“I try not to let my own reservations or anxieties hold me back, because I will still have them whether I pursue something or not!”

Helen Harrison is a Veterinary Advisor for TVM-UK Animal Health Ltd, and gained her Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice in 2021. She enjoys clinical work with locum shifts at weekends, and highly recommends the support power of pets, and cuddles with a Labrador.

Please summarise your career journey so far:

  • Graduated from the University of Bristol in 2016 with a BVSc (distinction)
  • Completed my university elective placement in industry (with Dechra) where I developed a keen interest to pursue a career as a veterinary technical advisor.
  • Worked in various small animal practices following graduation, including stints locuming and also completing some short-term consultancy work with several pharmaceutical companies.
  • In November 2020, started a full-time position as a Veterinary Advisor for TVM-UK and still enjoy clinical work with the occasional locum shift at weekends.
  • Gained my Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice (CertAVP) in 2021.

Describe your typical day from waking to sleeping

There is no such thing as a typical day in a Veterinary Advisor position!

My days are split between ‘field’ work and working from home.

When I’m at home, a typical day will usually involve some ‘Teams’ meetings, reading lots of scientific literature (I get to be a geek!), developing training resources, delivering training to colleagues, writing technical copy for marketing materials and dealing with technical enquiries including pharmacovigilance complaints. I usually break up my day with a lunchtime walk with my Labrador!

Days in the field usually involve dual calling with territory sales managers when they visit practices to deliver lunch and learns and covers the entire of the UK.

Evenings are spent keeping the house in order, cooking, walking, playing piano, reading or watching webinars and sometimes enjoying trashy TV with a cuppa!

How would you describe yourself in a sentence?

Enthusiastic and impulsive with a healthy dose of scepticism!

How would others describe you in a sentence?

In the words of my partner ‘scientifically minded, compassionate and very stubborn!’ in the words of my boss ‘driven, organised with a goofy sense of humour’.

What has been your top success and what have you learned from this?

I tend not to focus on one big success and try to appreciate all the little ones along the way – otherwise I think it’s easy to become disillusioned if we think only the big or recent successes are worth celebrating!

Top ones that come to mind include my academic achievements (my degree and CertAVP), landing my dream job with TVM, buying a house with my wonderful partner and getting a mischievous Labrador! Only one of these achievements could be considered recent, but I still appreciate the successes of the others every day.

The biggest thing I’ve learnt is to just go for it if there’s something you want to do and not to be deterred if the chances of success appear slim. I try not to let my own reservations or anxieties hold me back (e.g., imposter syndrome), because I will still have them whether I pursue something or not! I also have learnt it’s important to celebrate the successes that aren’t directly in our control, because it serves as a healthy reminder that we only have finite control over positive accomplishments. Too often people are overly self-critical of bad outcomes despite it being beyond their control, yet fail to accept praise or celebrate successes for positive achievements they deem beyond their control.

What has been your biggest challenge, setback or failure and how have you overcome it? How did you grow or change as a result?

I had a really difficult time working for a former employer, there were multiple compounding factors that resulted in the environment being a toxic place to work and certainly not a good fit for me. It took me a long time to realise it was the situation that needed to change and not me – I worked myself into the ground trying my best to adapt and give it my all before recognising that the environment wasn’t giving me what I need to enjoy my job.

I’ve learnt a lot about my motivations and what I need to be happy at work as a consequence. These include things such as clear objectives, time and resources to do my job to a high standard, structure, breaks, two-way feedback, camaraderie, avoiding employers with a blame culture, support, trust and culture than encourages creativity. I feel really lucky to have found a job with TVM that not only meets these ideals but exceeds them!

What compromises have you had to make and what, if anything, could have helped?

It depends what you view as a compromise. You could say that I had to compromise some of my free time when I was studying towards my CertAVP as I would often be working in the evenings and at weekends, however I don’t really view it as such, because I enjoyed what I was doing. Perhaps the only compromise is that the dog hair accumulated on the carpet more than I’d like as I had less free time to run the hoover around!

I feel very fortunate to be in a position where I have not had to make any big sacrifices or compromises so far in life.

What advice would you have given to your younger self, that you would now give to others wanting to follow your path?

I used to hate the word at university when we had to do essays on the topic… but ‘reflection’ is a great exercise. I find this comes most naturally to me when I’m out walking the dog and as such it doesn’t feel like a big task that I’ve had to take time out of my day for. I think it’s very easy to just trundle along without really pinning down what motivates you, what excites you and where you want to be going. Without recognising this and drilling down into the details, it’s hard to dream about where you would like your career to take you in future.

My second bit of advice is that if you really want something, work hard and there’s always a way to achieve your goal!

 I couldn’t have got where I am today without…

A cliché answer for a vet, I know, but honestly without the support of pets! Everything seems better or more possible after a cuddle with a Labrador!

On a (slightly) more serious note, I am hugely grateful to have a supportive mother, partner and friends who have really rallied me when I faltered.

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