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How my corporate career complements my lifelong sports dream

By Catherine Chew, Consultant, Health & Public Service, Accenture Consulting, Singapore

When I started my first job almost three years ago, I remember feeling great trepidation. Until then, I made all of my life decisions with my passion for show jumping horses as a deciding factor. Show jumping is an equestrian sport that involves navigating a series of obstacles ranging up to 1.6m in height (taller than me) and 1.8m in width. It requires power, precision and spilt-second reaction, testing the strength of partnership between horse and rider.

I had moved to Germany at 14, so I could train and compete in the European circuit, as I had reached the limit of what Southeast Asia could offer my sports development. That region of Europe is widely considered the horse capital of the world, and many riders from across Asia, Latin America, the United States and the Middle East relocate there to train.

I graduated from high school through a remote learning program. Throughout my time at Cornell University, I continued to prioritize my career in sports—at one time taking an entire year away from university to train for the 2010 Asian Games, where I competed in show jumping.

Making it work

When I joined global professional services company Accenture as a new graduate, I had a terrible fear of finally having to retire from sports to enter the workforce.

Fast-forward three years—I have added to my resume two South East Asian (SEA) Games, one Asian Games and one Olympic Qualifier, all in show jumping. In the 2015 SEA Games, on home ground in Singapore, my competition culminated in a team gold and individual silver medal.

This year, I placed fourth and seventh in world ranking competitions in Madrid and Vejer. In the near future, I am targeting the 2017 SEA Games and the 2018 Asian Games.

I believe that your career should open doors to whatever you want to experience, whether it directly or indirectly relates to your work. My employer supports me in my sporting goals through flexible work arrangements, including working remotely for three months and a part-time work arrangement prior to the 2015 SEA Games.

Exploring other aspects of sports

I am also curious about other aspects of sports. Through my workplace, I’ve been able to explore sports team management by leading and growing a team of competitive dragon boat paddlers to represent in international corporate events. In the last year, growing the team from two to 24 competitive paddlers has given me insight into recruitment, governance, logistics, marketing, fundraising and training.

The Accenture Dragons has grown through a team of dedicated paddlers who have entered Accenture and taken leadership positions. Our paddlers have enthused that having a channel to compete as a corporate team has kept them motivated and fit.

Marrying sports and career

My calling has always been in sports. I believe that having a career outside of sports should not hinder my ability to do what I love. Rather, it should help me aspire to greater sporting achievements. Whether it is taking part in international championships or managing a corporate sports team, I believe that I will be able to sustainably marry my sport and career.

Flexible and remote work arrangements are workplace practices of the near future. I believe that with an empathetic and forward-thinking employer, it will grow increasingly commonplace to have big dreams both within and outside your workplace.