The Trinity MBA Blog

How to excel on the MBA like an Olympian

/ by Sandra Rafter

Find out how this elite athlete is steering her career with the Trinity MBA and the transferable skills that helped her navigate this new voyage.

Volvo 2018
Olympic Sailor Annalise Murphy at the Volvo Ocean Race (2018)

Annalise Murphy’s mother competed as a sailor at the Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988, so you might expect that Annalise - who was born two years later - was sailing before she was walking and competing from a young age.

“Growing up, we sailed for fun, we weren't really thrown into the super competitive stuff like Sailing Ireland, or the hugely competitive junior scene.”

It was Annalise’s older sister Claudine who started to take a serious interest in sailing in her teens, and like most little sisters, Annalise wanted to follow in her big sisters’ footsteps. It wasn’t long before Annalise was hooked and started competing at a more serious level. Claudine instead went to Trinity to study Mechanical Engineering, followed by a MSc in Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering.

In 2009 Annalise was crowned 8th in the World Championships and from there it was plain sailing to the 2016 Summer Olympics when she brought home a silver medal. In 2019, Annalise started to consider undertaking the one-year MBA at Trinity Business School.

“I knew I wanted to go back to the Olympics, but I also knew I needed to have a plan for when I finished because at that stage, I was pretty sure that the 2021 Tokyo Olympics would be my last. I knew I could get lost in that transition if I didn’t have anything planned afterwards.”

Rio 2016Toyko 2021
Annalise at the Rio Olympics (2016) and the Tokyo Olympics (2021)

Finding her sea legs on the MBA
With the Tokyo Olympics 2021 Laser Race firmly in her rearview mirror, the time arrived to make that career pivot from sport to business. Despite her glittering achievements up until that point in her life, Annalise admits to being somewhat taken aback by the sheer level of intensity that comes with the Trinity MBA.

“In my mind I thought, well, I'm a high achiever and I'm just going to be able to high achieve at this [the MBA]. A few weeks in, and I began to see just how intense it really was, and I quickly realized I’m not an expert at this. This is a completely new environment for me, and I’m surrounded by academic achievers and talented business professionals.”

Annalise soon started to see parallels between the intensity of the dedication and the application involved in Olympic sailing and that required for the Trinity Full Time MBA.

“The MBA matches the level of intensity of an athlete, you have a goal every day. Not only is the MBA challenging me to think differently and learn a huge amount, but it’s also broadening my horizons and opening up new opportunities.”

Speaking at classroom_editedAnnalise presenting to the Trinity MBA class

Setting Sail
Leadership lessons pop up in all aspects of life and sailing a yacht requires those characteristics we would generally associate with strong leadership. A good sailor must ensure the boat is safe, the crew are motivated, and strategic decisions are made quickly and decisively.

“Sailing is a complicated sport and there's so much of it is just problem solving and being able to deal with things going wrong and learning how you fix things and not getting stressed and to work as a team. I have all these skills that can easily be transferred across to the MBA, and all the ingredients of a business mindset are already there.

My attitude now is to try and learn as much as I can, from as many people as I can while I’m here. My classmates are so interesting, there is such a diverse range of backgrounds and work experience, and we are a really tight-knit class.”

Strategic Project group
Strategic Company Project Group

Company Projects
The single most differentiating feature of the Trinity MBA is the focus on live action learning. Students work in groups to deliver solutions to the senior management teams of organisations via three Company Projects: a strategic company project, a scaling project, and a social enterprise project.

“We're in the middle of the Strategic Company Project, working with a payment processing company called Square. Square are huge in the US and they are on the cusp of breaking into Europe and we’re helping them to navigate this expansion into a new market. In a group of seven, we are combining all of our strengths to make sure we do a really great job on the project. It’s brilliant to see the diverse range of views and perspectives that the group are bringing out, and we can already see Square benefiting from our insights.

There are four stages to the project, and we are in the first stage. By the fourth stage we’ll deliver a report making recommendations for Square on what we think are their pain points, or where they can improve and grow.”

In addition to a 40-hour week, filled with group work, lectures and reading, Annalise still finds time for exercise.

“I’m really enjoying the Trinity Sport facilities. I don’t need to lift super heavy weights anymore and I do a lot of cycling now instead. On the MBA there is a lot of reading and work to do in the evenings, so I find if I get up early to exercise that I’m set for the day. I particularly enjoy spending a Sunday cycling in the Wicklow mountains. Those iconic views are great for clearing the head after a busy week on the MBA. I’m also enjoying playing tennis in Trinity’s Botany Bay with a classmate.”

Next voyage
Annalise is openminded about where this MBA journey will take her, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.

“The MBA provides a tons of career support, coaching, interview preparation, and just generally helping you with to try to decide what you might be most interested in.”

Annalise’s next few voyages are with classmates. “In April, we’re off to Leuven in Belgium for an elective week. It’s for a module in negotiating for value and classes in cross border management will be held in the 400-year-old Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe. There will also be a field trip to the European Commission. And in June, we’re off to Cape Town, South Africa, as part of the sustainability module.”


Tags: Alumni, Executive MBA, Scholarships

Sandra Rafter

Written by Sandra Rafter

Communications & Public Relations Officer | Trinity Business School