After qualifying from Edinburgh University, Navaratnam has followed his passion for dairy production in clinical practice, industry and academia. He has been a strong advocate for equality and diversity in both agriculture and the veterinary profession having co-founded the British Veterinary and Ethnicity Society. Navaratnam is a big believer of following your dream, every failure only makes the successes even more of an achievement.
Tell us about a daily habit or routine you practice that contributes to your productivity and fulfillment?
I like to write lists and update them every morning. I only spend 10 minutes, putting mini deadlines for each task and it helps me prioritise my day. When I start to feel overwhelmed, I simply look back at the list to help focus. In reality not everything is an immediate priority. The best feeling is crossing off the tasks as they are completed.
In the mornings I also read the twitter of Vusi Thembekwayo who is an African entrepreneur. His daily quotes always seem to apply on how I am feeling and makes me feel better about a situation whether good or bad.
What was a major setback that you learnt the most from, or actually turned out to be a success?
After being told that a farmer did not want me due to the colour of my skin, I was shocked and it made me doubt my abilities as a veterinary surgeon.
After much soul searching, I did grow to accept that this was nothing to do with my veterinary quality but something I could not change. There was no support or help from the veterinary profession or community at the time when I tried to seek it.
This led me to push for equality and inclusivity in the veterinary profession which included co-founding the British Veterinary Ethnicity and Diversity Society. I feel proud that my persistence has started the drive recently for the profession to change in these areas.
When you start to doubt your own ability, or are having 'a bad day at the office', how do you get back on track?
This occurs from time to time and the best thing is to talk to people, Whether it’s face to face, a phone call or social media. It helps put my problems in perspective and makes me feel less isolated. One resource that I can’t recommend enough and found amazing was calling Vet Life.
I have talked through some of my problems including clinical and non-clinical issues. They have been excellent in supporting me and made me felt very reassured. They are available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Tel: 0303 040 2551.
What have you got better at saying no to? How did you realise this and how has it benefitted you?
I am massively guilty of not saying no. Even recently this caught up with me where I had promised too many people, too many things and couldn’t deliver. I felt bad and let a few people down. I used to think that it was important to push oneself to progress my career, to the point that I could not deliver.
What I have found is that having a balance is more important. When taking on a project, you want to give your all, so don’t try and do too many things. It will only lower your standards which doesn’t help in the long run.
If you could gift a book to all vets at graduation, what would it be, and why?
The book I recommend everyone should read is “Why I am not talking to white people about Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge.
Our profession is very mono-cultural and mono-racial, with a lack of awareness and understanding of difference. We live in a very diverse country and the only way we can improve inclusivity and equality among veterinary professionals is by educating oneself.
It is a great read and helps understand the issues faced by people from BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) backgrounds. We all care very much about animals but we should also care about our fellow people.
Tell us about something you are currently a fan of?
I am a fan of inner city farms.
They are a great example of how a mix of people, regardless of gender, race or class, can produce food together. I am a trustee of an inner city Bristol Charity farm and it brings the whole community together. They also work with people with various disabilities and mental health issues who benefit working with the volunteers on farm.
Agriculture complains about “townies” not understanding what they do and city dwellers complain about farming practices. City farms bridge that gap and currently need more support.
What purchase of less the £100 has most positively impacted your life in the last 12 months?
Spotify has been brilliant.
It's £10 a month. I spend a lot of time in the car and so I can chose the type of music to suit my mood without all the talking, which is why I avoid listening to the radio. I also get to listen to music that isn’t on the radio such as dancehall and reggae, which I can’t get enough of. It makes me happy and always lifts my mood.
What is the worst bit of advice you hear regularly in our profession? Why do you feel it is bad advice?
You need to be male, white and from a farming background to be successful in farm practice. No!
We struggle to recruit in farm practice and so need to make this an inclusive and accepting sector. Anyone can succeed, as long as they are driven and passionate. I have seen many people walk away due to this poor advice, who would have been excellent farm vets and this needs to change.
I know some farmers harbour this idea but as a profession we need to support our colleagues and students and not allow this to be acceptable.
What advice would you give veterinary graduates about to begin their careers?
You don’t have to know everything from day one. It’s a learning curve throughout your life and this is what makes the career interesting. Everyone makes mistakes and so learn from them and seek help when you are struggling.
Also clinical practice is only one of the many things you can do with your degree, so explore the possibilities and even think outside the box if you want.
Finally, it’s OK to leave a job and go somewhere else, even if it's 6 months in or 10 years in. If it’s not working and you have tried finding a solution, then don’t be scared to move on.
If you could send a single text to every vet around the world simultaneously, what would it say?
“You are not alone. Share all your successes and seek help for your worries. We are all one family”
Have you been inspired by someone in your career? Or know someone in the veterinary profession who has made a positive impact on you?
There are no strict criteria for contributors or mentors, other than that they are positive, supportive members of our profession.
If someone you know springs to mind, or you have any feedback or ideas relating to our Vet Mentors project, please get in touch - firstname.lastname@example.org