Life After the Boat

A professional rower’s career cannot go on forever, so what happens when the oars are stored away for good?

Roeien.nl takes a look at the social aspirations of some of the athletes from the Aegon Dutch national rowing team, through a series of articles titled: “Life After the Boat”. This week they hear from Wianka Van Dorp, one of eight rowers in her team.

Wianka Van Dorp is no stranger in the global athletics community. The national women’s eight rower first appeared on the scene in 2004 with a junior rowing club on the River Maas in Rotterdam.

The Olympic finals in Rio 2016 bookended an impressive rowing career, and now Wianka is following a specialist program as an intern at global service providers, EY.

“In early October I went to work at EY as a Global Advisory Brand Marketing & Communications Intern. EY has been working with sports transition specialists, Athlete Career Transition (ACT), which helps athletes transition from sport into the business world.

“Founded by brothers Andy and Steve Moore, both of whom are former professional international rugby players, ACT conducted a rigorous search to find nine female Olympians for a six-month internship with EY,” Wianka says.

After an intensive selection process, Wianka was selected to join EY Netherlands.

“For me it was a good opportunity. I really like the sound of having a follow-up program after the Games. Now I am on a six-month crash-course in business that will give me a taste of the corporate world.

“I want to continue to develop and see how far I can carry the skills I learnt as an athlete into my new role in business. I hope to continue to grow within EY when the six months are up. Obviously, it all depends on how things go, and if my wishes align with those of the company.

“Currently I’m thoroughly enjoying my new role; it’s challenging, the organisation is cool and there are so many facets to it,” the Dutch rower says.

Wianka was reminded of EY’s global stature when she was flown to the US for the first week of her internship.

“I travelled with fifty men to Chicago for a team meeting. That was fun because you learn so fast and everyone was very approachable; we finished rowing as a team and it was interesting to work as a team in a different setting.

“From the first moment I was included as a full team member, and I gave a presentation about high-performing teams in a sporting context. I talked on the subject again in the Netherlands with British eight rower Olivia Carnegie-Brown.

“In Rio we were up against each other in the final, and Olivia has also been selected for the Internship Program at EY. The British team won silver when we competed against each other, but we are good colleagues now.

Since the Olympics, Wianka has gradually found her niche in business.

“Rowing will always be a huge part of my identity, but I always try to reach out for projects that are not related to sports. A big factor is that rowing has made me accustomed to professional structure and taking on challenges as part of a team.

“Working with people from many different countries, I have to take account of different time zones and locations, and communicate mainly through phone calls and emails, which takes some getting used to.

“We are now working on the development of a new platform for EY’s Advisory services. We want to improve digital platforms to boost engagement. Integrating EY’s various websites is a challenging process, but my job is to ensure everything is done correctly.

Finally, it’s common for EY staff to see out 50- or 60- hour working weeks, so what impact is that having on Wianka’s training?

“Yeah, I started to get a little sports routine going. For now, the pressure is not very high, and I haven’t had too many long days. I try to run and go mountain biking whenever possible. I’ve completed the Drenthe 200 event – a 200-km ultramarathon which you complete on a bike, fitbike or cyclocross, so you could say I’m still somewhat fit,” she adds.

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