After seven years in general practice, Chris Taylor joined the pharmaceutical industry and is now technical director of Virbac Animal Health
- British Veterinary Association
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What attracted you to work in veterinary pharmaceuticals?
Having qualified in 1979 and worked in general practice for seven years I reached a crisis point, based upon disillusionment with the way in which one or two senior colleagues conducted themselves. I noticed an advertisement in Veterinary Record for a veterinary adviser post at C-Vet (long since subsumed into a corporate giant). I thought about applying but decided against it because the wording of the advertisement seemed ambivalent/ambiguous about the role. However, the post was re-advertised two months later; this time the wording seemed much more attractive, so I applied. My answer at interview to the question ‘Why didn't you apply the first time?’ basically got me the job.
How did you get to where you are today?
After about five years at C-Vet in a technical advisory and regulatory role, I was appointed marketing manager of large and companion animal vaccines. Over these years I attended a variety of training courses on, for example, public speaking and time management, but my product knowledge was entirely self-taught. After seven years at C-Vet I was not comfortable with the direction of the company – I felt it had been ‘gift-wrapped’ to be sold off. It was, two years later.
After a two-year spell as an account director at an advertising agency (disillusionment again!), I received a telephone call from the then managing director of Virbac asking if I would help them out for a few months on a consultancy basis. That was August 1996 and I'm still here. After a spell as technical services manager I then became technical and marketing manager and finally was appointed technical director.
Describe some of the activities that your job involves.
My main role is heading up our technical team of veterinary surgeons – together we provide day-to-day advice on our product range. I am also responsible for health and safety, regulatory issues, Environment Agency matters as well as the direction of Virbac UK.
What do you like about your job?
The variety is the most attractive aspect, along with the responsibility; also of great importance is the feeling of making a difference. This is an important issue in all our lives. How often do we ask ourselves ‘What did I do today that made a difference?’ and come up with a not particularly satisfying answer? A feature throughout my employment in the industry is autonomy – I have always enjoyed a pretty hefty degree of autonomy.
What do you not like?
In common with vets in general practice, I don't particularly enjoy difficult cases where people are unpleasant from the outset. However, managing such situations to a satisfactory conclusion is very satisfying.
Why is your job important?
I have a number of people who depend upon me from above and below. I perform a number of functions, which are perhaps unsung, but are vital to the continued smooth running of the company.
What advice would you give to someone considering a similar career?
In general a veterinary advisory role is varied and provides many intellectual challenges. The core responsibility is dealing with day-to-day inquiries from vets/farmers/nurses/members of the public regarding drug use, which is frequently off label, not to mention dealing with suspect adverse drug reactions. Other main activities would be training sales teams on new and existing drugs, writing technical copy for marketing, and involvement in product registration issues, as well as politics and consumer issues. It is essential to keep up to speed with Veterinary Medicines Directorate edicts and European developments on issues such as licensing, residues, consumer matters and antimicrobial resistance. It is also fair to say that after a while other doors may open – quite a few CEOs and MDs have been and are vets.
What's the best piece of advice you were ever given?
When in a meeting, listen carefully to what is being said, make notes and then say your piece when invited, in a cogent, persuasive, considered manner.
What was your proudest moment?
After many years of apparently being the only vet who was convinced that the major route of access by allergens into dogs was percutaneous, I was finally exonerated by a distinguished professor at a dermatology conference.
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