CAREER COACH AND FOUNDER OF VET HARMONY
Owner and founder of Vet Harmony, personal growth and career coaching for those in the veterinary profession. Co-founder of Lilypod, the UKs first floating geodesic dome glamping project.
What were your first career steps and how did that work out?
I started in small animal practice in a large 20-vet high clinical level practice with 6 branches. I had unrealistic expectations of general practice and I put myself under unnecessary pressure and struggled with having to make best clinical judgments in general practice. This took a big toll on my mental health - I really feel that we have an endemic culture in the profession where anxiety, exhaustion, and total over-work are almost status symbols or markers of self-worth, and certainly seen as ‘normal’ and part of the job. It’s got to stop!
I returned to vet school and did an internship, with a view to going down the specialist route, but during that year realized that it was not the right path for me either. I felt very lost for a while! I didn’t want to go back to general practice, I was heartbroken that my lifelong dream career was making me sick with anxiety and deeply unhappy, but I also didn’t want to leave my beloved profession. It was a real low point. However I knew I was talented and had so much to offer, I just needed help understanding why I felt the way I did and how I could use my skills in a different way within the profession.
I went on to become Senior Veterinary Surgeon at Vets Now for a new clinic they planned to open which allowed me to develop further non-clinical transferable skills. I then went on to help set up Pet Blood Bank UK and spent 9 months doing blood drives and delivering transfusion medicine CPD around the country.
A big turning point in my career was when I moved into my first non-clinical role as Business Development Manager for Vets Now, which was a role I thrived in. After three years of setting up new emergency clinics around the UK, I ended up on the senior management board as Head of Customer Development. By then I’d met my husband and moved to Devon so traveling all over the country constantly was harder and I moved to Vet Dynamics, working with Alan Robinson delivering business, leadership and management training to independent vet practice owners.
So how did you decide to become a career coach?
The biggest breakthrough for me was starting to work with a life coach, and also with some careers analysts in London, completing different psychometric profiling. This produced a detailed report on my preferences, strengths and weaknesses and therefore what type of work tasks I might better enjoy and be good at. Once I had the skills of how to assess myself, what I enjoyed and what I was good at, I was then able to fine tune with each job change what I was doing to really get in my own “personal gift” zone – a process I’m still following today.
For example, when I initially read the job description for Business Development manager at Vets Now, it didn’t sound very appealing; at the time I was hesitant to step away from clinical work. However, it fit the blueprint of what the Careers Analysts had given me so I thought I’d give it a go to see if they were right. I never looked back!
Now we have a three year old daughter so I wanted to have a more flexible work schedule while using my coaching skills which is what lead me to launch my new service “Vet Harmony”. I provide coaching and mentoring to vets, who are unsure of where they fit into the profession, or of what they truly want, to help them find their place! I’m also currently using my business, marketing, and project management skills to help my husband launch our glamping business, Lilypod so have strayed into entrepreneurship too!
What did you need to do to get into this career path?
I don’t have a long list of official qualifications to my name to prove my skills as I’ve learned them all on the job. Having said that, the following experiences were really helpful for me to transition into this role:
Leadership and management skills during my time as Senior Veterinary Surgeon for Vets Now
Public speaking and teaching skills via my work at Pet Blood Bank UK and Vets Now
High-level business skills by being on the senior management board for Vets Now including finance, marketing, recruitment, PR, HR, negotiating, project management and acquisitions. Many of these skills developed from the transferrable veterinary skills of problem-solving and effective communication.
Effective complaint handling from my work at Vets Now and in conjunction with VDS Training
Coaching and mentoring skills from my work with Vet Dynamics and also from experiencing really fantastic coaches and mentors myself that I invested in personally or had at Vets Now.
Getting certified as a HBDI Practitioner (a psychometric profiling tool)
Were there any barriers to entry and how did you overcome them?
The biggest barrier would have been finding a place of work that allows you to grow and change and try on different roles. Luckily with Vets Now I had an employer who recruited for attitude and aptitude rather than just core skills, and who was willing to let me try several different roles within the company to find what worked. (I did 6 different roles for them in the 5 years I was there!)
What are the best bits about your current role and are there any downsides?
Talking to veterinary professionals and giving them space to solve their own problems and watching their personal transformations. It’s a huge privilege to share people’s journeys and lovely to see them blossom and overcome barriers. Downsides – not really any I can think of!
Could you give us an overview of a typical day/tasks?
I start work at my home office at, check emails and prepare for first coaching call. Talk to about 3 or 4 clients via Skype or phone for 1 to 2 hours each time. Write up notes and action anything I’ve said I’ll help them with. I then spend time preparing slides and content for upcoming training I may be delivering. Researching and reading topics from key thought leaders that could be translated into the veterinary setting to help people.
I finish my work day at 5pm and switch off phone and laptop knowing I don’t need to look at it again until the next morning! This allows me to spend time with my daughter, cook fresh food, walk on the beach or at a local park or go for a bike ride or if winter, sit on the sofa with a glass of wine, a box set and my knitting!
What sort of person would thrive in this career path?
Those with a keen interest in what makes people tick, psychology and mindset. You need to have genuine empathy and compassion for others rather than just a desire to ‘educate’ as coaching is about giving people space and support while they work through their challenges rather than training them. A non-judgemental attitude and an ability to know yourself and your own thinking preferences is useful as each client may need you to communicate with them differently. In that way it’s not too dissimilar to consulting!
What advice would you give to someone becoming a career coach?
Coaching is great but it’s not for everyone and I would advise anyone considering it to get some psychometric profiling done to look at how you currently prefer to use your brain and how much that matches the type of skills coaching uses.. Getting help in understanding your own unique skills and talents is key to finding the right path for you as an individual.
Get some help in working out what your transferable skills are (we have so many as vets!) with a good coach or mentor. Be brave enough to try some different roles and also don’t be scared of ‘failing’ if they don’t work out. Each new role you try will give you more information on what you truly want.