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Naomi Mellor - welcome to Vet Mentors!

Naomi qualified from the University of Edinburgh in 2007 and since graduation has worked in mixed and equine practice both at home and overseas, completing a certificate in Equine Medicine in 2015. She now enjoys the variety of a diversified career, working as a vet for the British Horseracing Authority, running her own business as an equine locum, and producing a podcast, Smashing The Ceiling, exploring the ‘how’ of career success with interesting and inspiring women.

Naomi currently sits on the committees of both Women in Racing and the Association of Racecourse Veterinary Surgeons, and is a passionate advocate of women in sport and women in STEM. Outside of work, she loves the great outdoors, and if a surfboard, pair of skis or her trail running shoes are involved, all the better.

1 Tell us about a daily habit or routine you practice that contributes to your productivity and fulfilment?

The honest answer to this is that I am not a great person of habit or routine - I would love to be fabulously organised but the reality is things are often quite chaotic! Three simple things I have found useful though:

1. Plugging my phone in just outside my bedroom door - less scrolling through social media in bed, more productivity.

2. Having a pint of water on the bedside table to drink as soon as the alarm goes off - rehydrates you, and wakes you up ready for the day.

3. Sleep. The more the better.

What was a major setback that you learnt the most from, or actually turned out to be a success?

When I was 25 I moved abroad to take a job that I knew very little about, in a place where I knew absolutely nobody. It was initially an extremely stressful and difficult working environment and a very lonely time during which I was quite unhappy. I thought I’d made a huge mistake and very nearly quit to come home.

In time, that job turned out to be one of the biggest and best learning experiences I’ve ever had. I made friends for life there, and came to understand the importance of persistence, resilience and tenacity in building your career.

When you start to doubt your own ability, or are having 'a bad day at the office', how do you get back on track? Can you give us an example? (max 100 words)

I am a huge advocate of having a person in your life with whom you can share your doubts and mistakes; someone who will give you an unbiased opinion and be honest with you about your own strengths and weaknesses, to pump up your tyres when required and share in your successes. I now have a mentor, but my husband, family and friends - both vets and non-vets - have all been on hand for me over time when I’ve received complaints from clients, made a clinical mistake or encountered a difficult situation.

Bad days (or even weeks or months) happen to everyone - learning that, and accepting that it doesn’t make you a bad vet or a bad person is the tricky part.

What have you got better at saying no to? How did you realise this and how has it benefitted you?

I remain terrible at saying no to requests to ‘do’ things, not because I’m afraid of disappointing people but because I love to grasp new opportunities whenever they come along and never wish to miss out on exciting and interesting projects. I rarely saying no to seeing friends either or doing something fun, because for me life is all the richer when filled with spontaneity and time spent with those that are important to you.

However, one area in which I have got much better at saying no is to clients. I used to be very worried about offending people but with experience I am now much more confident about standing my ground when I feel I am right.

If you could gift a book to all vets at graduation, what would it be, and why? (It doesn't have to be specific to animal health!)

For anyone going into mixed or equine practice, Equine Joint Injection and Regional Anaesthesia by William Moyer - invaluable for anatomic reminders, excellent as an explainer for clients and a little book you can keep in the car.

Otherwise, The Discomfort Zone by Farrah Storr and Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker - two books I have evangelised about to anyone and everyone in the last year, both well worth a read.

Tell us about something you are currently a fan of? This could be anything; a person, trend, hypothesis, mindset, diet, activity, tech, hobby etc.

I’m currently a big fan of Jasmin Paris. Last year she set a new record for The Spine race, widely recognised as one of the hardest ultramarathons in the world, combining her training with her PhD as a vet, and looking after her one-year old daughter. I admire her modesty, her tenacity and determination, and her attitude when describing her motivations - she runs for the freedom she feels, rather than the desire to win and I like that.

What purchase of less the £100 has most positively impacted your life in the last 12 months?

The entry fee for an ultramarathon in 2019 - I’ve always loved to run and find it extremely stress relieving, but this gave me an attainable (albeit difficult) goal to focus on, and a huge sense of achievement when I completed it. I’m aware it may sound horribly cheesy, but this challenge encouraged me to push myself further in other areas too: when you complete something you thought was ‘too difficult’ for a long time, you gain confidence to try new things in all aspects of your life.

What is the worst bit of advice you hear regularly in our profession? Why do you feel it is bad advice?

“Don’t worry about it” - easy to say, much less easy to do. Like many others, I was wracked with worry about how I treated cases, how I handled clients and mistakes I made early in my career, and it’s easy for colleagues to come across as unconcerned or uncaring in those situations, even if that’s not the case.

If you think someone is struggling, they probably are. Take 5 minutes to make a cup of tea, ask them if they’re ok, and talk about it. A piece of advice I was once given was to consider “What’s the worst that could happen?” and work back from there: if you’ve planned for the worst, it rarely happens once you’ve considered how to avoid it.

What advice would you give veterinary graduates about to begin their careers?

Smile, as much as you can - it will inspire confidence and make yourself and others around you feel better.

And remember that ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’… It’s hard in the era of social media, but try not to worry what everyone is up to; just be kind and humble, work hard and keep going - success, however you define it, will come with time.

If you could send a single text to every vet around the world simultaneously, what would it say? This can be one word, a message or an entire paragraph.

If you trust your gut instinct you won’t go far wrong.