Former Olympian Kirk Shimmins – ‘My Light Bulb Moment: Only Now Do I Understand my Value to the Corporate World’

Wed 20th Jul 2022

Former Olympic hockey player, Kirk Shimmins has trained and competed at the highest level all whilst juggling academic studies and part-time employment. Stepping away from sport, Kirk transitioned from a high-performance lifestyle, which has always felt very natural to him, adjusting to a job in the ‘unknown.’

Hockey has been part of Kirk’s routine since he was 12 years old. “I was playing at least once a day and before I knew it I transitioned into playing hockey professionally at the highest high level. The training and hours didn’t ever seem like a burden, it was just part of my life especially when playing with and against people I knew growing up”.

Kirk played as a midfielder for the Irish national team until 2019 and the Belgian club KHC Dragons for a year. He competed at European, World Cup & Olympic tournaments, including the 2016 Rio Games, whilst completing his Bachelor of Business and Law at University College Dublin (2018) and his MSc Finance at Antwerp Management School (2019).



Kirk started to think about transitioning in his final year at university. While nothing was clear at the time, Kirk always felt excited about what would come next and kept looking forward to starting what he knew would mark a new chapter in his life. His first interest lies in finance being surrounded by friends and family in the area. “My roommate for all tours leading up to the Olympics was also a key figure at the time. He took a break from his career to train and compete full time and it was interesting to get an insight into this world outside of sport. Also, my friends from university were not involved in hockey so as they progressed their careers we spoke about what they were doing and what was next, which definitely furthered my interest.”



Reflecting upon his journey, the Irish hockey player acknowledges just how much the unique skills he gained from his sporting journey have been a differentiating asset in the workplace. “I underestimated all the soft & mental skills I had gained playing high-level sport and the impact they could have in a working environment. I thought I was always playing catch up on my peers who had done internships or taken more focused extra-curricular that aligned with what they wanted to do after university.  As athletes, we pick up a set of skills that give us an advantage early on in our careers and we practice these repeatedly from a young age; dealing with pressure/failure, learning & adapting on the spot, perseverance, communication, being process orientated, teamwork and the actual skill of being disciplined to continuously work hard”.

Below are the three main skills Kirk developed through professional hockey that he’s now utilising at work:

  1. Perseverance – “as athletes we challenge and push ourselves over and over again for tiny gains. This translates into the workplace by being able to push past issues and follow-through”.
  2. Dealing with pressure – “the ability to stay calm, remove the emotion and think logically in any circumstances”.
  3. Communication – “being able to get a message across clearly and understanding the context of a situation”.

Kicking off a career with those kinds of skills essentially gave Kirk a head start – something that athletes can only benefit from when being on unknown ground. To anyone feeling uncertain about transitioning, Kirk’s advice is simply to take the plunge and believe in those solid abilities that others don’t have. “Know what your strengths are and don’t be afraid to embrace the unknown. Success and failure might look different, and you might not succeed straight away but remind yourself of all the effort and hours you needed to put in to be at the top of your sport. You need to repeat that effort again outside of sport while leveraging all the skills you have gained as an athlete.”



Transitioning into the corporate world requires adjustments at every level. One of them is adapting to a completely different work-life rhythm, and this is where Kirk’s ability to persevere became handy. “Initially, the transition felt strange and somewhat difficult. There is a come down in speed and to some extent focus. You have to remind yourself that when you play a high-level sport every single thing you do is to improve performance and give yourself a better chance of success. In a professional working environment, although this is the case to some degree, you come to realise that work is only a portion of your colleagues’ lives. They’re keen to maintain a balance and separation between work and their personal lives whereas as an athlete we blend it together much more and everyone is going in the same direction. Adapting to this took me by surprise but eventually, I understood the dynamics of an office environment in which I am now much better positioned to apply my unique strengths.”

Kirk now enjoys a new taste of freedom: “I have come to enjoy my current lifestyle, still very active but just not in a sense of training. It’s a strange thing to get used to – I appreciate being able to do whatever I want when I want versus what you need to do to perform as an athlete. I‘m enjoying the change and always trying to enjoy the flexibility that comes with it”.