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New directions: where a veterinary degree can lead
  1. Jonathan Moore

Abstract

It has been suggested that people have seven careers in their working lifetime. So far, Jonathan Moore has had two, and describes his career as a ‘work in progress’

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MY career is very much a work in progress. Despite whatever I may plan, if I have learned anything at all it's that we should expect the unexpected.

I graduated as a veterinary surgeon from the University of Bristol in 2003. At that stage, my career plan was simple; find a job in mixed practice, get broad experience of clinical work and see which area appealed to me the most.

As such, after just over a year working in west Yorkshire, I decided that equine practice was the direction for me. I applied for and secured a place at one of the largest private equine referral hospitals in the UK. This excellent experience formed a fantastic foundation to my subsequent career in first- opinion equine practice.

I worked in the south of England and New Zealand, in both full time and locum capacities for several happy years.

As time went on and I gained experience in different types of equine practice, embryonic thought processes started to form. Some of the practices I worked in were well managed, progressive, open, energetic and forward-thinking organisations. Some, however, were less so. I am quite sure that others will have had similar experiences and at times have thought along the lines of ‘this could be done in a better way’.

In addition to this, I spent time with many non-vet friends and had discussions relating to other industries and their management styles and working practices. What was becoming increasingly clear to me was that, in many cases, there were opportunities to improve how practices were run. Focusing on modern managerial techniques could have a vast impact on the success of both individual practices and the employees and partners of these practices. Ultimately, I felt that people could be happier in their roles if these issues were addressed.

Jonathan Moore (front row) is a key account manager for Elanco Animal Health. He is pictured with the other members of the company's equine business unit

Forward progression was halted by an obvious and critical barrier; I didn't have the first clue about running a business or the intricacies of modern managerial techniques.

Like many people, my veterinary training contained little or no information on business matters, a fact that I consider to be a glaring oversight, given that most graduates are heading in the direction of private practice. For most vets I have spoken to, the learning curve is steep and tends only to be embarked upon when joining a partnership or a corporate practice structure.

I faced a decision: stay in practice and work towards a partnership, thus embarking on the steep trial and error learning curve, or make a professional change and try something new. The latter option terrified me, as I'm sure it does anyone contemplating career change. I had a nice safe niche in a practice that I very much liked and I enjoyed the majority of the work that I did.

A conversation with a business friend, one evening over a pint, changed everything. I was talking through my thoughts and suggested to him that I might take a part time business course. ‘Why not go all in and do a MBA?’ was his reaction. I was still (relatively) young, had no ties (there had been a big change in my recent personal circumstances) and had some savings in the bank (provisionally to put down as a deposit on a house). It would be a radical step.

For all the risk this involved, there was a crucial factor, which was invaluable when mentioning my plan to friends, colleagues and family; if it doesn't work then I am still an experienced equine veterinary surgeon. It's comforting to have a safety net.

I found a suitable course at the University of Southampton and enrolled. At this stage I had no fixed plan regarding where this master's degree would take me, other than vague ideas around business consultancy. I would see what opportunities arose.

I opted to study full time, in order to complete the course as fast as possible. This meant stepping away from practice, apart from the occasional locum role, and going back to being a student. Initially, it was a shock to the system. I had to budget carefully, develop my teamworking abilities, buy a calculator, do exams, write essays and get very familiar with Google Scholar.

As hard as this was, the benefits were enormous. I met a diverse group of people from all different walks of life and industries, dusted off areas of my brain that had gone into stasis and ultimately saw the world in a new light and from a new perspective. I graduated with distinction and decided to look for a new opportunity, which would use both my veterinary experience and my business degree.

I have developed a new-found respect for anyone going through career change. It takes time, is frustrating and filled with highs and lows. After careful consideration and research, I decided that the pharmaceutical industry was a wise area to target.

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I was asked to speak at the British Equine Veterinary Association congress about my MBA dissertation and the relevance of social networking in equine practice. While there, I dove into the commercial area to see if anyone was hiring. After a time, I arrived at the Elanco stand.

I had met one of its representatives previously. Interestingly, she had heard about my MBA and was keen to talk to me regarding a potential position. Elanco was (and still is) growing rapidly and, as such, a new equine business unit had been initiated. The plan for this business unit was for it to be the primary value contributor to equine practices through business development activities. I applied as soon as possible.

Being a representative for a pharmaceutical company is a slightly unusual option for a vet; if entering industry, most go down the technical consultancy path. For me, however, it is perfect. I believe a fundamental understanding of sales and commerce is crucial in any business venture, whether it be a product or service industry. It is also a fantastic opportunity to gain a deep understanding of the broader equine veterinary business. I meet many people in practice and we are in a position to offer business assistance to those practices that are keen to work with us for mutual benefit.

It is exciting to be at the start of something new, both personally and as part of a new business venture. We are all very keen to be seen as a highly valuable contributor to the growth and success of equine practices across the country.

A dedicated equine business unit is a new venture for Elanco globally. As such, I am hopeful that success will lead to new and exciting opportunities in the future. I very much look forward to seeing where these new directions will take me.

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