Sophie Johnson joins WBMS
Clare Elliott speaks to WBMS latest recruit Sophie Johnson, former Team GB cyclist and change and transformation Principal Consultant.
Q) How old where you when you first started racing mountain bikes?
I was nine when I entered my first race. I saw it advertised in the local paper and asked my parents if they could take me along.
Q) What was the catalyst for your cycling passion?
As a kid we lived in the middle of nowhere and I was always outside. So to begin with, a bike represented independence and freedom – being able to visit friends and the local park (which wasn’t that local). The turning point was probably when I was 12 or 13 when I realised that I loved it and wanted to be an Olympic Champion. That was when cycling started becoming a real priority in my life.
Q) How were you supported over the years? (family, technical, fitness etc).
I couldn’t have done any of it without my parents. For years they sacrificed taking holidays so they could drive me all over the UK attending races. Literally every weekend from April to September was consumed by bikes! Luckily I was sponsored from the age of 12, so bikes, kit and race entry fees were always paid for, but I don’t for one second underestimate the investment – in time and money – that my parents made.
I’ve also been lucky enough to work with some great coaches. Bernie Shrosbree, an ex-Olympian and former member of the SBS, was probably the most influential. He was my strength and conditioning coach and mentored me around the “art of pain and suffering”. He is is the type of person you always want to do well for. He has been instrumental in coaching several athletes including James Cracknell and the Olympic rowing team, Mark Webber, Jenson Button and Colin McRae, to name a few.
Q) What was the highlight of your cycling career?
The highlight would probably be when I won the National Championships, and two weeks later wore my GB jersey for my first major championships. It was a tough year because I was studying for my A-Levels as well as training, so moments like that make everything worthwhile. Unfortunately, an injury later ended my career and I wasn’t able to progress any further.
Q) What qualities that make a sportsperson have you applied to your career?
I’d say you could divide these into two areas: the practical skills you learn, like planning, analysis, evaluation and breaking large goals down into achievable tasks; and the mental conditioning. By this I mean learning about yourself and what you’re capable of; your mental limits, resilience, determination and future-mindedness. I’d also say that representing a major brand or country teaches you self-awareness and control – people look up to you, so it’s important to know how you come across. Having that competitive streak also helps in a business environment – you have to be tough to survive in sports, and that always stands you in god stead later on.
Q) Did you get any international experience during your cycling career?
During the racing season (April- September) I took part in the World Cup Series which meant you raced in a different country each month. So although one could question how much I actually “saw” of each country, I certainly visited a lot! And in the winter we would always have a warm weather training camp in somewhere like Majorca or Lanzarote. Cycling teams also tend to be multi-national, so you quickly get exposed to people from different cultures.
Q) Do you still cycle?
Yes, I commute two or three times a week from Reigate to the office, about 25 miles each way and ride with a club at weekends. I also coach a ladies squad teaching them road etiquette and skills and generally being someone they can talk to in a male dominated sport! I keep flirting with the idea of racing again, but injury and “life” keep getting in the way!
Q) Do you do any other sports activity?
I basically love most adrenaline-based sports and restricting myself to just cycling for many years has just intensified my curiosity to get involved in other things! I now do snowboarding, kitesurfing, swimming, and car track-days. And my boyfriend is a Great Britain speed skydiver and wingsuit pilot so this may well be the next thing…
Q) Why is cycling being called ‘the new golf’ for executives?
On a social level, cycling has a great spirit of comradery which brings people together. But you can also choose how competitive you want to be. It’s not as black and white as beating someone at a round of golf, or the dilemma of whether or not you let your client win. Obviously there’s a ‘bling factor’, too – a top-end road bike or mtb can easily cost £10k, so it’s become another way to spend the annual bonus!
Q) What were you doing before joining WBMS
After I stopped cycling I started in recruitment and went straight into the change and transformation space. At WBMS I was really drawn to their consultative approach to recruitment and ability to offer a different solution to clients. I’m focusing on senior transformation within the retail and wider consumer sectors.
WBMS has a record of delivering transformation and improvement programmes across the retail, consumer, travel and leisure, TMT, energy, utilities, retail FS and insurance industries. Our invitation-only network of professionals, represent the best interim talent in the market. We can provide talent and capability to meet your resourcing needs and deliver business objectives.
Contact Us: To discuss how WBMS can help your business deliver your customer agenda, contact Clare Elliott on clare.elliott@WBMSglobal.com to arrange an introduction.