InterviewsRecruitment & HR

The synergies between sport and business are as prevalent now as ever before, with athletic icons increasingly entering the commercial arena.

The impact of mindset on both sporting endeavour and success in the boardroom, for example, is at an all-time high.

“I’m from a family of athletes, so I’ve seen the common traits required for a woman to be successful in both,” Emma Isichei, CMO at MHR, tells TechBlast. “My daughter is a 9x world champion Muay Thai fighter, my father was a prop for Wasps Rugby Club, and I was an international gymnast.

“Sport and business have a lot of commonalities: the determination to overcome adversity is required in both arenas, while having a singular desire and objective to reach your goal – and the open-mindedness to adapt and react when things change – is central to success as a businesswoman and as a sportsperson.”

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, Isichei says that as a society we need to recognise the requirement for more representation at the peak of business and sport for women.

“Whether this is in matched salaries or equal acclaim and notoriety, the time is now to set an important precedent for women aiming to become the best at what they do,” she explains.

Isichei is on the board at Nottinghamshire firm MHR, a provider of software and outsourcing services for HR, talent management, payroll and business intelligence. She is joined there by Jessica Mills, the company’s chair, and chief human resources officer Jeanette Wheeler.

Kathryn Smith, a product owner at MHR and championship-level clay pigeon shooter, has had ample experience in balancing the two. 

Kathryn Smith, MHR and clay pigeon shooter

Smith’s presence as a woman in clay pigeon shooting also makes her unique; but the real challenge has been in overcoming time imbalances and finding entry fees – upwards of £14,000 – which are an obvious barrier to entry for most people. 

Smith has been supported by her employer in this and will compete at this year’s Clay Pigeon World Championships with MHR branding on her back.

“Clay pigeon shooting doesn’t come naturally to some. I’m lucky as my father had an interest in the sport and encouraged me in my younger years, but the push to compete at the World Championships had to come from within,” she says.

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“It’s also a benefit that my partner also competes in Clay Pigeon shooting and will be alongside me at the World Championships.

“While the balance between my career and my passion for sport has been tough, there are definite parallels to be drawn between the two. Being organised with my time and remaining focused through challenges is integral to success in both and I’m lucky to have a great support system.

“Similarly, it’s important that I remain dedicated to my training schedule. This is true for both my career progression and clay pigeon shooting – and being able to take the correct mindset into both areas is crucial to success.”

Naomi Walker, a full-time HR advisor at Keele University – a customer of MHR for the past 10 years – is a silver medallist at the England Weightlifting Championships. She has also found parallels between her day job and passion for picking up heavy stuff.

“When competing in weightlifting you have to be open and willing to identify issues and constantly work on improving technique and efficiency in order to reach those max lifts,” she says. 

“I apply this to the way I approach my role: constantly being open to challenging the way things are done to improve the efficiency and ultimately the service of the HR function in the organisation.”

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