Steve Wedd is a vet who is involved in interactive training and presentation. He works with delegates, candidates and job applicants, using acting techniques in real-time scenarios to test and expand their technical and interpersonal skills and competence.
- British Veterinary Association
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What made you become whatever it is you are? How did your veterinary degree help?
I never set out to become specifically what I am; that's simply a happy accident, an evolution from an aspiring acting career. In many ways, it was a common sense move, designed primarily to get me earning. The veterinary degree gives me a scientific edge in a world largely inhabited by arts graduates, and a grounding in fusing the analytical with the practical. It has also helped in bringing a professional approach to what I do, an understanding of who or what a ‘client’ is and how best to work with them.
How did you get to where you are today?
I did my veterinary degree at Bristol, graduating with a good grounding in my chosen profession, no grounding in meaningful communication, a belief that competence and social value would soon be mine and, unknown to me, a dormant passenger that had crept into my brain and was incubating there, courtesy of the final-year pantomime … I'd always had a performance streak in me. No drama training was offered at school, where the subject was considered incompatible with possession of a functioning brain.
Once in work, I started acting with amateur groups, twice leading to people I respected urging me to train in acting. The first time, I just listened; the second time, I did something about it, spurred on by a family tragedy.
I financed my way through an intensive, performance-based course, emerging into a world of networking and flouncing, which was utterly beyond me. In the mid-1990s I began to do a little work in the ‘acting for industry’ field, playing out guided business scenarios at assessment and development centres. This work slowly increased, interspersed with longer acting tours (including a year in Alnwick and a four-month tour of Austria – two high points). I went on courses in communication skills, giving effective feedback, forum theatre and psychological typing (a personal favourite), which have enhanced what I do. The veterinary involvement started about five years ago, working with the Veterinary Defence Society's excellent new graduate seminars, extending into practice seminars and the BVA.
What do you like about your job?
The sheer variety. It's satisfying to know that the practical angle I provide opens up far more learning areas than simple text-based exercises do. I love working with good, intelligent people from whom I might learn. A special mention here goes to the VDS, where I can be a man of two worlds and combine my two professions – and expand my knowledge of both – in excellent company.
What do you not like?
Believe it or not, working with ‘ac-tors’ and ‘luvvies’, especially in a business setting, where they can display a complete lack of sensitivity for their surroundings. Fortunately, most of my colleagues have a solid practical streak.
Why is your job important?
Life is a practical exercise and learning should be, too. I provide people with the rare chance to go against the claim that ‘life is not a rehearsal’.
What advice would you give to someone considering a similar career?
Make sure you have a proper job first, both to fall back on and to provide you with valuable experience. Be prepared for long periods of intermittent work. Be as flexible as possible in your approach. Keep being fascinated.⇓
What's the best piece of advice you were ever given?
‘Don't leave it until it's too late: do it now’ would certainly be one. One day I will act upon it. The other would be an old family saying: ‘Make work your pleasure’.
What was your proudest moment?
From the veterinary world, apart from graduating, it was repairing a diaphragmatic rupture in a flat cat, having first had to teach the nurse how to perform intermittent positive-pressure ventilation, and using kit that was at best rudimentary, then seeing the cat bouncing around the next week. From the acting world, being commended on my on-stage comic timing by Lee Hurst.
From the hybrid world I now live in, performing some guided but largely improvised scenes for a global webcast from a veterinary conference and exceeding client expectations – almost the encapsulation of a job well done.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
The first sketch I ever wrote. It was a valuable experience.