Thriving with a Plan A and a Plan B – How I Transitioned from a Veterinarian Assistant to Global Marketing Manager at Founder InstituteFeatured

I’m currently Global Marketing Manager for a pre-seed global accelerator, AND I can advise you on the health of your pet, all because I made a very big shift in my career.I studied Animal Science & Management at the University of California, Davis, planning to attend veterinary school. Veterinary school, for those who don’t know, is incredibly competitive and expensive to attend (especially when you’re from California). Therefore, to expand my opportunities for acceptance, I applied to some schools outside the United States. During the application process, we (my husband and I) ran into a few roadblocks that made me realize just HOW expensive veterinary school would be and the financial impact of 25 years of student loans. There are so many nuances of my decision-making I’m leaving out here simply to make this story digestible, but my point is this: I took our roadblocks as a sign. Veterinary school, despite years of preparation, wasn’t for me. However, once I withdrew from veterinary school, I needed a job, and ultimately a new career path. So, I continued working in veterinary medicine as an assistant for another 2 years. During that second year, I began attending an MBA program at Santa Clara University in the evenings.I have since had a variety of jobs in a handful of industries, and my goal is to share with you some of how I’ve gotten to where I am today, in hopes that it can help you through a future career change.A Plan B Doesn’t HurtI’m the type of person who thrives with a Plan A and a Plan B. If you think you’ll be shifting career focus soon, start to prepare. For example, I intentionally majored in Animal Science & Management, knowing that I could keep business school as an option if I didn’t attend veterinary school. This preparation made it incredibly easy to make the shift to an MBA program only 12 months after withdrawing from veterinary school. What can you do now to prepare for a potential career change? Is there a course online you can take? Are there networking events you can attend?Figure Out What You WantMe: *Nothing*Everyone: “So, what’s next for you in your career?”It takes a lot of time and effort to figure out the answer to this ominous career question. In my experience, there is usually something already on your mind, you’ve just talked yourself out of it. But then it keeps popping up as the first response anytime someone casually asks you what the next phase of your career looks like.I started to gain clarity for my career once I identified an industry and then connected the dots to something I enjoy. Additionally, I was able to leverage aspects of my veterinary career like working in small teams. The teamwork skills you gain from innovating with others (particularly in emergencies) can translate to any industry. Which aspects of your previous experience can translate to other industries? Don’t just think about the “what”, i.e. projects, tasks, accomplishments. Think about the “how”, i.e. working in small teams, or creating content with short timelines. What Makes You Thrive?Now that you know what types of jobs you are interested in pursuing, figure out the minutiae that make you thrive. These activities may be outside the office. For example, to be happy, I know I need to compete in an organized sport. It can be training for a half-marathon, or playing volleyball, or even trying a sport I’ve never played before. But I NEED competition in my life. I thrive when I work toward and achieve physical goals.Therefore, I know that any job I take needs to allow me the time to compete in the leagues I’m currently in or time to train for something new. Don’t forget that your job is a huge part of your life, and where and when that job takes place can directly affect your happiness. There are incremental differences between us going through the motions of our daily life and thoroughly thriving.When was the last time you felt truly happy doing an activity? How can you design your work to make more room for this activity in your life?Do the Extra WorkThis is probably the most important piece of advice I can share. When I started working in non-veterinary related internships, I believed I wanted to try a role in marketing. Through one of my MBA classes, I was connected with a guest speaker who advised me to start a blog, and more specifically, a pet blog ( I had the industry knowledge and could leverage my extensive background to learn new skills. Not only did I expand my skill set in lead generation, content creation, social media, and email marketing, but I also created job opportunities for myself by building these skills in my free time. Bonus: I’ve made a ton of connections and new friends from around the world by being a part of a community outside of my immediate profession.Which side-hustles can help you build your skill set? Or help you determine what you don’t want to do in the future? Ask People Their StoriesI found it helpful to learn of other's non-linear career paths. The reality is that few people have every step of their career aligned and mapped out in advance. Therefore, it’s helpful to talk to people who have taken small opportunities to get to where they are today, or where they want to go next. I highly recommend a book called Designing Your Life. In it, the authors describe the process of conducting informal interviews to find out if the jobs and careers you think you want can fit into your life.Are there 3 people you could email or message today (maybe even on Elpha) that could help you learn more about a future career?Network When You CanNowadays, there are endless events (online or in-person) that allow you the opportunity to connect with like-minded people. Platforms like Elpha make these connections even stronger and more accessible. Take the time to get to know the people in the industries that interest you, and make sure you share what you’re looking for in your career. I’ve learned that women really want to help each other, so be sure to ask for those connections and feedback. --As the Global Marketing Manager at the world’s largest pre-seed startup accelerator, Rachel Sheppard orchestrates, implements, and designs the company's branding and digital marketing strategies in 180+ cities and 65+ countries. She is the Co-Creator and builder of the Founder Institute's Female Founder Initiative and the FI for Good Campaign. When she isn't working at Founder Institute, she’ll be playing volleyball, attending sporting events, or hanging out with her husband and Corgi.
Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your story with us! 🤩If you have a story to tell, or know someone who does, let us know via DM.
What an incredible journey, Rachel!
Thank you, Pooja!
Thank you for sharing this Rachel! Loved the advise on thinking about the "how" and not just the "what". Forever grateful we crossed paths - you and the FI's Female Founder Initiative are doing such amazing things to help and I can say first hand that it has had a huge impact on me as a founder and on my startup.
Thank you so much Meesha! So glad we crossed paths as well!
Rachel - I had no idea about your backstory including vet school. Wow! You bring great perspectives to the table… Thank you for sharing!
Thank you, Carolyn! Yes, at one point I was on a very different path, but grateful for where I am today :)