University of Calgary

Unconventional Career Path

Submitted by alumni on Sat, 11/05/2016 - 14:33.

Unconventional Career Path

Discover what drives, inspires and entertains three-time Olympian and recent MBA grad, Chandra Crawford. From heroes and favourite books to thoughts on motherhood and school struggles — meet Crawford.
by Deb Cummings

Chandra Crawford, MBA’16
What becomes of Olympic athletes after the Games end? While the world is full of stories about the lead-up, we rarely look at the next chapter. That’s why we contacted three-time Olympian and 2006 gold medallist Chandra Crawford, who retired from cross-country ski racing in 2014 and graduated last spring from the Haskayne School of Business with an Executive MBA and a baby — her first.

by Deb Cummings

How do you deal with challenges?

I journal like crazy and find resources or people in similar situations. For example, I found it hard to get the hang of school when I went back two years ago and so I went to procrastination and productivity workshops and listened to a podcast on study tips.

Why did you decide to go back to school?

I always wanted to go to university and knew it would be there when my ski career ended. The MBA was my first choice because I thought it would give me leadership skills for running Fast and Female (a not-for-profit that empowers girls, eight to 18, through sport by introducing them to Olympic role models) and open up vocational options in my life.

What have you been doing since you retired from skiing?

I began expanding Fast and Female and started my MBA. Then I got married and moved to Calgary from Canmore. Then I got a puppy (named Stella) and a job at National Bank and got pregnant on our honeymoon and had a daughter two weeks after I graduated with my MBA.

How did you manage all that?

I have a super-supportive husband and family and stayed sane by doing 30 minutes of exercise every morning. Mentally, the most important skill I learned was to let go of trying to look like I knew what I was doing and just ask for help. Once I became more comfortable asking what felt like stupid questions, life opened up and everything was way better.

How will you apply your new skills that you learned in studying for your MBA?

I am already thinking how to make Fast and Female more efficient. Before my MBA, I had no idea how to analyze how successful our events were financially and how to cultivate longevity and power. I also learned that my former leadership style was passive and likely ineffective. I now view my leadership as a product and my team as customers and that I need to make it work for them. That has not been an easy process.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I am interested in the concept of Eudamonia that pertains to human flourishing. The key is the pursuit of challenge.

Which living person do you most admire?

Sharon Wood, the first woman to climb Mt. Everest.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

I just found a birthday card from my dad where he drew a road and wrote, “The road less travelled leads to all the best places.”

What are you reading these days?

New Yorker magazine, the weekend Globe and Mail and parenting books like How to Raise an Adult and Raising Bebe (hilarious).

Did being an Olympic athlete help train your brain for taking an MBA?

Definitely. I was already used to positive self talk, breaking down tasks, not taking failures personally and generally focusing on doing my best and not worrying about others too much, except to learn from them and encourage them!

Do you have a personal motto you live by?

“No regrets!” I guide a lot of my actions and decisions by trying to imagine if I’ll regret it later. In ski racing, I’d say, “If I don’t do my core exercises every morning and eat egg whites and veggies for breakfast and get as fit as possible, I will regret that. If I go to the party instead of resting my legs for tomorrow’s workout, I will regret that.”

What is your most treasured possession?

Thirty journals, which I started writing when I was 10.

If I had met you at 18, what would you have said you’d be doing in your 30s?

I think my absolute dream was to win a gold in skiing and use it for a motivational career of some kind... a bit like Sharon Wood. U

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