Written by Silvia Janska Reading time: 6 mins
Can you give us a brief outline of your job?
I have a portfolio career, which means that I have a variety of jobs, where some are more permanent and secure and some are ‘ad-hoc’. I work as an equine ambulatory vet in the UK, currently as a locum. I also work as a consultant for animal health startups (www.innoveting.com), for example consulting on the current UK market, and managing clinical trials. I am also a co-founder and a CEO of two startups within the UK vet space, one looking at pet health and wellbeing, and the other looking at flexible working for permanent vet employees (www.flexee.vet).
Where did your interest in working in this sector come from?
I think like many, I wanted to be a vet since I was 5 years old. I remember telling my dad that I want to ride horses, which was the start of my journey into vet school. I wasn’t immediately accepted to vet school and so ended up doing a research degree first, then a Masters, and then an accelerated vet degree at the RVC.
How did you get into it?
I had a very squiggly but beautiful career path. Already as a student, I have worked at the e-Media department at the RVC on various projects – such as Wikivet, OVAM, and predominantly setting up the Echo360 lecture recording system for the university. So from this, I knew I enjoyed having a variety in my life and having small passion projects and side hustles during my full time roles was fulfilling for me. I also tried to find a way for how I can combine experience and knowledge from my four degrees – biological sciences, veterinary medicine, and business development – and apply it to innovative initiatives within veterinary profession and the wider animal health industry.
What sort of different roles did you do to get to where you are today?
After I graduated as a vet, I did an equine internship, thinking I will specialize in equine soft tissue surgery. However, I enjoyed doing the ambulatory work and so I stayed in full time practice for 7 years. During my time in practice, I started developing passion for innovation and turning ideas into practical solutions that would help improve the vet profession. While I was still in practice, I completed a certificate in Veterinary Business Management (CertVBM) and consulted for a compounding company during my studies. I really enjoyed this and was keen to continue this kind of work, which lead me to where I am now.
Did you have a plan to get to a certain point/level in your career Or did you just keep picking moves that looked interesting to you?
At the beginning I had a clear goal of wanting to be an equine vet. Once I achieved that, while it was a nice life, I felt like something was missing. I no longer had a concrete career goal. This is when I did some reflecting and realized that a purely clinical work was not for me, which lead me to start Flexee and obtain a certificate in VBM. The VBM provided me with fundamentals in entrepreneurship, marketing, HR, accounting, and strategy, and gave me credibility when I was looking for opportunities in business development in the veterinary and animal health space. The other thing that I did was network and talk to a large variety of professionals – vets in clinics, vets who left clinics, people in industry, people in start-ups, people in large and small companies, etc. Not only did I meet some amazing people and made new friends, I also saw which topics energized me and which drained me. This helped me narrow down what specific projects/work I want to do and gain further experience in.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My ‘typical day’ depends on which job I am doing. If I am working in clinics, it’s a day on the road as an ambulatory vet seeing patients and emergencies. If I am working on the start-ups, my days can be extremely varied depending on what stage the start-up is in. For example some of the very early start-ups require me to do a bit of everything - from content creation, to scouting and meeting potential strategic partners, developing and actioning the strategy, liaising with colleagues, fundraising, developing branding, and of course without customers to serve there is nothing, so communicating with prospective customers and creating client acquisition strategies is a key part. Good communication and management of time and expectations are important.
What would you say are the best and worst aspects of the job?
For me, being very self-motivated, the best part of my work lifestyle is the autonomy and freedom it provides. I also enjoy the relationship-building aspect of my work and constantly meeting new like-minded people. On the other hand, I have little patience with some of the more detailed tasks, as I am more of a ‘bigger-vision’ person.
What are the main skills you need to be a...?
I am where I am thanks to both my technical skills, being a vet, a researcher, and having an entrepreneur mindset, but also my soft skills. These include good communication – being able to relate to people, communicating through one-to-one discussions and building relationships, team building, leading by motivating and supporting others.
What are the common misconceptions that people have about the work you do?
Maybe some think that being in meetings is boring, and sure it may be in some circumstances or for some people, but start-up meetings are where things more forward and I enjoy these. Also, people may have a pre-conceived idea of what ‘consulting’ means, but it can mean whatever it needs to for what you are able to deliver.
What advice would you give someone wanting to break into this career?
My number one advice would be to know very well what energizes you. If you do work that bring you energy, if will feel fulfilling and you will be happy. Of course, there are ups and downs in everything we do, but overall, you need to do the kind of work that brings you joy and energy. You may know this just by being self-aware, speaking to a variety of people and noticing what you are interested in and what you are not interested in, doing a personality test or a talent profile test and seeing if that matches your previous experiences, or finding the right life/career coach who can help direct you. Then it is a matter of finding short projects or volunteering in projects/work that you think would be of interest and seeing if your thoughts are confirmed or moving on and trying something different.