ABOUT ME

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In this section you can find out more about me, what I do and why I do it, and what I have done during my career.

Cyber Security Unity

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Find out more about my work with Qualitest Group

#IISAD

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Cyber Security Awareness

I offer a professional cyber security training and awareness service to help organisations and stay safe against cyber-crime.

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Content Writing

I offer a professional content writing service mainly in the cyber security and tech space.

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I offer a marketing consultancy service to help ambitious organisations solve their key strategic marketing challenges

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Coaching & Mentoring

In June 2022 I passed my Level 5 Diploma in Life Coaching and decided I wanted to use this to help others as a Coach and Mentor in the cyber security industry.

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My strong experience in cyber security, business and neurodiversity has led me to becoming a strong keynote, motivational and inspirational speaker. I have many “ready to go” slide decks which are detailed below, but I can of course create a bespoke talk and presentation on any of my specialist subjects.

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Getting a Ruff Deal: The Extortionate Cost of Veterinary Care in the UK Laid Bare

Getting a Ruff Deal: The Extortionate Cost of Veterinary Care in the UK Laid Bare

Some of you may remember my blog from last weekend where I detailed what happened with my beloved dog Poppy when my husband and I took her to the out of hours emergency vets, Vets Now Worcester, when she was ill and our usual vets, The Stocks Veterinary Centre, was closed. I’m very pleased to report that Poppy is much better and fully recovered after her ordeal, and I am awaiting the outcome of a complaint I sent to Vets Now Worcester about her being given an injection of buprenorphine without us being given the full facts about possible side effects and reactions.

In the meantime, I have started to research and look into why the cost of veterinary care is so high in the UK generally, and it appears that this is down to many veterinary practices being acquired by large corporates. With the last couple of years or so has seen an unprecedented cost of living crisis, I appreciate that prices will have had to rise a bit to cover costs, especially energy costs of electricity and gas. However, the cost of veterinary care has seen an alarming rise, especially during the cost-of-living crisis, which is becoming unacceptable, so much so that the UK government has launched an investigation via the Competition and Markets Authority into the veterinary care market.

My Experiences of Using Vets Now Worcester for Out of Hours and Emergency Care for Poppy

The day after my first blog went live, I was contacted via email by Dr David Reader, who is a Senior Lecturer in Competition Law at the University of Glasgow’s School of Law. He had found my blog on LinkedIn and reached out to me because his research partner Dr Scott Summers had a similar bad experience with an out of hours vet with one of his dachshunds. They have published a thought leadership piece entitled Pawsing For Thought Vet Acquisitions that looks at how large corporate groups – particularly, private equity firms – are engaging in roll-up acquisition strategies. This in turn is pushing up the prices of veterinary care massively, and reducing competition in certain areas. Where I live in Worcester the only emergency/out of hours vet is Vets Now Worcester, so whenever Poppy is ill when The Stocks Veterinary Centre is closed, my husband and I have no choice but to take her to Vets Now Worcester.

The first time we took her to Vets Now was in September 2020. It was a Friday, and she was as right as rain – she ate her food with no problems, went for a walk, but by teatime she seemed to be very uncomfortable. We got her in at our vets just before they closed, where she was examined and given some pain relief. But by late evening the next day, the pain killer had obviously worn off and we were back to square one, so we had to take her to Vets Now.

They were unsure as to what was going on, so they decided to keep her in for observation. By lunchtime the next day they called us to say she was much worse, and they suspected something neurological. That being the case, we had to take her to The Willows in Solihull which was a more specialist centre to investigate what was going on with her. We rushed over to Vets Now and she couldn’t even stand, they brought her out using a belly band and not only that, but she had been to toilet (both) and was covered in it. They hadn’t cleaned her up or looked after her properly; Poppy is a very clean dog, if she goes for a wee on the pavement and it runs down, she will move to get out of the way of it quickly, so for her to be in that kind of state was beyond unacceptable and extremely distressing for her. The cost of her being in Vets Now that weekend was over £1500.

