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

‘Here be Dragons’ was the sign outside the BSAVA’s virtual congress on Friday. But instead of mythical fire-breathing monsters, there was something inspiring to start the second day of BSAVA Virtual Congress (25th – 27th March 2021).

Rather than breathing fire during her keynote speech, Jenny Campbell from the popular BBC 1 programme Dragons’ Den, gave advice on how to thrive in your career, look after a family and deal with challenges of gender bias, inflexible bosses and the 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.

Jenny grew up in Cheshire and left school aged 16 to work for NatWest. 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 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.

Despite her advancements in banking, during her 20s Jenny had to fight for the job grading that would guarantee that her job would still be available for her after returning from maternity leave. As her career progressed, it became an increasing challenge to find the same amount of time for her children as she would as a stay-at-home mum.

In her talk she discussed about how she used weekends and holidays to spend time with her sons and help them with their school projects and take them on adventures. She recounted camping in the woods and told her audience, “Have fun with your kids. That is what they will remember you for.”

Jenny felt her gender was not a barrier in her career, and advised her younger colleagues to not focus on gender and instead to be yourself. She explained, “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.”

After selling her company in 2016, Jenny moved onto other roles, including her role as sceptical investor on Dragons’ Den. She left television role in 2019 and she now helps to support her own sons’ business careers alongside working as an advisor for various charities.

In her spare time, Jenny breeds and shows flat-coated retrievers and makes sure that she has time for her hobby in her busy schedule. She explained, “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.”

Jenny Campbell BSAVA virtual congress

The day included several 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% 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 the sessions on Saturday 27th with the opening address from keynote Dr Ranj at 8.45am.

To register for BSAVA Virtual Congress visit here. 

For information on how to become a BSAVA member visit here.

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