What’s your Why?

Thinking about what you could have done / should have done / would have done with your training?

I call this the COULDA / SHOULDA / WOULDA syndrome – a fixed and not a very useful mindset to have that often leads to worry, anxiety and dissatisfaction.

To help, this is a simple picture to keep in mind.

The most important part of the Venn diagram is ‘Purpose’ – in other words, ‘What is your Why?’ – right bang in the middle and fundamental to what you can do if you are willing to put in the effort.  Working around the diagram

– the NORTH – What do I love doing?

– the WEST – What am I uniquely good at?

– the EAST – What skills are needed?

– the SOUTH – How can I get paid for it?

For some people, this type of inner questioning and awareness comes easily. For others, you may need coaching to help you find your own answers, allay fears and challenge yourself.

Tim is a coach at AltusQ (wwww.altusq.com.au; tim.dyke@altusq.com.au) who recently featured in our Veterinarycareers.com.au Veterinary Careers profiles.

Are you losing the art of conversation? | Tim Dyke, a Veterinarycareers.com.au Guest Blog

Are you losing the art of conversation?

Really great to present to an enthused group of Canberrans recently at our Thank Gods It’s Monday event. We all learn from these experiences – one thing I learned was to be reminded how important conversations are, particularly connected ones.

Maybe you’ll like the quote I read recently – ‘Swimming in a sea of information and drowning in ignorance’. Think about that for a while.

Try this : Breathe in….and out…… (repeat as often as you need to slow down and focus)….. Now time for thinking – we are really exposed to so much ‘immediate’ information from phones, internet etc. How much time is all that exposure to information distracting us from being human….and doing things humans used to do such as interacting properly with others through real conversations? Real conversations give you a feeling of connection, of being present, and being human. Try one and see how you feel.

Is that a change in mindset you need to practice?

Try it at least once a day for the next 100 days. People will appreciate your attention.

Tim Dyke, AltusQ Coach

Source: Are you losing the art of conversation? | AltusQ

Unreal Veterinary Careers! An interview with Executive Coach, Dr Tim Dyke BVSc….

The other day, I (Emma) met a great guy for a coffee in my little township of Yass NSW – and while LinkedIn told me that Dr Tim Dyke was a vet with an impressive and diverse list of career roles I didn’t expect to meet such a wise, authentic and personable guy. We chatted easily and it has furthered my interest in using a coach – in Tim’s words coaching can help to clarify what you want to achieve through ‘exploring beliefs and strengths and uncovering roadblocks and fears’.

While Tim has a deep experience set across a number of veterinary and regulatory fields his quietly assured and reflective manner also left me feeling more inspired to make the most of my veterinary career! If you are interested in planning out the next steps in your career using a coach – I strongly recommend that you consider Tim for this all-important role.

Emma: Thanks for your time today Tim…. May I ask…:

  1. What are you working on / towards at the moment? 

I am enjoying a new career move as an executive and business coach, as well as working as a consultant to the Australian government.

  1. What drives you? 

In simple terms, I want to help people. I find that, irrespective of where I am working and what I am working on, I develop a passion for an organisation, its purpose and values, and its people, and give energy to each.


  1. What have been the major transitions in your path? 

Looking over the last 30 or so years, I’d have to agree with a colleague who once said that I seem to re-invent myself every 5 to 10 years!

Following an internship at University of Sydney at Camden, I moved to University of Melbourne for a residency in equine medicine and surgery. While I enjoyed clinical work, I wanted to explore my interests in pharmacology, and became a Lecturer in Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology and then a Lecturer in Equine Medicine and Surgery, with a particular interest in drug detection in racehorses, at a time when there was a divide between the analytical chemists and veterinarians. That led to me travelling overseas as a Merck Foundation Fellow in Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology and a (second) residency and PhD at The Ohio State University. Following American Board exams and an Australian College Fellowship, I moved back to a position in the Australian government at the then NRA (now APVMA) – and moved up through that organisation to the position of Principal Scientist and then Program Manager, Regulatory Strategy and Compliance. It was during my time at the NRA / APVMA that I became more interested in leadership and ‘soft’ skills – more so than veterinary / research / technical skills. This led to an MBA and a move to senior executive roles. I then moved to the human health portfolio to the National Health and Medical Research Council and had a number of senior executive roles there culminating in being responsible for areas of research policy and strategic communications.

Eighteen months ago, I left the public service and asked myself what did I want to do next?

I did three things: returned to veterinary practice, joined AltusQ, a national business and executive coaching firm, and also did consultancy work for the Australian government.