When we got to The Willows someone had to come outside and get her as it was during the pandemic, they took her in but we weren’t allowed to go with her because of the pandemic restrictions, my heart was in my throat as at that time I had no idea if I would ever see her again, I was beside myself. A scan revealed that she had a burst disc in her back; luckily, she avoided surgery, and it was a long haul, but she recovered on her own with a lot of strict crate rest and TLC from us. Poppy spent a week at The Willows and the cost was just under £10,000 – all covered by her insurance policy with More Than.

We weren’t happy then with Vets Now but I didn’t put a complaint in at the time (although I wish I had), then we had to consult Vets Now a further 2 – 3 times since February 2022 when Poppy was ill. At that time, Poppy was diagnosed with endocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), she has to have enzymes mixed into her food every day as without them she can’t digest her food. If she is ill with vomiting or an upset stomach, we must get her into the vets for treatment as soon as we can, we can’t leave her to get better on her own or give her chicken and rice because of her underlying EPI. It was during an episode of her being ill with vomiting and an upset stomach that led us to taking her to Vets Now Worcester on Friday 5 July; she needed an anti-sickness injection and antibiotics to ward off SIBO, which is a complication of her underlying EPI when she is ill, but instead on top of this she was given an injection of buprenorphine that she reacted to very badly. This time however I did put a complaint into Vets Now Worcester, which I am awaiting a response from them on.

Pawsing For Thought: Greed Over Need in the Veterinary Care Industry Today

In my last blog I posed the question – is there now more greed over need in the veterinary care industry today? Dr David Reader and Dr Scott Summers’s initial research in this area certainly seems to suggest so. And I’m not the only one, when I posted on my Facebook page about what happened with Poppy last weekend and the costs involved, many of my Facebook friends shared similar experiences with lots saying they were very unhappy with the quality of care administered by Vets Now Worcester along with the eye watering costs of seeing an emergency out of hours vet. Vets Now Worcester’s consultation fee just to walk through the door to be seen is £320.00. Add on to that the cost of any treatment, blood tests and medicine/medication, and just one visit there alone can run into hundreds if not thousands of pounds – Poppy’s visit there last weekend cost £556.68, plus it was a further £290.00 for Poppy to be admitted to our own vets when they opened last Saturday morning for IV fluid treatment to flush the buprenorphine injection out of her system.

Both Dr David Reader and Dr Scott Summer are concerned about the impact of corporate ownership and, particularly, the strategy of corporates and private equity firms to take control of all the veterinary practices (and related services) in a local region. They have noted that both The Stocks Veterinary Centre and our emergency out-of-hours centre Vets Now Worcester are both owned by IVC Evidensia, which they say is a common sign that the corporate firm has ‘rolled-up’ the local market. Yet the quality of veterinary care provided couldn’t be more different – The Stocks Veterinary Centre and Poppy’s vet Zoe Hart has always been beyond exemplary, while Vets Now Worcester has been the complete opposite – substandard care for a ridiculous amount of money.

I’ve yet to research if other veterinary centres in Worcester are also owned by IVC Evidensia, but once a roll-up has occurred, prices can increase. This is what the Competition and Markets Authority is most interested in, although Dr David Reader and Dr Scott Summer are both keen to determine whether the quality of emergency/out-of-hours care also declines because of this. With there being just one out of hours/emergency vets in my area, my husband and I have no choice but to take Poppy to them when our vets is closed, and I firmly believe that Vets Now Worcester is profiteering at the expense of animal lovers like me who will pay every penny they have to get their beloved pets well again. Being the only emergency/out of hours vets in the area means they can charge what they like and provide a sub-standard service because they don’t have any competition for them to do better and be better.

Final Thoughts

I very much look forward to following this research with great interest, and to supporting both Dr David Reader and Dr Scott Summer in any way I can with this. If I don’t get a satisfactory response to my complaint that I sent to Vets Now Worcester I will contact my new local MP Tom Collins, my local branch of the RSPCA and I’m even prepared to go to my local paper the Worcester News with this story. One way or another I will get #JusticeForPoppy and raise some awareness of extortionate vet costs and the lack of competition in my area when it comes to emergency out of hours care for our beloved pets.

