Kate Richards - from farm to whitehall
My veterinary degree is the foundation of my career which has spanned many different roles working with animals and politicians, in byres and the Boardroom, wearing wellies and heels. I had not anticipated this career path when I graduated from the R(D)SVS with a burning desire to be a farm vet. It has been a fantastic experience and I have learnt an enormous amount, working with people in a number of different professions in the UK and further afield.
I spent 14 years in practice, as a farm vet, a partner in a mixed practice in the north east of Scotland, enjoying cattle and sheep work. I left practice to join Schering-Plough Animal Health, propelled by the desire to have a more normal working pattern and join a hockey club so that I could play every weekend. As a veterinary advisor in Schering-Plough I worked with farmers and vets across the UK, after gaining a Diploma in Marketing I was promoted to a marketing role.
I have spent the last 10 years in the Civil Service, joining Defra HQ as a veterinary advisor in 2003. The Civil Service is a vast organisation with 17 departments. I have worked in five departments, in the beating heart of Whitehall, drawing on skills I honed as a practitioner; gathering and analysing evidence, making decisions, strategic financial and business planning and interpersonal skills including listening, influencing, negotiating, communicating. My roles have included: Scientific Secretary to the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee which provided independent advice on food safety, public and animal health issues relating to TSEs; Principal Private Secretary for three Secretaries of State for Scotland dealing with issues as diverse as transport, the UK constitution and the Papal visit to the UK in 2010; Cabinet Office working on the Civil Service Reform Plan; Ministry of Justice providing corporate support to 450 policy officials. Demanding roles which broadened my experience beyond veterinary horizons.
I am a non-executive Director on the Moredun Foundation Board; Moredun’s research has led to the development of vaccines, diagnostic tests and treatment strategies for farm animals globally. My work as a Board member requires strategic thinking, financial analysis and business planning in a scientific context which is extremely fulfilling and has brought me in a full circle back to my roots while drawing on the experience of governance, business and resource management I have gained in senior government roles.