Q&A with Senani
OAVT: Where did you go to school and what made you decide to take a Veterinary Technology program?
Senani: I remember being in high school and having a guidance counsellor tell me that if I liked animals I could either be a groomer, veterinarian or marine biologist! I had always wanted to be either a veterinarian or a pediatrician, and went to Queen’s University to figure it out. After my first year of university I volunteered in a vet clinic and that’s when I realized that there was a different role in the practice which I felt much better suited for! I loved the nursing care aspects and felt compelled to become a technician. Perhaps if I’d volunteered in a different practice there would have been a different outcome but, after my second year of university, I took a detour and began the Veterinary Technology program at Ridgetown College. I’ve never looked back!
OAVT: What do you love about your job? What responsibilities are you given? What is a typical day like?
Senani: I am very lucky, I love my job! As the Director of Learning and Engagement I take primary responsibility for the people within our organization. We have hospitals in Ontario and in Western Canada and I get to meet with the teams both individually and as a group. I provide coaching, mentorship and communications training while also ensuring that the appropriate continuing education is identified for everyone based on their personal development goals. I help with practice culture, leadership and management development and support our Regional Managers in continuously improving the hospitals through implementation of best practices and customized sessions for positive team dynamic. I remember being a new RVT, not all team members were nice to me when I started in our Industry. It is important to me that our hospitals have a warm, welcoming and supportive culture so that we can develop the best talent in veterinary medicine across the entire team.
I don’t really have a typical day. Our practices are very different, each with its own set of unique challenges and quirks. Our teams are full of personality and I thrive off being in their world for the day, I always learn something new, and always find something to coach or teach in return. It’s the beauty of my job. Throw in a handful of speaking engagements and you have what could truly be considered the dream job! Getting in front of a room full of people and speaking about the things I am passionate about has been one of the most rewarding things I have been able to do with my knowledge base. Combining my experiences as an RVT with my love of speaking, educating and both making people laugh and cry (hopefully heartfelt happy tears) is incredibly satisfying.
OAVT:What other jobs have you had in this field?
Senani: Initially I worked in practice; while all small animal I delved into emergency/ICU, exotics and general practice before running a dermatology referral service and getting involved in practice management. I worked at Hill’s Pet Nutrition for 4 years as a Veterinary Account Manager in the Toronto area as well as doing some work as the Science Diet Media Spokesperson. That role was focused on educating pet owners in the general public and I had the pleasure of doing things like talking about preventative oral health care in dogs and cats live on television with my own pets! It was a great role. Very early on in my career I began lecturing at conferences. I had no idea that it would translate into practice owners approaching me about privately working with their teams. I did that in the background for many years and this is how Motivatum Consulting was born. In the end, my reputation as a consultant and speaker attracted the attention of Veterinary Purchasing and I worked there for 6 years as a Practice Consultant on the Executive Services team.
Other roles I have held in veterinary medicine include sitting on the OAVT Board of Directors, being the OAVT President and being the first non-DVM President of the Toronto Academy of Veterinary Medicine. I currently sit on the legislative task force for the OAVT and have the pleasure of being one of the facilitators for the OAVT Professionalism and Ethics workshop.
OAVT: Tell us a bit about your experiences as a speaker. Do you have a favourite memory or speaking experience?
Senani: So, I’ll take this opportunity to publicly thank the veterinarian who encouraged me to speak in the first place, because I’ve never really been able to. I worked as Dr. Berney Pukay’s RVT for several years and he was always in demand as a speaker. He kept telling me I could do it but it wasn’t until one fateful day when he was expected to do a dermatology talk for a regional veterinary association, and he lost is voice. He was so sick, I’ll never forget it! I had to step in and help just so he could make it through. It was such a rush. Shortly thereafter I spoke for the first time at the OAVT conference… it was 2004 and I spoke on the concept of Bond-Centered practice; full utilization of the team. This topic is still very close to my heart and, while our profession has evolved significantly since then, there is always something else to strive for.
Over the past 14 years I have had the pleasure of speaking for thousands of people, some in small groups within an intimate practice setting (exam rooms are intimate right?!), and others at large conferences with hundreds of eyes on me. I remember the first time I had a full day track at a veterinary conference, a seasoned speaker told me that you will always know how you are doing after the first break… either you will lose people, or add. After the first break I added so many people that they gave me a larger room after lunch! I could hardly believe it, but I will never take that kind of support for granted. I work hard to be the best I can be, to me that means I have to inspire, educate, and learn at least one thing during every session. In the past year I have had two special speaking milestones… I participated in a nationally broadcast live webinar and gave a MicDrop at the Uncharted Veterinary Conference. Both were experiences I will not soon forget and, realizing how many people my talks have reached has been overwhelming. Veterinarians, technicians and other vet team members from around the world have reached out to share their stories and tell me how I have touched them in some way! .
OAVT: What do you think is the most important aspect of building an effective veterinary team?
Senani: Open, honest, respectful communication. Nobody can be “effective” without proper ongoing conversation, and nobody truly listens when they don’t feel the person speaking respects them and shares similar philosophies and goals. Effective teams trust each other and understand that constructive feedback is not to be taken personally, it’s a way of making each individual, and therefore the entire team, better!
OAVT: If you could go back in time and talk to yourself as a new RVT, what advice would you give?
Senani: You can be anything you want to be. Being an RVT isn’t just about the medicine, it’s about the vast amount of knowledge you have. Pair it with what you naturally do best, and who you are most comfortable to be; bring your unique self to the veterinary industry. I may not be hands-on with the animals anymore, but I believe that helping people (who often like animals better than people) communicate effectively with pet owners means that I am positively affecting pets every day. Never let anybody tell you that you “can’t” do something just because it’s not been done before! Breaking barriers is what being an RVT is all about.
OAVT: You have had an exciting career so far, what’s next for you?
Senani: Honestly, I am really focused on my role at P3 Veterinary Partners. The concept of “Pets, People, Practice” is one that resonates very deeply with me and I take great pride in being a part of this very special organization. Fostering people’s talents and strengths, developing, supporting and celebrating them, and ensuring team success is something I cannot get enough of. As long as they know I genuinely care about each of them, then I have done my job. I want to continue speaking and am excited about being a speaker at the Uncharted GSD Veterinary Conference in October. I would like to think that my travels allow me to be an Ambassador for our profession, and I can only hope that people continue to enjoy my work, so that I can continue enjoying this amazing professional journey I find myself on!