What do you all think? Have any of you reading this experienced sub-standard veterinary care for your pets when you’ve had to consult your out of hours emergency vets? Do you think the prices of veterinary care overall are much too high, especially during the current cost of living crisis? I would love to know your thoughts, please email me via lisa@lisaventura.com.

New Blog and Review: Greed Over Need – The Corporate Influence on Veterinary Services

New Blog and Review: Greed Over Need – The Corporate Influence on Veterinary Services

Many of you know how much my beloved dog Poppy means to me and are also dog and animal lovers. I rescued Poppy from Danemere Animal Rescue Centre near where I live on 4 July 2015 when she was 15 months old, but the reality is that she rescued me.

Poppy is a German Shepherd/Husky cross and is my whole world, everything I do revolves around her. She is 10 years old now and is so resilient; in September 2020 she suffered a burst disc in her back and had to have 12 weeks of crate rest (luckily she avoided surgery for this and recovered on her own), in February 2022 she was diagnosed with endocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) and has to have medicine in her food for it every day, and in November 2022 she battled and overcame sepsis. So it is fair to say we are often in and out of the vets with Poppy.

Since she was diagnosed with EPI in February 2022 we have to be especially careful if she gets poorly with an upset tummy or being sick. Due to her EPI we can’t wait for it to resolve on its own, we need to get her to the vets for treatment quickly because she can go downhill very quickly if we don’t. We know this because of when she developed sepsis in November 2022, so as soon as she displays signs of being poorly, we get onto our vets immediately.

Before I detail what happened, I want to say that our vets, The Stocks Veterinary Centre in Lower Wick, Worcester, and especially their vet Zoe Hart who looks after Poppy, are exemplary in their care, compassion and dedication. We have taken Poppy there countless times, and every time Poppy receives incredible care – they have saved her life on more than one occasion, for which we will always be forever grateful.

Sadly, it appears that many vets today have become victims of corporate greed rather than caring for the animals they are supposed to help and look after. One such casualty of this is the out of hours veterinary service for Worcester, Vets Now.

Last Thursday, my Poppy became unwell when she was sick in the garden after eating her breakfast. This started a chain of events that I was extremely unhappy with.

Timeline of Events When Poppy Became Ill

The timeline of events from when Poppy became ill are detailed below:

Thursday 4 July 2024

At approximately 8.00am Poppy was sick and brought up all her breakfast in the garden. I immediately cancelled her planned physiotherapy session and rang Stocks Vets to book her in to see Zoe. Zoe was at their Upton on Severn branch, but we were able to take Poppy there for 9.15am. Zoe examined Poppy, and everything checked out fine, so Zoe gave her an anti-sickness injection and it was a case of see how she goes.

For the rest of the day Poppy seemed fine, she ate her food and I decided not to take her for a walk and to let her rest.

Friday 5 July 2024

Throughout the day Poppy again seemed fine, she ate all her food, and I kept her quiet. However, at approximately 4.00pm she was barking at me to play, so I took her for a very quick and short walk in my local area. On the way back, we stopped at some grass and Poppy went to the toilet, but she had a bit of an upset tummy. I rang The Stocks Vets for some advice, but Zoe had gone home for the day, however a different vet who I spoke to said to still give her some food at teatime because she needed to have her EPI medicine. Poppy was also booked in to see Zoe at 10.45am the next day.

I told my husband when he got home from work, and she ate her food as normal. However, throughout the evening she continued to have an upset tummy, and she also couldn’t seem to get comfortable. So, by 10.30pm we decided not to wait and to take Poppy to the emergency vets given that The Stocks was now shut, which is Vets Now Worcester.

Poppy was triaged and then examined by a vet at Vets Now Worcester who prescribed an injection of Maropitant (an anti-sickness medication which was the same as what Poppy had had the day before at The Stocks Vets), prescribed Metronidazole tablets which is an antibiotic to ward off an episode of SIBO (again, Poppy has had this antibiotic before) and said she would administer an injection of pain relief. Although the vet in attendance told us that the pain relief administered was opioid based, she said it would make Poppy sleepy and/or drowsy, which we thought would be good and help her to settle and sleep, thereby helping us get some rest as well.

