How did you come across the Athletes Network?
Back in spring 2020, around two months into the pandemic, and after I’d announced my retirement and had to face up to the sudden end of my sporting career, Beni Huggel got in touch with me on Instagram. He told me about the Athletes Network starting up. Initially, I was surprised and honoured that such a huge sports star like Beni knew who I was and had contacted me. I’m guessing he’d assumed that I was a professional athlete and was about to embark upon the exciting process of moving into a new career away from sport. In fact, though, I’d always worked full-time, or close to full-time, alongside my sport. I even studied for my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees ‘on the side’, too. Luckily for me, that meant I didn’t have to face the huge challenge of deciding what to do next, because I could just carry on working for my current employer. I still find my job as a Key Account and Product Manager very rewarding, even though I’ve been giving it more attention for the last two years or so because I don’t have to put all that effort into sport any longer.
What do you think about the Athletes Network’s brand and services?
I have to say that I loved the idea as soon as I heard about it. Since I’ve never been a professional athlete, I’ve never really given much thought to the services available to me to help me get started in the business world at the end of my sporting career. Having said that, I have occasionally thought about how you might be able to ease the transition for professional athletes who have to embark upon new endeavours after they retire from their sport, and especially about the best ways to prepare them for life after sport. I probably keep coming back to these thoughts because my best friend is an ice hockey player, and he will be facing this particular challenge in the next few years. The Athletes Network brand is brilliant because it has been created by such strong personalities from all sorts of different fields. And the team are all so passionate and motivated as well.
How did you get involved with the various things you’ve done at Sunrise UPC and OBT AG?
I think there was a lot of luck involved. I had the honour of giving a speech about my career at the second Athletes Day. I spoke about the challenges of balancing a traditional career with a career in sport. It just so happened that representatives from Sunrise UPC GmbH and OBT AG were at that event too. They enjoyed my presentation and, after I expressed an interest, both companies invited me to give further talks over the next few weeks. I was in contact with Stephanie Pillichshammer from Sunrise UPC GmbH quite a lot after the first session, and I ended up getting involved with two more Sunrise UPC workshops.
Can you tell us about the training on the athlete’s mindset and the ‘new way of work’ that you worked on with the change ambassadors? What was that all about? How did you approach the training? How did your own athlete’s mindset and earlier sporting successes help? What did you enjoy most?
The discussion on the ‘new way of work’ was absolutely fascinating. During the first briefing, I noticed that Sunrise UPC GmbH were keen to address issues that I was all too familiar with from my career as an amateur athlete (as opposed to a professional one). I realised that people tend to be impressed by the balancing act performed by top athletes who cannot make a living entirely from their sporting activities. The feedback after the training was overwhelmingly positive. From the beginning, my aim was to focus on emotion, motivation and passion, and I think those were the aspects that were most interesting to the audience. The discipline and sense of responsibility amateur athletes have to demonstrate impresses people, too, and those characteristics are generally strongly associated with the athlete’s mindset. I really enjoyed interacting with people from different cultures and teams as well.
You have also worked with Sunrise UPC on ways of working. What did that involve? What could you draw on from your past experience and share with the managers and employees? And what did you enjoy most?
At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to convey my deep passion for sport effectively in English. Luckily, it all went really well. During that session, I tried to focus on different aspects of team sports, since all employees work as part of a team in one way or another, whether it’s with colleagues, customers, suppliers, or whatever. I tried to explain that every individual has their own way of working, thinking, and getting things done, and that’s the way it should be. At the same time, though, there has to be a certain level of trust within a team for it to be successful. You know a team is built on trust when every individual believes that every single person in that team is pulling their weight and giving their all. That belief boosts your motivation as an individual. I have no doubt about that, and I’ve come across so many examples that have proved it.
Did you enjoy the inspirational speech you gave to the Senior Director Entertainment team at Sunrise UPC? How did you prepare for it? Was it easy to communicate with Sunrise UPC? Did you feel you could approach them with any questions that came up?
I never had any problems with the relationship with Sunrise UPC GmbH. I felt completely comfortable asking questions, and I always received a reply in no time at all. The staff working at the company were always so positive and enthusiastic, which made everything so much easier for me. When I was preparing my speeches, I made sure to include the things that people said they had found most interesting in the previous ones. I also expanded the content to cover some more ground, like the setbacks I suffered and the strategies I used to overcome them. And another thing I should mention is that a short video clip of highlights from the World Championship semi-finals in Switzerland in 2019 went down very well. We won that game 7–6, despite being 6–1 down at one point. It was just further proof that people love that depth of emotion that you only find in the world of sport. The video was a good ice-breaker, because lots of the people there could remember the ‘Miracle of Neuchâtel’, as it became known.
How was the event with the executive board at OBT? What did you take away from it? And what did you enjoy most about it?
The event with the various members of the management team broadened my horizons, because there were a lot of people at that session who worked for an organisation that probably isn’t quite as dynamic and ‘state of the art’ as Sunrise UPC GmbH. Now, I don’t mean that to be disrespectful at all: quite the opposite – it was absolutely fascinating to talk to people from a company that has been operating successfully for decades. For example, there was a much more critical attitude towards flexible working hours and working from home. The discussion during the session was very lively, and I really loved it. It made me look at things from a different angle.