HLN meets: Kate Mackay – the woman who swapped the boardroom for a snowboard
Management coach Kate Mackay swapped the boardroom for a snowboard to write her confidence manual, Take It All On Board.
By Jo Dunbar
From being the only woman on an alpine slope with an ambition to be the best snowboarder she could be, professional and performance coach Kate Mackay learned how to follow her passion despite the responsibilities and constraints on her time of bringing up a family. Finding parallels between snowboarding training and everyday life, Kate published Take It All On Board. She lives in Tynemouth with her husband Gordon and their daughter Freya.
At what point did you decide to turn your experiences into a book?
It was a gradual realisation that my snowboarding journey, my coaching and consultancy work around change management would all fit together. Snowboarding is still a male-dominated sport which can be off-putting for women. The most people watch snowboarding is during the Winter Olympics; people doing massive jumps and all these tricks; that’s not relatable. I wanted to say anybody can do it. You haven’t got to pull off gymnastic-type manoeuvres to have a great time, you can be on a snowboard enjoying the sport and enjoying the environment.
Photograph by Damian McArthur.
Did you feel like there wasn’t anything like Take it All On Board out there?
There’s a lot of literature in the self-development field, but I felt there wasn’t anything that combined an action sport for women with self-development. My reasons for writing Take It All On Board were two-fold really: I want to encourage more women to take up snowboarding; and my experiences in learning to snowboard are really relatable for everyday life as well. So, when I’m speaking to a group of 100 people and have a few nerves, it’s thinking to myself, well actually I’ve faced a black slope that was really steep and there were possible serious consequences if things went wrong. So, of course I can stand in front of 100 people! And that’s what I wanted women to do, relate it to their own lives but also make them think “Ooh, maybe I could give snowboarding a go, too.”
Often women can put obstacles in their own paths when it comes to learning something new. Do you agree?
Yes, I do. I think there’s an element of self-sabotage that can go on among women and I think that’s really around self-belief. You might sabotage something almost on a subconscious level because you’re not sure really whether you can actually do it. The fear of failure is greater than the fear of actually doing it. When we talk about fear there’s two types of fear: the fear that’s really designed to keep you safe if you are going to do something that could endanger your life. That’s what I call a real fear. Then there is false-fear, which is more to do with self-belief.
When I had a fall and injured myself, I knew that I was going to get back on a snowboard and within about two months I did. I was really scared but I knew that I had miles under my board, loads of muscle memory and that, in reality, it was more my self-belief that had taken a bit of a battering when I had my fall. I had a few wobbly first turns, but I knew could do it, and within a month of that, I was on a women’s snowboarding course.
Many of us have constraints on our time. You have been very focused about carving out time for yourself. Do you have any tips?
I used to do a lot horse riding so I would commit to something at the same time each week. Once I started my own business and had a baby that was much harder, and I found it easier to take a block of time to go and do what I wanted to than to commit to something at the same time each week. I think as a woman you constantly prioritise and juggle and people often ask me how I manage to do everything: run a business, write a book, blog, exercise – whether that’s hiking, cycling or snowboarding. I’m very clear: I schedule stuff, I’m very organised and I have clear boundaries. You have to train other people not to encroach on your boundaries. You can start small with your friends and your family or your partner before you start trying to do the same with work. I chunk my time and I work more effectively if I do things that way and not by multitasking. I learnt that chunking my time for snowboarding, which was a passion, was easier to do in a block. I don’t get it right all the time, just like everybody else. I think what have I learnt from that? What would I do differently next time?
Do you have any advice for readers who might think they are too old to learn something new?
Women perhaps use their husband and kids as an excuse not to do something then when the children have grown up say, “I’m too old now.” I think no matter your stage of life, you can always find an excuse not to do something. It’s important to find a passion because you’ll be strong enough to push through those blocks and you’ll always find the time. You may have some genuine aches and pains that you need to work around; warm up a bit more or use a foam roller a bit more but if you’ve got something that you’re really passionate about you will find a way to do it, and age shouldn’t be a barrier.
Photograph by Damian McArthur.
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone seems to be something you are familiar with…
When I coach women, they are or generally in middle management or upper management or women who have their own businesses, but whatever they want to do or achieve, they’re going to the next level and by necessity they need to put themselves out of their comfort zone. The underlying issue for women is always confidence, no matter who you are. It’s important for women to find people who are their crew. Sometimes you have to actively seek out the people with the lives you aspire to. If you can find your community, they change your thinking and inspire you, and help you to realise your goals.
Take It All On Board by Kate Mackay is available from takeitallonboard.com or Amazon and is available as a paperback or ebook.