The bill for everything at Vets Now was £556.68, with £320.00 from this amount being a consultation fee just to walk through their door for Poppy to be seen.  However, within half an hour of getting home, Poppy became every distressed indeed.

Saturday 6 July 2024

Poppy became extremely distressed and agitated, and presented with all of these:

  • Restlessness
  • Excessive panting
  • Excessive whining
  • Excessive movement

Here are 2 clips from my CCTV showing just how distressed and agitated Poppy was:

She did not sleep or rest all night, and neither did we. It was so bad I rang Vets Now at 3.30am to seek further advice, it was only then that we were made aware of the side effects, and I was absolutely horrified when I realised that she was exhibiting them all!

The advice we received during this phone call was to “just ride it out”, which I was beyond shocked at. I then looked at the invoice for her treatment and the name of the painkiller that Vets Now Worcester had administered was buprenorphine, an opioid based painkiller that is very potent indeed – https://www.petmd.com/petmedication/buprenorphinebuprenexsimbadolzorbiumdogscats and https://www.justanswer.com/doghealth/f19z0doggivenbuprenorphineinjectionyesterdayhelp.html.

Had we realised the possible significant side effects of buprenorphine, or been made aware of them, we would not have wanted Poppy to have it as we don’t take risks like that for the benefit of some sleep.

At 08:30am (the earliest opportunity) I contacted The Stocks Veterinary Centre (our regular Vets), and Zoe Hart, who is Poppy’s usual vet, happened to be on duty and answered the phone. She asked us to bring Poppy in and said she would see Poppy as soon as she could between other appointments. We arrived at 8.20am and we were seen pretty much straight away.

At the time of my phone call to Zoe Hart, Poppy had not managed anything to drink since 17:00/18:00 the previous night and had declined to eat at breakfast time. Zoe examined Poppy and reported to us that Poppy had experienced significant side effects from the buprenorphine injection. Poppy was therefore admitted to The Stocks Veterinary Centre at 8.45am for IV fluids with a treatment plan to flush out the buprenorphine from her system and to administer other fluids and antibiotics, and to see if she would eat.

At 12.30pm we were able to pick her up and bring her home, luckily, she had eaten and looked a lot better than when we dropped her off. Poppy was prescribed Vetruus Diatabs to help settle her tummy, we were told to carry on giving her Metronidazole antibiotic tablets and 2 Cerenia tablets which is the tablet equivalent of the Maropitant injection she had, which is for anti-sickness. The bill for all this from The Stocks Vets came to £290.99, which was in addition to the bill of £556.68 from Vets Now Worcester.

I cannot even begin to put into words just how distressing it was for Poppy after having the injection of buprenorphine, and how much I feel I failed her as a dog Mum for allowing Vets Now to give it to her. I would never have had it administered to her if they had put me in the picture about the side effects that could and did follow.

The Aftermath of Poppy’s Experience with Vets Now Worcester

Today is Sunday 7 July, and I’m very pleased to say that Poppy seems to be recovering well from her ordeal. She is eating again and enjoying time in her garden, and she looks much brighter than she did yesterday, which is amazing to see.

I do not fault the care that Poppy receives at The Stocks Veterinary Centre, and especially the care she receives from her vet Zoe Hart, in any way. I also fully appreciate that me and my husband aren’t the easiest of owners to deal with, because of all of Poppy’s ailments I know we can be a bit over the top with her, but Zoe takes this in her stride. She never refuses to see us; she always responds to my emails, and she always comes back to me if I have any questions or queries. Considering the cost-of-living crisis, the fees that are charged at The Stocks Vets are also very reasonable. But I can only access care for Poppy from 8.00am to 6.30pm at Worcester, and 8.00am to 7.00pm at Upton Monday to Friday. On Saturday’s I can only access care for Poppy from 8.30am to 12.30pm at both Worcester and Upton. This means that outside of those hours, I have no choice but to access care for Poppy at the assigned emergency vets for Worcester, which is Vets Now Worcester.

