Technology: Creating alternative careers for vets

A veterinary education provides one of the most thorough groundings in problem solving and analytical thought of any degree programme. And when we graduate, most of us use those skills to understand our patients – to discover, diagnose, treat and monitor.

Our education makes us much more versatile than you may realise. There are many opportunities outside of the traditional career path for veterinary trained individuals, and technology is making these even more evident.

Technology revolves around problem-solving. Streamlining processes and making things simpler, and ultimately, easier for the user. An analytical approach to understanding the data available and transforming this into actionable insights is key to any technology business.

The logical mindset which we develop at vet school, and apply during the early clinical jobs most of us take, is perfectly suited to careers in coding, data science, and data analytics.

Data and technology are the future, both of veterinary medicine and all other industries. And learning the core skills to build a career in tech-focused fields is widely accessible now. From online coding courses to short-term coding academy programmes, making the career jump from animals to analytics has become far easier.

What skills do you need to make this move?

Coding should be your first start. If you’re imagining ‘Matrix’ style reams of code, pause and breathe.

Admittedly, at an advanced level, it can look like this.

But it’s easy to make a start. Organisations like Harvard University and General Assembly offer both classroom based and online coding courses, geared towards specific specialisms including data science, iOS development or web development.

Coding is logical, and analytical. You’ve already developed these skills to a high level, this is just another way of applying them.

So where can these careers take you?

If you’re looking for a smaller jump, away from the clinical side but still within veterinary sciences, consider a career as a data scientist. In academic circles, data scientists are already widely working in veterinary schools and universities, whilst on the commercial side, larger pharmaceutical brands, such as Zoetis, rely heavily on data science to make informed decisions and understand the impact of their drug trials. You’ll be working with large streams of data and manipulating it to discover valuable meanings and uncover key trends.

For those of you looking to move further from the veterinary world, consider adding some coding training to your arsenal. Depending on what side of the tech spectrum you want to be, retraining as a developer could see you building beautiful, functional apps, or building highly technical backend infrastructures to store data and organise businesses. Developers have an immense flexibility to work in companies of all sizes and industries, as well as on exciting and ground-breaking projects. They are also highly sought after in today’s job markets.

Alternatively, take your career firmly into your own hands. Immerse yourself in the technology scene. Develop an expertise in current trends, themes and future trajectories, and then start your own business. Become a veterinary entrepreneur.

That’s how Felcana started. Using cutting-edge hardware, and the latest software and data analysis techniques we’re re-inventing the way pet owners and veterinarians interact and care for their animals.

Veterinary medicine is a life-long vocation to many of us, but it doesn’t hurt to develop some external tech skills to sit alongside your clinical skills. In a landscape that is evolving as quickly as veterinary medicine, understanding technology will take you a long way.

Dr James Andrews is a veterinarian turned management consultant and co-founder of Felcana, a digital health platform for pets. Having trained at The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh, James practiced as a vet before turning his skills to the commercial world, developing hardware and software solutions for pet owners and vets alike. James’ focus is on digital innovation in the veterinary space and he ardently champions the adoption of novel technologies within the veterinary community.

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