Champions for Change

Our series on “Champions for Change” will feature people of any gender in any role who are making a difference and creating positive change for women in the veterinary sector – enabling aspirations, inspiring, and supporting others to grow and follow their passions, and empowering our community.

PetsApp’s Naomi Oikonomou and Masa Matsunaga were both nominated for their creation of thought provoking content to empower the community and give a voice to female leaders within the veterinary professions. Find out more about how Naomi and Masa use their roles in industry to drive positive change:

Please provide a brief bio/summary of your career story:

Naomi Oikonomou is the Global Growth & Community Lead at PetsApp. Based in Greece, she is the mother of two human offspring, three chickens, one dog and a beehive. Naomi is an experienced marketer within both veterinary and pet care. Previously working on projects for the likes of Purina, VisioCare, VetYogi and VetzPetz. She also worked on PetsApp in its previous life as Gula. Her ‘Everything is Content’ session at Vetstagram 2023 highlighted her continued passion for community driven content.

Cat mama Masa Matsunaga is PetsApp’s Senior Marketing Designer and longest serving marketing pack member. London based, Masa is an experienced creative designer, and the extremely talented artist responsible for creating all the cute and loveable pet illustrations you see on PetsApp’s branding.

Please summarise how you are working towards change in the veterinary professions and why do you feel this is important?:

We’re lucky in that we work for a company that was born out of the need for change and so that lives on in everything we do. I think it was Steve Jobs that said, “Those crazy enough to think they can change the world, will,” and this is something that our co-founders Will Monk and Thom Jenkins have always driven into us as a pack.

Currently we’re working with groups like VSGD, Improve International, Flexee, Katie Ford and SPVS to offer a diverse spectrum of information which we hope will not only showcase just how much we’re listening to the collective needs of our community but also how keen we are to offer them a voice and empower them with the tools they need, whether that be for problem solving issues around the need for flexible working, facilitating self-improvement through continued learning or offering guidance on career development no matter how squiggly your career path is.

How do you feel this is making a difference?

We see it both within our growing following but also the feedback we receive. We know that many professionals within veterinary feel unheard and so there’s a big difference to be made when offering access to the knowledge needed to carve out the best, bespoke journeys for vets, their clients, and the pets they care for.

What motivated you to want to change things?

As a vet our CEO Thom witnessed and experienced the painful need for veterinary to change to create better outcomes for both veterinary teams and the pets they serve. Everything we create for our community is driven by that need and our own desire to give back to an extremely special community of amazing humans. We’ve got friends and family who work on the front lines as veterinary professionals and so nothing beats putting a session together that they not only want to attend, but also feel compelled to publicly thank us for creating. It’s hugely rewarding for us as it means we are constantly motivated to do more.

“Collaboration is key; that and making your content genuine and easy to access.”

How have you encouraged other people to get on board with your ideas?

Collaboration is key; that and making your content genuine and easy to access. We’ve never struggled to secure great, change-evoking speakers because of how open we are to working with everyone. We are very transparent about the fact that we want to help develop and bring innovative ideas to life and so for us there’s rarely a question of whether we will support and promote our community members, only: can we create value-adding educational content while doing it?! We see our platforms as communal spaces for sharing information and you can see instantly how refreshing collaborators find that approach as there’s no hidden agenda.

Controversially, we also only post content that we feel has genuine value and therefore never chase awareness days just to fill a content gap. Equally important to us is the accessibility of everything we create. We make sure to provide a regular variation of content across all platforms and media so that no matter your learning style, needs or workload, you can catch up with us both online and in person, in print or audio. It’s these little nuances that people appreciate and buy into when working with us.

Masa always has her ear to the social media ground, listening out for up-and-coming voices to connect with and I (Naomi) love getting out and about at events to meet people face to face, making sure that PetsApp is supporting and representing the wider community and the causes important to them.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in this journey and how have you overcome them?

We work as part of a scrappy, fully remote team, based across multiple geographies. Therefore, if we didn’t have the right structures and support in place, we could feel lonely and burn out very quickly. However, we make sure to live by what we preach and as a pack we know we can lean on one another, which is a wonderful feeling. We also make sure to work closely on all projects, never missing our weekly catch ups and virtual townhall pair-ups with the rest of the pack. And then whenever we can accommodate, we will book in some Wework time to catch up in person; Masa is the best at finding the tastiest and quirkiest London dine-ins and dives!

What has most helped and motivated you along the way?

As well as always having one another to bounce off, we’ve each also had really good mentors from within the pet and vet space, who not only pushed us forward in our careers but also inspired us to want to send the elevator back down to support others too.

“A real game changer is learning to both receive as well as lead with positive intent in order to drive positive change.”

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or that you would give to someone else, about driving positive change?

Something that can be a real game changer is learning to both receive as well as lead with positive intent in order to drive positive change. It is 100 per cent important to have in your mind what you want to achieve, but you need to manage your expectations and have a clear understanding that people won’t always think or move like you. And that’s ok, it’s not personal, it’s just different, and different can be a good driver, not just for change but also for enhancing the level of change you can achieve.

What are your next steps to continue creating change for the better?

For us our key driver is helping both vets and pets gain access to a better quality of life! We want to support a pet healthcare system that doesn’t sacrifice one for the other. We’re keen to advocate for vets in the same way we do pets, as for us it’s essential that not only do more pets gain access to a better healthcare, but that less vets miss their lunch or time with their families as a norm!

We’re currently in the middle of broadening our community content to reach a wider, more global arena, which has led us on a new path of discovery as we unearth varying issues across the different geographies. All of which we are keen to help resolve and raise awareness for.

At present in addition to monthly meet ups and shows, we have two (CPD/CE) webinar series, one for the UK & EU, the other for the US & AUS. We have a monthly Hot Topics Podcast, educational blog posts and articles, our weekly customer emailer and LinkedIn community newsletter and our newly curated bite sized learning library. It’s a lot of work to keep all the plates spinning but means we’ve an amazing ecosystem of content for continually leading change by providing a platform for other thought provoking key opinion leaders within the pet health space who also have a deep desire to create better outcomes for our veterinary peers.

A collage of our happy snaps..

Our thanks to Naomi and Masa for sharing their inspiring story of how they are championing change. If you would like to nominate a Champion for Change or share your story, please let us know.

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