Coaching others has been part of my entire career, and now I have indulged in learning more and focus on helping others ‘help’ themselves and grow.

  1. What has been a major highlight of your career?

A major highlight of my career has been to continue to adopt the skills and ‘thinking’ I developed as a veterinary student and veterinarian to new work in fields new to me – including regulatory science, corporate services, human research ethics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health, governance of human clinical trials, and national strategic policy frameworks.

I’ve been honoured to work with great people, to work nationally and internationally and to be presented with some ‘wicked’ problems to solve. Veterinary science has shown me how (biological or constructed) systems work, the importance of feedback loops, how skills in one area can be adapted to another area, and given me an appreciation of knowing the depths that are possible in any subject area (and the expertise needed to explore those depths) as well as the importance of being able to take a ‘systems’ view.

  1. What advice would you offer to younger veterinarians?

Maybe more than any other university training, a degree in veterinary science provides you with a strong skill set over and above a knowledge of animals, diseases, diagnostic techniques, treatments and public health. This skill set is yours to help open up many opportunities in many fields.

Know what your passion and purpose are, and keep reminding yourself of them.

Grab opportunities and run with them.

Challenge your fears and beliefs – they are only stories you tell yourself.

Trust your ‘gut’.

Always take opportunities to learn more.


… Emma: Thanks Tim … (ends)

Unreal Veterinary Careers! – an interview with Dr Helen Fairnie

Main photo credit: Helen Fairnie – Dr Helen Fairnie and Dr Brian McErlean.

Today Michele and I have the honour of showcasing an interview with Dr Helen Fairnie, someone who has been a great influence in my (Emma’s) career since we re-started the Vets in Public Health Special Interest Group (AVPH SIG) of the AVA together around 2007 – Helen is a huge contributor to our profession and is someone I personally find very inspiring…  Emma


  1. Hi Helen – What are you working on at the moment?

Working on at the moment? I am officially retired, however:   a b** book on women vets- trying to get it published; the Wellness Centre at AVA Conference; stress and suicide in veterinarians; Rotarian secretary   (I used to run an Arts Market for Rotary once a month but found it hard to get volunteers); 100 Women- a philanthropic giving circle of 100 women supporting projects involving women- we try to give 3 grants of $40,000 each year.   Saving African Rhinos from poaching.    Am on subcommittee of this and also lead safaris to Zimbabwe.  I am also supervising two students from Georgetown University who want exposure to Aborigines.  I will mark their assignments.




Photo left: 2016, With colleagues at the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust and Sanctuary


Photo right: 2016, with a village leader at Kariba Village.




2. What drives you?

I have always been driven to help my colleagues. I remember being cross when Doug Blood, our former Dean at Melbourne, wrote me a reference which said I was more interested in people than animals. Consequently I have an interest in preventing injury, disease and stress in veterinarians. Also reducing suicide in veterinarians.

3. What have been the major transitions in your path?

Getting married to Ian Fairnie

Running a veterinary practice in Northam WA and having two children.      I found I couldn’t cope with son #2 who screamed.     Had to close the practice down. Probably had a nervous breakdown because I had little contact with veterinary colleagues.   Ian sent me off to a Practitioners Branch meeting while he would babysit.   We were 1 1/2 hours from Perth.    First meeting there were about 20 vets there and me, the only woman.      If I recollect, it was the Annual General Meeting and they dobbed me in a secretary.    I was such a mess I didn’t say no.    Came home and told Ian I would call them and decline but he (the bully) wouldn’t let me.    After a couple of years, I became President of Perth Branch.    That got me onto the Divisional Committee of AVA.    I became secretary and then President which put me onto AVA Council and ultimately I became President of the AVA National body. I was the first female president of the AVA.

I did a Master of Philosophy at Murdoch and got a job at Curtin (then WAIT) and was there for 31 years.      I because involved with international students and recruited from Asia mainly.    Led study tours for 10 years to every Asian country you can think of. Ultimately I did a PhD on Stress, Suicide and Disease etc. at Curtin.

Dr Mike Bond

4. What goals are you working towards?

My main goal is to publish the bloody book on women vets, stop vets killing themselves, stop rhino killing and have a long rest.

5. What advice would you provide a younger you?

Advice for a younger me:    Don’t bite off too much.    Take it easy.    Probably wouldn’t change much.      I blame my husband for my AVA activities.

