5 minutes with Tessa Virtue on reinvention and resilience
Tessa Virtue is a household name not only in Canada, but around the world. Tessa and her ice dance partner, Scott Moir, first captured the hearts of Canadians at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, where they became both the first North Americans and the youngest ice dancers to be crowned Olympic Champions. They would go on to become the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history, earning five career medals — three gold and two silver — along with several other wins on the world stage. After 22 years as partners, they chose to step away from the sport. Now retired from ice dance, Tessa continues to be a strong advocate for women’s empowerment and works closely with FitSpirit, an organization whose mission is to raise public awareness around the problem of declining participation in sport among pre-teen and teenage girls. As an ambitious academic, Tessa now plans to pursue her MBA and channel her energy into her next challenge: becoming an entrepreneur.
We recently spoke with Tessa about her career journey and the transition she is making into entrepreneurship — and gathered some insights on balance, resilience, and the lessons she’s learned as a professional athlete.
You’ve grown up in the spotlight and are a household name as an Olympic champion. Following your retirement and through your career transition, what inspired you to pursue your MBA at Queen’s University?
I always admired my mom for getting her MBA later in life. She talks about that time in her life with affection and gratitude – it offered her a chance to nurture her own identity outside of the prescribed roles of employee, mother, and wife. I’ve always known education would play a major part in my life, and I’m eager for a new challenge. I have been incredibly fortunate to dive into the corporate realm in a unique way for the last decade, but I want to develop a greater understanding from a macro level and earn some credibility as I venture forth in the next phase of my career. I am keen to better understand how to use my platform by earning my stripes!
I want every single young girl and woman to feel limitless, and that begins by believing she is worthy of her dreams.
Resilience is a very important skill for professional athletes. How has your resilience helped you navigate through some of the most challenging times during COVID? Can you offer any tips on staying resilient through obstacles and challenging times?
Interestingly, in preparing for every single possible scenario as an athlete, I also learned that it was important to be responsive, not reactive. Being adaptable is key, and finding freedom within a regimented structure is a delicate balance. I’d say my approach to COVID was mostly affected by the perspective it offered, and the gratitude that came with the realization that it’s the simple things in life (the things we so often take for granted) that make me happy. I tried to find purpose each day, however small or seemingly insignificant, and do my best to contribute to meaningful causes.
Following the completion of your MBA, what is your number one leadership trait you want to bring into your next role of CEO?
Empathy and confidence (sorry, that’s two!).
We recently spoke with fellow Olympian and gold-medal winner, Cassie Cambell-Pascall about the importance of sport, in the midst of the pandemic. As a strong advocate for women’s empowerment and through your work with FitSpirit, what is your take on continuing to use sport as a catalyst to develop positive change in the lives of children, youth and in communities during this time?
There are so many important lessons to be learned through sport – including, but not limited to; embracing failure, making vulnerability a strength, delayed gratification, goal setting, and teamwork. It is incredibly easy, especially in today’s climate, to feel overwhelmed and insignificant. What physical activity offers is a sense of purpose, a release of energy, and a surge of self-worth. Moving our bodies through space – TAKING UP SPACE! – is valuable, particularly for young girls. I want every single young girl and woman to feel limitless, and that begins by believing she is worthy of her dreams.