For a decade, Sarah Treseder has been CEO of the Royal Yachting Association. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the British Olympic Association and was awarded the OBE for services to sport. But before her career in the sports industry, the former McKinsey analyst held senior positions in diverse sectors, including roles as a newspaper publisher, a gaming executive and a strategist for Guinness.
Media → Sport
Sarah Treseder has been sailing since she was “tiny” and she never tires of it. “It’s always been my passion, my hobby, my sport.”
While some executives risk losing their love for their favourite pastime by making it their career, Treseder says this can never happen with such a broad activity. “The guys and girls who go out and win Olympic medals, and the people who potter up and down the Thames on a motor cruiser – it’s all enjoying boating,” she says. “There’s enough breadth and scope that I can enjoy the kind of sailing that I like without feeling that that is a busman’s holiday. The year just gone, literally every one of the days of holiday that I took were sailing somewhere.” This breadth of public participation means Treseder has enormous responsibilities. The RYA is a £20m turnover organisation which is world-renowned for the training it runs in multiple languages and in 50 countries, including six centres in China where it teaches in Mandarin. In her roles at the RYA and the BOA, Treseder helped to stage the sailing events at the London Olympics.
“Be prepared to move sideways or even backwards in order to get where you ultimately want to go to”
Yet she fell into this dream job almost by accident, after spotting an advertisement in a Sunday newspaper. “I thought: ‘Ah, I’m not going to get it anyway. They’re going to hire some ex-Admiral…’,” she thought at the time. But she applied and, after interview, landed a position that seemed so perfect that she regarded it as “my job”.
Treseder had been sailing since childhood, when her father took her on an impromptu boat trip from the family home in Gibraltar across to the coast of Africa. But her early career in business took an adventurous course, often through unfamiliar waters well outside her comfort zone.
She started off in management consultancy after attending a milk round presentation as an Oxford University student in search of food. Two years at McKinsey & Company led to her taking a strategic analyst role at Sega, the gaming giant, before she was headhunted into newspaper publishing, taking a managing director role of a regional press group at the age of 27.
Treseder was head-hunted again to be a lead strategist for Guinness (a drink she loves), before she went back to being a managing director, this time for drinks company Diageo in the Canary Islands – despite not speaking Spanish. “I wanted to get back to running a business,” she says.
Her advice to others who are considering a transition in their careers is: “Be prepared to move sideways or even backwards in order to get where you ultimately want to go to.” It’s the philosophy you might expect of an accomplished sailor who has followed her dream.