Careers: Job Ladder - Tanya Barron, international director, Leonard Cheshire

What was your first job? I was a zoo-keeper at London Zoo. I began by milking the cows and by the time I left was looking after the monkeys - a real promotion in the zoo world! I stayed there from 1976 to 1982.

What were your two key career moves? Joining VSO in 1989. I started as posting officer at the charity's headquarters and ended up as head of programmes by the time I left in 1996. Another key move was becoming chair of the Unicef NGO committee for the Eastern Europe region in Geneva.

Why do you think you got your present job? I hope it is because I spent the past 15 years working in international development.

Who has been your biggest influence? Meera Green, who was international director of VSO in the 1990s. She knew how to use people's abilities and enable them to do a good job. She put up lots of ladders for people to climb, including me, and eventually I became her deputy.

What was the best moment of your career? Last year, when I was presented with the European Woman of the Year award in London. I received the award for humanitarian work from the chair of Home-Start International, where I worked at the time.

... and your worst moment? One day at London Zoo, I forgot to lock the door behind me and found myself alone with a male mandrill, which was really frightening because they can be very aggressive.

What is your tip for success? You have to be passionate about what you are doing. It is really infectious. It will make people want to work with you.

How do you relax? I start work late and stay late. My daily moment of relaxation is when I walk back home every day from our offices in Millbank to Piccadilly Circus, where I live.

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