Photo Courtesy of Helen Fairnie: Comment –“this is me and Mike Bond receiving a kangaroo from Perth Zoo to send to Russia as a gift for the previous World Veterinary Congress. We ran the XXII in Perth. Mike Bond was Secretary and I was Vice Chair.”


Thanks for your time today Helen.


The James Herriot centenary: a vet who changed his profession

 PHOTO: James Herriot with his dogs CREDIT: JULIAN CALDER

By: Pete Wedderburn 26 SEPTEMBER 2016 • 11:00AM

It’s rare for one individual to affect an entire generation of a profession, but that’s exactly what Alf Wight managed to do. Despite his significance, Alf’s name never became widely known by the public, and there’s a simple reason for that: he wrote under the pseudynom of “James Herriot”.

James Herriot would have been a hundred years old on 3rd October, so this is a time when many people are remembering him. He qualified as a vet from Glasgow in 1939, and spent his working life in the Yorkshire Dales. It wasn’t until he was 53, in 1969, when recovering from clinical depression, that he began to write books about his life as a veterinary surgeon. Sales were slow at first when these were published in the UK. It wasn’t until 1972, when his American publisher merged the first two books into a single volume titled “All Creatures Great and Small” that his writing began to receive widespread acclaim.

“All Creatures Great and Small” made household names of the actors

To use current parlance, his books went viral, becoming global best sellers. James went on to write eight volumes of semi-fictionalised autobiography about his life as a vet in mixed practice, alongside colleagues Siegfried and Tristan Farnon, and his wife Helen. The BBC television series “All Creatures Great and Small”, based on his books, crowned his success. The ninety episodes , between 1978 and 1990, made household names of Robert Hardy (Siegfried), Peter Davison (Tristan), Christopher Timothy (James), Carol Drinkwater and Lynda Bellingham (who played Helen at different times).

Christopher Timothy and Robert Hardy in All Creatures Great and Small  CREDIT: MOVIESTORE/REX SHUTTERSTOCK

The books – and television series – had a widespread appeal across all ages, presenting a charming, nostalgic view of life as a vet in mixed practice. He wrote about people, animals, landscapes and science, with adept use of language and self deprecating humour. I was in my early teens when his books were published, and I remember eagerly waiting for each one to reach the shops. I am one of those “born to be a vet” people: I knew that it’s what I wanted to do from the age of five. But James Herriot’s books confirmed my choice: I wanted to live the life that he wrote about.

The “Herriot effect” has changed the profile of the veterinary profession

I wasn’t alone: there’s a phenomenon known as “the Herriot effect” that’s blamed for the huge increase in popularity of the career as a vet which started in the mid-Seventies. Back in the sixties, a typical vet student was son of a vet or a farmer, and there was no need for academic prowess to get a place at vet school. By the time I was a student in the early eighties, most of us had no rural background and straight “A”s were needed in school exams. The gender balance changed too, with females now making up 80 per cent of new veterinary graduates. The glamorisation of the job by Herriot has played a role in these changes. Budding vet students soon learned that it didn’t help their chances of success to mention the books in selection interviews.

Most vets still recognise the many truths in his writing

When I took up my first job as a mixed practice vet, in the Scottish borders, I experienced many parallels with his books: I even gleaned useful practical tips from them (such as pouring sugar onto a cow’s prolapsed uterus to shrink it down before stuffing it back in). I had the same types of experiences with farmers, both good (hearty breakfasts in the farmhouse after a successful calving) and bad (I used Herriot’s trick of reversing the car into the farmyard to allow for a rapid exit in an uncomfortable situation).

Christopher Timothy has narrated an audio version of the Herriot books CREDIT: REX FEATURES

I ended up leaving farm practice, disheartened by the trend away from smallholdings towards large scale production, ending up attending to pets as my full time job. Herriot’s tales ring equally true in this line of veterinary work: every small animal vet has clients reminiscent of “Mrs Pumphrey” and her beloved Pekes, and we’ve all had occasions when we have difficulty understanding what a client is saying because of a local brogue (in Herriot’s case it was a strong Yorkshire dialect, but there are variations on this theme across the world).

A hundred years on, Herriot is still entertaining and informing

Alf Wight didn’t make his hundredth birthday: he died at the age of 78 from prostatic cancer. I’m currently listening to the audio version of his books, narrated by Christopher Timothy. If you are one of the few who aren’t familiar with his work, do have a listen. James Herriot lives on in his books: his writing made such a big impact that he’ll be remembered for many more years.

Source: The James Herriot centenary: a vet who changed his profession