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Old Girl's Story of Resilience

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Old Girl Viki Edmondson (Class of 1987) spoke to Year 10 pupils via Zoom as part of an ongoing series of ‘World of Work’ talks. Viki, who is now a vet, gave an overview of her career from finishing her A Levels to the present day, permeated throughout by a strong theme of resilience and the need for determination in order to succeed.

Though Viki had always wanted to be a vet, she didn’t get the grades she needed and therefore couldn’t go to university as planned after A Levels. She admitted that she didn’t have a backup plan, but did something meaningful with her year out: she went to Agricultural College in Devon before resitting her Chemistry examination the following summer. She was offered a place at Bristol but again didn’t quite get the results she wanted. However, on Results Day, she took the train to Bristol Veterinary School to explain. The head of admissions and lecturer she spoke to were impressed and offered her a place on the course if another student decided not to accept their offer. Unfortunately they did accept, so Viki applied for Biomedical Sciences at Birmingham, only for Bristol to contact her a week before the start of term to say that someone else had dropped out and she could take their place! She agreed and went to Bristol.

She briefly talked about her continued problems with exams throughout her university career, saying that she had to resit something every year, but in 1993 she graduated and became a vet.

She talked about her early career and her move to Surrey, where the job ‘was great, but only because I learned what you don’t want in an employer and what you don’t want in a job!’ However, she turned the situation into a positive and said it shaped how she wanted to be when she became an employer herself later on.

She spoke about her journey to becoming an equine vet, which was at the time ‘a man’s world’. She talked about applying to a local practice, but getting turned down due to lack of experience. She later saw a part time position with the same practice and applied again. The firm remembered her and the interviewers were impressed by her determination to become an equine vet, even if she had to find a second part time job to supplement her income. She was offered a full time position and stayed there for seven years.

In 2001, she decided to buy her own practice and became an employer, putting into practice all the things she’d learned from her early career. In 2003 she bought a farm, but due to problems with their bank they had to liquidate the business and move it overnight to the farm. They later took the bank to court and won the case, but she described it as ‘massively stressful’. However, she said: ‘if someone knocks you down seven times, you have to get up eight times and keep going.’

As a result of liquidating the business she spent seven years working alone: ‘24/7 365 days a year’. She explained the toll this took, particularly referencing what it means to be ‘on call’ at all hours for clients and how she dealt with that.

She eventually took on more vets and opened a small animal practice, but in 2016 decided that she and her husband needed more quality time together and they moved to Scotland. She still returns to Surrey for ten days a month to look after old clients there and in Somerset, Wiltshire and Devon. She also talked about her and her husband’s cancer diagnoses and treatment in recent years, though said they are ‘still alive and kicking’ and was in good spirits as she brought her audience to the present day.

In closing, Viki summarised the lessons girls should take away from her talk. She said, ‘If you want to do something in life, get on and do it and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.’ She also shared two important rules for life: ‘there’s no such word as can’t’ and ‘take responsibility for your own decisions, stand by them and be accountable.’

The Zoom call ended with a short question and answer session, in which girls particularly interested in becoming vets asked some career-specific questions, for example how Viki deals with putting animals down and the most difficult parts of the job.

Viki’s career story, her resilient mindset, and her determination to overcome obstacles were an inspiration, not only to aspiring young vets but to everyone in Year 10.

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