Emily Hughes was called to represent the US figure skating team at the 2006 Torino, Italy Olympic Games. She was a junior in high school at the time.
Competing on a global stage in front of thousands of people is not a typical teenage experience, and Hughes has used that opportunity to propel her post-skating career.
“I learned so much from sports that initially I didn’t think were obviously transferable,” she told espnW. “And there were a lot of transferable skills. You have to learn how to set goals, and how do you accomplish a big goal? You have to break it up. And it’s the same in the workplace. You have to take feedback and figure out how to get better.”
She’s applied these skills to her most recent job as a business analyst at the tech giant Google.
We spoke to the Olympian turned Googler and asked what career advice has truly hit home over the years.
The first piece of advice came from a mentor set up through the
EY Women Athletes Business Network, which helps elite athletes make the transition into business.
“One of the things she says is that y
our experience is really dependent on the people who you’re working with and your team surrounding you,” Hughes tells us of the advice IDEO CMO Whitney Mortimer gave her. “Being able to work with people that you are excited to work with, and who you can learn and grow from, can be a huge benefit to your career.”
Hughes was exposed to this concept early on as a figure skater, despite the sport’s individualistic nature.
“Even though I’m alone on the ice during competition, I still very much relied on a team to become an Olympian,” she recalls. “I worked with my coach on the ice, and had a choreographer and trainer off the ice; it was a different kind of team, but really allowed me to understand how important those around you are.”
The next piece of advice is simple: Talk to a lot of people.
Transitioning from professional sports to the corporate world was not easy. “I didn’t have a résumé. I didn’t know what consulting was. I didn’t know what it meant to work in sports versus being an athlete,” she tells us.
She simply started talking to people — reaching out and leaning in.
“I set up conversations with people to explore what industries were out there, what types of professions were out there, and what different people did at different types of companies,” Hughes explains. “It was a way for me to recognise what skills I had, and also what skills I wanted to learn to be able to do what I wanted to do.”
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