I also fully accept that I will have to pay a premium or extra for Poppy to be seen out of hours. I don’t mind paying a premium for out of hours care, Poppy is insured with More Than, so I know I can claim most of the cost back. But I object to having to pay eye-watering costs to access emergency out of hours care for Poppy that turns out to be way below standard. We’ve had to access care for Poppy out of hours at Vets Now Worcester before, but for the first time ever I felt I had to raise a complaint with them. My close friend Fiona helped me to draft a complaint letter to them which I have sent off via email today, and I eagerly await their response and what they have to say for themselves.

I know I will likely not get any compensation or money back, but that’s not why I have put in a complaint. I have done it to save other animals being administered buprenorphine or other types of opioid painkillers without their owners being given all the facts around possible side effects and reactions. I would never have agreed to Poppy having it if I’d been told about the side effects and a possible reaction.

The Rise of Corporate Greed in the Veterinary Profession

Sadly, it seems that many vets today have been bought up by large conglomerates, who are not focused on the animals they treat, but are focused on gaining as much as they can in the form of company profits. This is very evident at Vets Now Worcester, who seem to treat the animals they see like a conveyor belt that goes “ka-ching” every time an animal comes through their doors. They know that people will pay whatever it takes for their pets to get well, and they exploit this massively.

I wish the answer is to boycott Vets Now Worcester, and if I could, I would, but if Poppy needs care out of hours again, I have two choices. One – wait until The Stocks Vets is open and I can get her in there, or two – bite the bullet and take her to Vets Now Worcester. As a responsible pet owner, I have no choice but to take option 2 every time she needs emergency care out of hours. And the likes of Vets Now Worcester and others know and exploit this for their own gain with their eye watering consultation fees of £320.00 just to walk through the door.

A few weeks ago the UK government, under the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), launched an investigation into the veterinary market, specifically looking at the inflated costs of vet fees in the light of the cost of living crisis. This investigation is very much needed.

The main points that are being investigated are as follows:

  • Ensure that consumers are getting the information they need, at the right time, to make informed decisions.
  • The impact of a limited choice of vet businesses in some local areas is impacting pet owners.
  • That profits earned are consistent with the levels expected in a competitive market.
  • That vet businesses have the incentive and ability to limit consumer choice when providing treatments or recommending related services, particularly when they are part of large integrated groups.
  • The regulatory framework is preventing the market from functioning as well as it could.

I very much hope that the new labour government continues this investigation, and I will be writing to my new local MP to ask what the new government’s position is on this and whether the investigation will continue.

Final Thoughts

I am very happy that Poppy is getting much better and recovering well from her ordeal, but I would love to know your thoughts. If you are reading this and you use Vets Now, what experience have you had with them? I’m in quite a few dog groups on Facebook, and it appears I am not the only one who has had a less than positive experience at Vets Now, many others have got similar stories to tell.

I hope this blog raises some awareness of Vets Now and helps other dog and pet lovers think twice about using them if they can avoid it. Please share your experiences with me via lisa@lisaventura.com, I would love to know your thoughts – #JusticeForPoppy.

Resources

https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/i-m-unhappy-with-my-vet-what-are-my-rights-a73oY4o7d4ga
https://www.petforums.co.uk/threads/vets-now-is-my-experience-typical.545465/
https://forum.champdogs.co.uk/topic_show.pl?tid=110004
https://www.reviews.co.uk/company-reviews/store/vets-now-com
https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/www.vets-now.com/location/worcester
https://www.vmd.defra.gov.uk/productinformationdatabase/files/SPC_Documents/SPC_239207.PDF

Public Service Announcement – Please #RespectMySpace

Public Service Announcement – Please #RespectMySpace

This blog is a public service announcement, or PSA. I was originally going to post it straight onto LinkedIn, but I went well over the character limit. If you see anyone wearing something like this at an event, or if someone who is #Neurodivergent points you towards it, please respect their request that they are taking a silent break:

Also, if you see someone you want to speak to at an event who is already heavily embroiled in a conversation with someone else, please don’t plonk yourself in a seat next to them and assume it is okay for you to join them without asking or checking first. And yes, both things happened to me at Infosecurity Europe this year.

