Dragons’ Den Keynote shows the profession how to fly on day two of BSAVA Virtual Congress - Veterinary Practice
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Dragons’ Den Keynote shows the profession how to fly on day two of BSAVA Virtual Congress

Jenny Campbell dispensed advice on how to fly in your career, nurture a nest of little ones and deal with challenges of gender bias, inflexible bosses and the growing tyranny of technology

“Here be Dragons” was the sign outside the BSAVA’s virtual congress on Friday. But instead of mythical fire-breathing monsters, there was something wise and inspiring to launch day two of BSAVA Virtual Congress (25 – 27 March 2021).

Rather than breathing fire during her keynote speech today, Jenny Campbell from the popular BBC 1 programme Dragons’ Den, dispensed advice on how to fly in your career, nurture a nest of little ones and deal with challenges of gender bias, inflexible bosses and the growing tyranny of technology.

In conversation with RCVS president Mandisa Greene, Mrs Campbell looked back on her 30-year career in banking, her transformation into an award-winning entrepreneur and her subsequent appearances on national television.

Born in Cheshire, Jenny left school at 16 to work for the NatWest Bank. Despite short career breaks when her two sons were born, she advanced steadily in the banking world before leading a management buyout of one of her employer’s subsidiary businesses operating ATM machines. As head of operations for the company, renamed YourCash, she transformed it from a loss-making concern into a successful business operating in three countries.

But it wasn’t always a smooth path. Jenny explained how in her 20s she had to fight for the job grading that would guarantee her position would still be there after returning from maternity leave. As her career took off, it was challenging to find the same amount of time for her children as a stay-at-home mum. So instead of always being able to help her boys with their school projects, she made good use of weekends and holidays, taking them on adventures.

Such as? Going camping in the woods and cooking sausages, she suggests. “Have fun with your kids. That is what they will remember you for.”

Jenny never felt that being a woman was an obstruction in her career and her advice to younger colleagues would be to forget about gender and just be yourself. “Sometimes as women, we do don’t have confidence in ourselves and what is possible for us to do. There is no such thing as a glass ceiling, there are only sticky floors,” she said.

After selling the company in 2016, Jenny moved on to various roles including that of the sceptical investor on television. She left that job in 2019 and now helps to support her own sons’ business careers while also working as an advisor for various charities.

In her spare time, Jenny breeds and shows flat-coated retrievers and works hard to ensure that there is always time for this hobby in her busy schedule. “It is harder these days because the technology is all pervasive. But if I am on holiday, I switch off the phone and say I don’t want anyone to contact me, unless it is urgent, then just send a text. Getting a good work-life balance is hard but self-discipline and educating others not to bombard you with unnecessary messages does help.”

The day was packed with highlights, from practical CPD to inspiring clinical presentations and a stimulating second keynote talk. Derek Mills told delegates that there is an “inner genius” within every one of us, we just have to find that inspiration and give it the opportunity to thrive. He explained that he is the very opposite of an overnight success. At 38 years old he considered himself a failure in life but believes his life changed when he spent just a few seconds listening to what his “true self” was trying to tell him. What he heard on that occasion is set out in his book “The 10 Second Philosophy”. The most important lesson is one that others can easily learn, he says: “Be kind to yourself and be patient with others.”

The “Can the Profession Go Green?” stream started with a hard-hitting presentation from Libby Kemkaran-Thompson explaining the science behind global warming and providing delegates with data to help with effecting behaviour change. Despite the frightening statistics, the stream provided delegates with hope, motivation and practical advice on implementing green initiatives in practice, with presentations from Ellie West, Becky Sedman and Zoe Halfacree. The stream concluded with a PechaKucha session focussing on topics including travel footprints, going green in the NHS and how VNs can drive one health.

In the Neurology on a Shoestring stream Tom Cardy and Holger Volk considered the keys to cost-effective neurological diagnosis. Tom talked delegates through a logical approach to the neurological examination in general practice, utilising the “Five-Finger Rule” to generate a list of prioritised differential diagnoses. Holger began by saying “The most expensive tool you have is your brain, but it is probably the one thing we don’t charge enough for.” He went on to discuss why, when and how various diagnostic tests can be utilised. The session provided delegates with plenty of examples and case studies and prompted several thoughtful questions from the audience.

In the exhibitor stream Vetlife spoke about the serious effects of the past 12 months on the veterinary profession, with helpline calls up 25 percent in 2020. “The Vetlife phone line is open to everyone in the veterinary profession. It’s not just there for you in a crisis – they provide a compassionate listening ear if you’re having a bad day, for example and don’t have a support network,” said Adrian Nelson-Pratt, Trustee of Vetlife.

Don’t miss the start of tomorrow’s sessions with the opening address from keynote Dr Ranj at 8.45am.

To register for BSAVA Virtual Congress visit the website.

For information on how to become a BSAVA member visit the BSAVA website.

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