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Chandra Crawford is a professional skier and an executive MBA student at the University of Calgary Haskayne School of Business in Canada. From 2000 to 2014, she raced with the Canadian national ski team and won a gold medal in the 2006 Winter Olympics. During this time, she founded Fast and Female, a non-profit organisation dedicated to empowering girls through sport.
Ms Crawford grew up in Canmore, Alberta. She enjoys yoga, camping, playing guitar, dancing and road biking. She has also featured in videos giving advice on preparing for and taking the GMAT.
1. What is an average day like?
For most of my life, my day has consisted of exercising twice a day, six days a week and travelling all over the world to train and race. Now I exercise as much or as little as I want (on the weekends a four-hour bike ride, midweek either no exercise or just a 30-minute jog with push-ups and stairs). I spend most of my time on calls, planning events for girls, connecting with sponsors and donors, creating partnerships with sport governing bodies, recruiting Olympic ambassadors, and hanging out with girls aged nine to 19 to stay connected to the customer group I’m most trying to serve with programming that will keep them engaged in a competitive Olympic sport.
My goals with my education are: to become a better leader for Fast and Female, to gain an understanding of business that will make my motivational speaking more effective, and to acquire skills that expand my employment opportunities.
2. How do you deal with pressure?
I use cue words and positive talk, exercise, eat healthily, break things down to laughably-small steps, breathe, and read books about consciousness by Eckhart Tolle. In sport, I worked with several sport psychologists to increase my ability to maintain perspective. I also keep a journal every night where I write three things I’m grateful for and why.
3. Who are your business influences?
Christine Day, former chief executive of Lululemon, the athletics clothing company, who is now leading healthy food start-up Luvo. She has taught me about leadership and been very supportive. Marie-Helene Thibeault, a Canadian Alpine Ski Team alumna and my non-profit business partner, who inspires me to perform at a high level. And Canadian icon of sport and social contribution Clara Hughes [the cyclist and speed skater], who inspires me with her vulnerability and impact on millions of lives.
4. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?
“Delay doesn’t mean denial” and “Patience and Persistence” have been two incredibly helpful slogans that my sport psychologist Cal Botterill has used to anchor me into the process of growing and expanding without focusing too much on the results, which in turn creates results beyond my wildest dreams.
5. What is your biggest lesson learnt?
The most important question is “who do I want to become?” It’s very different from asking what I want to do or what it is that I want. I want to become useful and make a positive change in the confidence of girls in sport and women in business. I’ve been able to cultivate a tremendous amount of self-confidence in my life so you could imagine my shock at losing absolutely all of it through a rough patch of life in my late twenties. It made me become someone much more humble and appreciative of the skills and actions required to access the vast benefits of a self-confident mental state.
6. What do you hope women in business will achieve?
I hope women in business will achieve their true potential by cultivating the qualities they need the most. I hope that legislation will require boards to have 30 per cent female representation. I hope society will continue to see people as people, not as gender, age, or race, and focus on their contributions.
7. What is the last book you read?
Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer and HBR’s 10 Must Reads: The Essentials. Untethered Soul enabled me to be more effective by responding differently to stress. It’s not for everyone but it’s a good guide for cultivating a sort of Buddhist detachment.
I liked reading HBR Essentials because I’m so new to the world of business. Exploring some good fundamentals and case studies struck a chord with my motivation to pursue this path.
8. What is your favourite business book?
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don’t by James Collins. It always turns my ideas on their head to consider choosing the people first and then the direction for a company.
9. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
I would manage my energy after I won the 2006 Olympics. I was 22, it was a complete surprise, and in so many ways I became completely overloaded. I developed coping mechanisms in order to keep pushing myself that continued to be detrimental in my ski career.
10. What is your plan B?
I’m pursuing a broad business education in my MBA. I’m half targeting my leadership of Fast and Female and motivational speaking in the business world, but the other half is a question mark. I’m open to opportunities that I don’t even know about at this point as I’m just coming up for air after being submerged in the focus of elite athletics for most of my life.