Going to any event, but especially a large-scale one like #Infosec takes everything I’ve got to get through it. From a sensory overload perspective, I find having to deal with the noise levels, crowds of people, lights, bright colours and patterns from the stands and even the heat (you would be amazed at how much heat is generated from the stands and all the people at Infosec). I mitigate this by scheduling in as much down time as I can for a couple of days before and after Infosec, which does help a bit.

But from the moment I arrived at Infosec I was bombarded with texts, calls and WhatsApp messages from various people all asking where I was so they could meet me. I again mitigated this as best I could by arranging meet ups in advance with key people who I wanted to see and talk to. In addition, when generally walking round Infosec I couldn’t go more than a few steps without running into someone who wanted to talk to me, and this became very overwhelming.

It was the same last year and I assumed then that it was because Infosec took place a couple of days after I was able to announce that I had been awarded an MBE. The comments of congratulations and well done were truly humbling and heartwarming, and I was so grateful that so many people wanted to talk to me. But this year it was MUCH worse, and PLEASE don’t get me wrong, I appreciate EVERY single one of you who wanted to meet and talk to me at Infosec, but there came a point where I just couldn’t cope with the constant talking anymore.

I was approached by someone who I won’t name on the Wednesday night as I was heading to try and find somewhere to sit for a few minutes before the European Blogger awards, and at the time they approached me I didn’t recognise them as I hadn’t met them before, but they said they followed me on LinkedIn. I held out the red lanyard so they could see it, made my apologies and explained that I was trying to take a quiet break. Yet they blatantly ignored the lanyard and my request and carried on chatting away to me 😡 😡 doing something like that when I’ve specifically asked for space as I am taking a silent break will NOT adhere me to you in ANY way.

I managed to find somewhere to sit and put my feet up for a few minutes as they were killing me; the overwhelm started to dissipate and I was joined by Gary Hawkins. I didn’t mind that as I know Gary and wanted to catch up with him, but I’m sure if I had shown him my red lanyard, he would have respected it. I also heard that there was supposed to be a quiet room/area at Infosec, but I had no idea where this was and I gave up trying to find it. I’d be interested to know if anyone who was there who is neurodivergent managed to find and make use of it.

In addition, I was trying to have a meeting with someone in The Fox on the Tuesday of Infosec and someone else who wanted to talk to me pulled up a chair and joined in without checking that it was okay to do so first. This is definitely not okay; yes events like Infosec are all about the networking, but please check first that someone is happy for you to join them and join in their conversation before assuming it is okay to that. By contrast, on the Wednesday I was joined by Dr Anthony Evans when I was chatting to Jacques Schooler and Fiona Wickramasinghe – this was okay as I invited Anthony to join me. He even said he would leave me to it if I wanted him to, I didn’t, but the fact he checked with me is how it should be.

So, if you see me wearing my sunflower lanyard, or if I show you the red part of it that states I’m trying to have a silent break because I am overwhelmed, I implore you to respect it and give me some space. The sunflower lanyard signifies that someone has a hidden disability, and while I don’t think of myself as disabled due to my autism and ADHD, if I am wearing this lanyard it is for a reason.

It takes a lot for people who are neurodivergent to attend large scale events, so I hope this blog raises some much needed awareness about the importance of respecting our space if we ask for it. For those of you who do respect our need for space when we ask for it, thank you so much, because it makes all the difference to our mental well-being at events, helps us avoid overload and helps us not have an autistic or ADHD meltdown if we do get too overwhelmed.

#OpenlyNeurodivergent
#NerodivergentAndProud
#SunflowerLanyard
#RespectForSpace

A Career Highlight – This Is Your Life With Chris Tarrant

A Career Highlight – This Is Your Life With Chris Tarrant

The Tube of joy strikes again! I’ve found an upload of Chris Tarrant’s “This Is Your Life” from 1997 on YouTube, this takes me right back

Before I transitioned into cyber security in 2009 I spent many years working with Chris Tarrant of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” fame at his management company. I remember the lead up to this so well and having to keep it extremely quiet from Chris and the panic that ensued when it looked like “the hit” (which is when Michael Aspel appears and the red book is presented to the subject) wouldn’t happen. For weeks before “the hit” took place talking to Chris in code was normal so as to not give away to him that “the hit” was coming!

