August 7, 2020, by Emily Bateman
Alumni Spotlight: Annie Panter
The University of Nottingham alumni community stands at over 280,000 worldwide. For some, their time at Nottingham was a careful balancing act – juggling their studies and student life with competing on the world stage.
This week, we caught up with Olympian and former UoN Sports Scholar, Annie Panter (Mathematics & Economics BSc, 2009), Managing Director at RugbyX.
Whilst playing hockey for England and Great Britain, Annie earnt over 100 caps in an international career spanning a decade, whilst also studying at Nottingham and excelling in life outside of sport.
In this blog, Annie shares how she found the balance between training for the Beijing Olympics and completing a demanding course, her reflections on her sporting and professional career, and her advice to current students who are thinking about breaking into the sports industry.
My Nottingham story
“My journey to Nottingham wasn’t the most direct route. I broke into the full England hockey team in the summer after leaving school and was fortunate enough to compete in the 2002 World Cup in Perth, Australia later that year. Following that I decided to concentrate on being a full-time athlete and spent a year living and training in South-West London. The decision seemed sensible when in October 2003 I made the Great Britain training squad for the Athens Olympics, however the shock of the team failing to qualify for the Games meant that our National Lottery Funding was cut and I decided to go back to University.
“At this point, I was based in Loughborough for training and applied to study Maths and Economics at Nottingham. My time at the University was definitely not a typical student experience and I split a couple of my study years, so I could cope with training for the Beijing Olympics and successfully completing a demanding course. This meant that what should have been a three-year course, in fact took me 5 years to complete (much to my parents’ dismay at the time and my own when I eventually started paying off my sizeable student loan!) I have many memories of rushing from the gym or the pitch to lectures and exams, quite often arriving late and a bit flustered!
“I graduated from Nottingham in 2009 and the last 11 years have definitely been varied! I spent the next few years working part-time for Kraft (now Mondelez) in marketing and as a full-time athlete in the lead up to London 2012 where I was part of the bronze-medal winning GB team. Post-London, I retired from hockey and wanted a completely new challenge to test myself away from sport. I joined Goldman Sachs as a trader on the convertible bond desk (a hybrid credit and equity derivative product) and spent five years in a tough, demanding environment, but one that was very different to the world of elite sport. During this time, I’d also become the Chair of the International Hockey Federation’s Athletes’ Committee and a member of the Executive Board. It was a fascinating insight to the workings and politics involved within international sporting federations.
“My focus was increasingly being drawn back towards sport and I left Goldman to join TRM Partners who predominantly help premium sports rights holders find commercial sponsors. I initially led our UEFA account across their women’s football commercial rights and then helped grow our women’s sport business to include other clients, such as World Rugby. At the beginning of this year I moved within our group company to become Managing Director of RugbyX; the new, indoor 5v5 format of rugby which was seen with international teams for the first time at the O2 Arena last year.
“When I reflect back on the fact that 8 years-ago I was fully focused on winning a medal at the Olympics and now I’m running a start-up with a stint on the trading floor at Goldman Sachs thrown into the mix, it seems a bit of a crazy journey! I think if there’s a common thread, it’s about not being afraid of taking on new challenges, being prepared to make mistakes and enjoying learning the lessons which that brings. It’s something you do every day as an athlete and something I always try to keep in my mind when I’m having a tough day or feel out of my comfort zone.
“I’m currently on the Board of UK Sport which I absolutely love and keeps me connected to the values of Olympic and Paralympic Sport. My own sporting career gave me so much and it’s a privilege to be in a position to help shape the future of the UK’s sporting high performance system.
The implications of Covid-19
“I recognise my good fortune in that life in lockdown has in general been ok and there are elements of taking some of the pace out of life to enjoy the simple things which has been a really good intervention. Obviously, there has been so much sadness caused by Covid-19 and I feel for anyone who has lost a loved one. Not seeing friends and family has been hard, but from a work perspective it has personally been quite straightforward.
“Many people in our company already spent a reasonable amount of time out of the office and enjoyed flexible working arrangements, so the change wasn’t as stark as for some other companies. However, navigating an environment where some employees are on furlough and others are working remotely has required careful communication.
“In terms of the future, we postponed any RugbyX events planned for this year and instead have been focusing our efforts on planning a very exciting global calendar of events for 2021. The sports industry as a whole has clearly been hit very hard by the pandemic with the cancellation of live sport leading to significant losses in broadcast, ticketing and sponsorship revenues. However, sport will adapt (as we are seeing with behind-closed-doors matches and virtual events) and will undoubtedly have a big role to play in helping to rebuild communities and economies when restrictions are lifted.”
My words of advice
“The most valuable skill which I learnt through sport is being able to cope with failure and to view making mistakes as the quickest way to learn. As an athlete, you never have a perfect match and being able to take the same analytical approach to performance in my professional career as I did in my sporting one has been vital to not only my development, but also my mental health.
“From spending most of my life in a team sport, I also gained a good understanding of how you need to have a combination of different skills, personalities and behaviours in order to achieve the best results. The tricky bit is ensuring those differences blend together and are driving towards the same goal in order to then become a real strength.
“For anyone who is looking to pursue a career in the sports sector, I would advise trying to understand more about how the sports industry works and what types of jobs exist. My experience of Goldman would have been dramatically different if I had chosen investment banking rather than the trading floor, just as my current experience would be very different had I chosen another route. Sometimes people think a love of sport means they will enjoy working in sport, which isn’t always the case. Clearly it helps to have an interest in the subject matter of your job, however often the business of sport is quite removed from what we witness on the pitch, court or track. Understanding which parts of the sports industry interest you the most will help shape your career in the right direction.”
Many thanks to Annie for sharing her story. As always, if you’d like to share your experiences in an alumni blog, email our Sports and Alumni Relations Officer, Emily Bateman, at Emily.Bateman@nottingham.ac.uk – we’d love to hear from you!
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