Week 27: Kelly Fitzsimmons
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
A native Calgarian, Kelly has always been inspired by all things sport, arts and startup. As a kid, she grew up swimming with the Cascade Swim Club in Calgary, riding horses and exploring her creative side through visual and theatre arts. In grade 10, she discovered modern pentathlon through an Olympic mentorship program and was drawn to the unique challenge of competing in 5 completely different sports – fencing, swimming, horse jumping, shooting and running.
After high school, Kelly started in Engineering and Architecture at UBC and then transferred to the Haskayne School of Business in 2009 to complete a Bachelor of Commerce. During her time, she led the Enactus team to the final stage at the National Championship and earned the Canadian Student Leader of the Year Award.
After graduating, Kelly got her start working in partnerships and market strategy with Sport Chek and Canadian Tire. She then made the move to Toronto to work on digital and market strategy with top innovation consultancies such as SapientNitro, Frontier and Normative on clients ranging from grocery to telecomm and retail.
Today, Kelly works as a lead strategist with Axiom Zen. a venture studio that builds high-growth businesses and products at the forefront of emerging technology, such as AI, Machine Learning and blockchain. Axiom Zen was named first among Canada’s Most Innovative Companies by Canadian Business, and is the team behind CryptoKitties, the world’s most successful blockchain game. Axiom Zen’s work has been featured in TIME Magazine, The New York Times, and Fast Company.
Outside of her work with Axiom Zen, Kelly is a current member of the Canadian Modern Pentathlon national team, competing at the World Cup and World Championship level. She believes in lifelong adventures through the power of sport, entrepreneurship and creativity.
How has sport helped you develop skills for your work today?
Sport has helped me in so many ways. Personally, it has helped me better understand my strengths, weaknesses and how to train and hone skills. Careers, like sport, are all about continual curiosity, learning, development, and performance. Working in the tech industry requires all of those things because it is so fast moving and often we are exploring very ambiguous situations. Sport gives you that relentlessly optimistic attitude that one way or another, you are going to figure it out!
Who is a leader you admire and why?
I admire any leader who is positive, resourceful, kind and builds others up. Being a great leader means creating an environment for others to be the best they can be. This is characteristic of both great business leaders and coaches.
What is one piece of advice would you have for young female athletes today?
Start building your support system and resources. Talk to people you admire and ask them about their tips for development and performance. When you are young, it’s a great time to build mentorships with amazing people who want to support your goals and learning. I believe that sport and careers are both long-term lifestyles. Its all about continually building a base and layering up. For me, that meant focusing on school and coming back to sport to support my endeavors while working. It hasn’t been easy! But I value both my sport and professional careers, and they’ve had to work together. You always have to think long-term and never be afraid to forge your own path. At the end of the day, it’s your journey to embrace.