Chris wanted to go fishing on the day of “the hit” instead of presenting a new mini bus to a special needs school on behalf of the Lord Taverners. I was horrified and like “No you can’t go fishing Chris, you have to present that bus tomorrow!” Chris replies, “Why can’t I present the mini bus to them another day?”, I said emphatically “No it has to be tomorrow!” All was well that ended well, “the hit” took place and it went without a hitch in the end.

I was in the front row of the audience when this was recorded at Teddington Film Studios and remember the hilarity when Jasper Carrott got everyone up doing the dying fly act from TISWAS…including Chris’s very serious parents! I have the RX version of the recording on VHS tape somewhere, this is the TX version that was broadcast.

Finding this has made me SO happy today and I am so proud to have played a small part in this. What things in your career are you most proud of?

Review of my Mental Health First Aid Course Training

Review of my Mental Health First Aid Course Training

Last year in October I took part in a panel discussion for Cyber House Party about mental health and why it is so important to look after our mental health. During the panel discussion we also talked about our strategies and coping mechanisms for when our mental health is not great, and during the rehearsal session one of the panellists mentioned that he was a mental health first aider.

Up until that point I had never heard of such a thing, and I was really intrigued. I had done First Aid at Work training, although my certification has expired. As I have been working solely from home since 2015, even before the pandemic hit, I had not got round to undertaking a refresher course for it.

The previous month I was asked to give a talk to the Worcester Ethical Hackers Group, and I chose to focus my talk on “Managing Stress and Burnout in Infosec”. As part of my talk and putting a slide deck together for it I was referred by Club CISO to “Thrive” and their Managing Director Simon Nichols, who kindly helped to input into my slide deck for the talk from a mental health perspective. They say that life happens when you are busy making other plans, and on the evening that I was supposed to give the talk to the Worcester Ethical Hacking Group I was rushing my beloved dog to a specialist vets in Solihull with my husband as she was very ill and had gone completely off her legs. It turned out she had a burst disc in her back, and although she avoided surgery for it, her recovery was a long process.

It turned out thatThrive” offered the Mental Health First Aider course in partnership with another training provider, and I didn’t hesitate to sign up to do the course in November last year. However, as it got close to the time that I was supposed to take it, I realised that I just was not in the right frame of mind to do it. My beloved dog being taken so ill and my Dad being in hospital in September last year fighting sepsis took its toll on me, and my own mental health suffered. I realised that I was in no fit state to take the course at that time, so I contacted Simon Nicol to explain the situation and ask if I could defer the course to the following year, even though I had already paid for it.

Not only was Simon really understanding and rescheduled my course to 19-21 January, he also asked me if I would like a “check in chat” with him, which I took him up on. I could not believe how nice it was of him to check with me to see how I was doing, and while the truth was that I wasn’t doing so great, it helped me a lot to know that I wasn’t alone.

Christmas and new year came and went, and earlier this month we were placed back in lockdown due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Despite this I entered 2021 with a renewed energy for my work and I was determined to make the best of things, motor on with my goals and take the course as planned.

I didn’t know what to expect when I started the course, or how it would make me feel. I was prepared for it to bring up things that would be painful for me, and scheduled quiet time in my diary around the 2 main course days.

The course gave me insights into my mental health that have helped me greatly. I don’t want to give too much away here, especially for someone who is thinking of doing the course, but it helped me immensely when it comes to asking the right questions if I suspect that someone is struggling and signposting them to the right help, organisations and resources. I was reassured to find that I was already doing a lot of what was covered on the course from a technique’s perspective, but it helped me to frame it in a different way when it comes to helping people. A big motivator for me is the fact that there have been some awful things happen to my friends on Twitter and LinkedIn, things that really affected their mental health, and I hoped that the course would provide me with the knowledge and resources to know that I am on the right lines with how I help them. It certainly did that and more.

The ALGEE acronym will be forever imprinted in my brain now. We also learnt listening techniques and how to help someone with specific mental health condition such as anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, psychosis and how to talk to someone who was contemplating committing suicide.

