The transition from an engineer in a corporate job to a Pro Triathlete: An Interview With Laura Siddall
There are very few people who know the true extent of the word “triathlete”.
While the majority of the populace may think of it as a hobby, a special interest, or a self-fulfilling achievement, there’s a large population for which it means far greater.
It’s these people that live and breathe the sport. For them, it’s their passion, their obsession, and ultimately, their purpose.
Professional triathlete Laura Siddall takes it a step further– having traded in a comfortable yet firmly-clutching corporate career to pursue the sport as a full-time athlete.
It’s a leap that few would make and far fewer would understand.
Now, fully in the swing of a successful career as a professional triathlete, she shares with us her unique and relentless journey making the pivot of her life...and why “just going for it” maybe the best thing you’ll ever do.
Most of us can agree that there’s a certain nuance that comes with early adulthood. We’re pushed to rushedly find our strengths and relentlessly pursue them until we’ve landed in a promising, even successful, career. The issue is that it often doesn’t give us the time or the opportunity to discover what could be our true purpose.
This is exactly what Laura experienced.
“I grew up in the U.K. and at that time, when I was growing up, it was very much the norm that you’d go to school, go to University and get your degree, and go into the corporate world. And at that time, sport was very much encouraged, but it was encouraged as a hobby. More of a way to showcase that you were well-rounded on your resumé”, Siddall says.
Fortunately for Laura, it was exactly this same boilerplate journey that led her directly to where she should’ve been all along.
“After University, I got a job and was assigned to Australia. Sport is just so huge over there. That’s where I found triathlon and got involved. It was still very alien to me, I had still only considered it a hobby. But being in Australia and showing promise in my age group made me start to consider the possibility of doing it as a job. That was the turning point for me.”
While most would have shrugged off the idea of trading a long-pursued career for what some might view as a hobby, Laura couldn’t. And didn’t.
“I was in a corporate job that I wasn’t particularly enjoying, even though I had a fantastic boss and the company was supportive of me doing the sport as a hobby. But trying to do both felt like I wasn’t going anywhere with either of them. I got to the point where I knew I had to give the sport a chance. I didn’t want to look back in 10 or 30 or so years and say ‘what if?’”, Siddall recalls.
A Re-engineering Realization
Being at a crossroads is always a tough decision, particularly when one avenue offers far more certainty. But Laura knew right away which road to take.
“I thought ‘you better not miss the chance to do this’”, she says about her decision to pursue the sport full-time.
“We grow up in a bit of a materialistic world where we’re encouraged to get the degree and get the salary so you can have the stuff you want. But I think we lost somewhere along the way that you should do what you’re really passionate about and believe in. And that it’s okay to choose the path that isn’t the norm.”
With this realization, Laura knew her chance to take the road less traveled, to a more fulfilling destination, had come.
Breaking the Mold
The final mold-breaking moment came in April of 2014. Laura had been involved in many triathlon events and had made lasting connections, one of whom would be her future trainer.
“There was a coach I was interested in working with, Matt Dixon, who was in the states. He was in San Francisco, so I flew out there for a week to train with him in a group. At the end of the week he said that he’d coach me if I came to San Francisco,” Siddall recalls.
“So, I went back to Sydney, resigned from my job, sold everything I owned, and moved out to San Francisco.”
Laura whilst British now splits her time between living in Christchurch, New Zealand and Girona Spain, a truly global and nomadic triathlete. Laura, commonly known as Sid in the triathlon community, now works with Julie Dibens out of Boulder and super exciting partnership with big things ahead.
Siddall recalls that it was about the back-end of 2013 and early 2014 when things started to get more serious in her transition to a full-time triathlete.
Like any life-altering transition, we tend to allow flames of fear and doubt spark in our minds, that when fanned by worry or panic, can engulf everything we’ve worked for.
For Laura, it was a bit different.
When asked what kept her pushing forward when fear or panic about her new career started to set in, Laura mentions that surprisingly, she remained level-headed.
“I’m a total over-thinker. I overthink most things, but for this it was different. I didn’t dwell too much on the worst-case scenario, and even the worst-case scenario wasn’t that bad if it meant I still gave it a go.”
Laura continued to maintain that attitude, even when faced with the hurdles that accompanied her leap of faith.
One of the most prominent of which, was time.
“I’d like to say that I have no regrets in life, but as I’ve evolved, the only, sort-of, regret I have is that I didn’t find triathlon earlier. It is such an amazing sport. So many races, so many opportunities, and even though I’ve been doing it for ten years, it doesn’t feel that long. I feel a bit like I’m in a race against time. I want to make the most of it, enjoy it, and be present but I do feel like there’s not enough time to get everything out of the sport that I want to just from doing it so much later.”
That said, there are upsides to having experienced a length of time in the corporate world first.
“I feel like I have a unique perspective about the sport has been in the corporate world for so long prior to doing it. That contrast has really given me a more unique appreciation for it than those who have been doing it their whole lives.”
An Eye for Engineering
One thing Laura can say about her time in the corporate world as an engineer was that it gave her an eye for good engineering.
Which led her to THEMAGIC5.
“From an engineering perspective, when I first found out about THEMAGIC5 I thought ‘oh, that’s interesting! That’s pretty cool!’ I liked the concept of the technology. But of course, I was a little bit skeptical. A lot of the gadgets that we have in the sport are quite gimmicky, but I thought ‘well, it’s got the engineering side of things, it’s got the technology, I’m intrigued’ so I went along with it.”
“Going through the process of scanning your face was quite fun, and the delivery was quick and easy. Once I got them I was looking at them and was like ‘okay these are pretty cool, but let’s see how they perform in the water’”, Laura recalls.
“I put them on and I was just totally blown away with the ease of fitting them, the visibility and the clarity. It was really quite cool to hear and read about them and experiencing that skepticism, and then actually experiencing what it said they would. It was impressive. I absolutely love them”, she raves.
Laura also loves that THEMAGIC5’s story is a lot like her own.
“I struck out of the corporate world and I love working with brands that have that similar story. It’s people who’ve changed direction because they’ve discovered a passion, or they’ve seen the need for a solution, and I have a lot of respect for brands who’ve started that way.”
When asked if Laura had any final thoughts, she had this to pass on about her story, about THEMAGIC5, and about life in general:
“You’ve got nothing to lose. Just go for it.”
She’s a great athlete and very inspiring, my wife constantly refers to her as if she can do that transition, maybe she can too.