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Olympics, Overcoming Challenges, And The Beauty Of Perspective – Katie Mullan: Trinity Business School

Katie Mullan
Katie Mullan

Determination, resilience, an appetite for success and a dedication to self-improvement. Such qualities can be typically found on the CV or personal statement of anyone seeking to gain entry to the C-Suite – a seat at the table in the boardroom. The same skillset can also be found in the locker rooms and on the courts and pitches of any sport in the world – from ping-pong to football.

Indeed, professional athletes share a skillset and an attitude akin to many of the most successful and ambitious leaders in industry today, so it’s hardly a surprise that so many of the world’s sporting elite find their way to business education, and excel at it. Whether to satisfy their consistent desire for professional growth and improvement or to set in place a plan B – a way to continue their legacies when their sporting glories are behind them, business schools around the world are opening their doors to students from less stereotypical backgrounds such as sports, recognising the value such individuals can bring.

In this BlueSky Thinking mini-series, we sit down with sporting stars around the world, transforming the attitudes, values and ambitions developed through lifelong competition to the classroom. Here they share how their own experiences have helped to shape their futures, and provide learning opportunities for those around them.

Name: Katie Mullan

School: Trinity Business School

Programme: Trinity MBA full-time programme

Nationality: Irish

Tell us a little about yourself. Where did your journey in competitive sports begin? How have you grown as an athlete over the years?

I have been a sports fanatic for as long as I can remember. Growing up I played every sport that I had the opportunity to. Through my teenage years I played a lot of our national sport, camogie, alongside hockey. In 2010 I was lucky enough to represent Ireland at the Youth Olympics in Singapore.

From then I decided my dream was to become an Olympian and I was committed to achieving that. My journey has been full of ups and downs. The heartache of not qualifying for the Olympics in 2016 to highs of winning a silver medal at the world cup, not to mention a few injury struggles along the way. All these experiences have shaped me and the person I strive to be beyond my hockey career.

Through my athletic journey so far, I have learnt the beauty of perspective. In my early years I took a narrow minded, microscopic approach to analysing performance but through experience I have learnt the importance of taking a step back, looking at the bigger picture and appreciation that there is a greater purpose to the journey you are on.

Studying and training for competitions must take up a lot of time. How do you balance your busy timetable, so that you are able to perform both academically and athletically? 

I love the challenge of performing both academically and athletically. It is something I have experienced since the age of 15.

I have three key principles to balancing my hockey and academia. The first is time management. I always know my training schedule in advance so planning my study opportunities around it is key.

Secondly, I have a fantastic support network, both in my hockey team mates and MBA peers. They are always there to make sure I have everything I need to do my best.

Lastly, I am a stronger believer that there are many benefits to having both major commitments in my life. The opportunities for sport to complement my studies, and vice versa, are endless.

“The crossover between sport and business is endless. Being competitive whilst maintaining strong relationships based on respect and integrity is directly transferable from the pitch to the corporate environment.”

Are there scholarships/schemes/facilities at Trinity that have helped you keep competing in sports while studying? If so, how have they helped you? 

The Trinity MBA would never have been possible for me without the MBA program scholarship. Without both scholarship programs, from the Trinity MBA program and Trinity sport, it would not have been possible for me to undertake the full time MBA whilst continuing to compete and train at an international level. I have received support to facilitate exams during competition, extensions on assessment deadlines and additional learning opportunities from lecturers for periods when I have been away.

Within the business school and MBA program I always feel a genuine desire for me to excel both on and off the pitch. The Trinity sports scholarship has provided me with additional financial and lifestyle support. They have also provided me with an academic mentor, to support in managing conflicts in my schedule, and access to world class training facilities and coaching on campus. 

Business and sports are both highly competitive environments. Have you found there are advantages from having a foot in both worlds? And if so, how have these advantages shaped your time at business school?

The crossover between sport and business is endless. Being competitive whilst maintaining strong relationships based on respect and integrity is directly transferable from the pitch to the corporate environment.

Many valuable skills developed through working in teams to achieve a unified goal such as leadership, communication and perseverance are applicable in business. Throughout my time in the Trinity, I have found that sharing my sporting experiences with my colleagues in the classroom has helped my learning and the learning of those around me. Many of the relationships I have built during the program have been a result of that sharing.

Finally, what are your future plans? How do you see your time as a sportsperson shaping the rest of your career? And how will your studies also provide career opportunities in the short and the long-term?

Looking forward I aim to take the wealth of business knowledge I have gained through the MBA and combine it with my 12 years of international sports experience into a corporate role that I am equally passionate about and challenged by.

Eventually my hockey career will end, and I am committed to filling that void with a career where I can achieve great things as part of another highly successful team. My sporting experience has given me the best opportunity to grow as a leader and someone who strives to get the best out of those around me. I hope to continue to develop both in my career.

The network that the Trinity MBA has helped me create along with the practical and theoretical learning, in all modules, has given me perspective and understanding of what I want my next career step to be.

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