
The role is diverse in that I provide support to vets and owners about our wide portfolio of products (which is mainly office based) alongside supporting the marketing team. I also often head out on the road with our sales team to provide technical information to vets about a product or the animal they are treating, which may lead to formal product training for the vet and their own team. Given the breadth of our product range, this is no mean feat and there is always something new to learn or new regulatory controls that I need to familiarise myself with. And science can throw us a curve ball; for example, antimicrobial resistance, for which I sit on multiple NOAH committees in order to make sure that we take an active role in current issues. Another part of the job I enjoy, which adds further diversity, is the opportunity to travel to our headquarters in France three to four times a year to contribute to discussions on existing products and to meet a variety of key opinion leaders, which is extremely interesting. I love the fact that every day is different; it keeps me on my toes.
Improving business knowledge
Not to rest on my laurels and to continue expanding my knowledge base, I have recently enrolled on a part-time masters degree in management and business. While it's proving a challenge to juggle it alongside my job, my business knowledge will improve and the content of the course is really interesting, especially applying what we are learning to case studies in industry. I'm also about to start to organise my wedding, so life is set to become even more hectic!
Technical roles tend to vary from company to company but, in addition to veterinary knowledge, it's certainly important to have a keen interest in commercial business, not, of course, at the expense of your passion for veterinary medicine. Whether I'm learning about a new product, preparing a training session or researching an unusual case, I'm continually learning and remain entrenched in the veterinary world. This in turn means I still have a positive impact on the lives of animals, which is very important to me.
"Whether I'm learning about a new product, preparing a training session or researching an unusual case, I'm continually learning and remain entrenched in the veterinary world"
Working in industry is, however, not for the faint-hearted. I've had some great experiences working with Virbac and although some people think it is a nine-to-five desk job with commitments such as travelling, CPD events and evening meetings, it is certainly much more than that. That said, it's been a great change in direction for me and I am thoroughly enjoying challenging myself and applying my knowledge in a new but complementary way.