The discussions around suicide were very painful for me, but nevertheless I shared my experiences. In the late 1990s my ex-husband and I helped our then next-door neighbour when his wife committed suicide. Talking about suicide in the course brought this experience to the forefront of my mind again, but one thing I know is that if someone is hell bent on taking their own life, they will find a way to do it. I would never think that someone who was thinking that way was crying wolf; and while most times it is often a cry for help or for someone, anyone to help them you cannot ignore it if someone says they want to take their own life.

Also, in many cases as it was with my next-door neighbour, there will be NO warning signs at all. To this day I still cannot believe she did it, I heard her laughing and joking with her husband in the garden on the very afternoon of the day she took her own life. By the evening, she had gone. I felt so guilty for such a long time, but there was nothing I could do. Talking about this in the course helped me to finally understand that, and to gain long overdue closure from what happened to my next-door neighbour. I hope she is at peace now.

The trainers Simon Nichols and Ross Abbott were both very insightful and very professional. I cannot recommend the course enough and think that every organisation should have a mental health first aider no matter what their size. It makes me very angry that organisations don’t take the mental health of their employees seriously, especially during these challenging times with the coronavirus pandemic. For some reason things are weighted towards the business and not the employee when it should be the other way round, after all, a business wouldn’t be anything without their employees. So many businesses don’t look after their employees today, which is very sad. Worse, many have lost their jobs for admitting they have struggled with their mental health.

If you are thinking of taking the mental health first aid course, I recommend you take it through “Thrive”. I also can’t thank Simon Nichols and Ross Abbott enough, they inadvertently allowed me to have a platform to share my biggest phobia (something I had never done before) and a place to acknowledge that mental health is important, and if we don’t look after ourselves first and foremost, we cannot help anyone else. I chose to put my mental health first last November when I asked to defer taking the course until this month; it paid dividends and allowed me to be the best I could be when taking the course this month.

If anyone reading this is struggling, please do not struggle alone – reach out to me. I cannot do much, but I can listen, and I can help and signpost you to resources and organisations that will help you. We might be isolated and cut off from each other in a face-to-face capacity, but we can talk on the phone and video calls, and I am always happy to do that.

#MentalHealthMatters

 

My Top 5 Cyber Security Video Series

My Top 5 Cyber Security Video Series

Welcome to my new series of blogs which will cover my top 5 cyber security events, podcasts, publications, and video series. In my first blog I covered the top 5 cyber security events that I cannot afford to miss, and in this blog I am going to list my top 5 cyber security video series.

Without further ado, my top 5 cyber security podcasts are:

Rebooting
Rebooting is the brainchild of Lisa Forte, a cyber security and social engineering expert. For as long as she can remember she has subscribed to the idea that we can learn something from every single person we meet. She has taken it upon herself to meet a wide range of cyber and resilience experts to bring you a fun and informative stream of content. Debating tough issues. Learning new things. Helping you “Reboot” and come back more knowledgeable and resilient. Lisa has interviewed experts such as Troy Hunt, Jake Moore and Graham Clueley.

Cyber Talks
CyberTalks is a media channel dedicated to promoting cyber content direct from leading cyber industry figures. They are passionate about providing real-world content to our members. The CyberTalks community is now more than 10,000 strong, with members drawn from all over the world.

Proficio Cyber Chats
Proficio has a series of cyber chats with leading industry experts such as Tony Morbin and Oliver Roachford. They aim to cover all kinds of topics such as the impact on COVID-19 on the cybersecurity landscape and prioritising your risk.

Cyber Crime TV
Cyber Crime TV is part of Cybersecurity Ventures. They provide cyber economic market data, insights, and ground-breaking predictions to a global audience of CIOs and IT executives, CSOs and CISOs, information security practitioners, cybersecurity company founders and CEOs, venture capitalists, corporate investors, business and finance executives, HR professionals, and government cyber defense leaders.

CS Hub
Cyber Security Hub provides regular multimedia on cloud security, data privacy, mobile security and much more, all in an effort to help businesses enhance their IT security.

What is your favourite cyber security video series? Are there any that you think should be on my list? Let me know in the comments below!