No doubt, many people are familiar with the iconic, long-established Ironman Triathlon Series – a grueling race competition that includes swimming, cycling, and running. Athletes competing in these events put themselves to the test, mentally and physically, and dedicate countless hours to training and preparation.
Samantha Taylor is one such athlete. Her passion for the sport is equally matched by her dedication to her career. This was clear to see when we asked: What inspires you?
“Professionally – my amazing team. They lift me up and provide me with support whenever there’s a heavy workload.
“Personally – my partner, who’s always there for me during times of hardship; and my family, who encourage me and cheer me on at all my races – even the small ones! Beyond that, it’s people. Whether I’m training, racing, or doing something else, seeing someone strive to achieve something and give it absolutely everything they have is inspiring to watch.”
Perhaps it’s fitting then, that she has grown her career in HR and People & Culture (P&C).
After experiencing a range of HR roles, Samantha has since progressed to People & Culture Business Partner for Australian real estate and property group, Knight Frank.
“In this role, I support our Western Australia and South Australia business, as well as our finance, IT, and franchise teams, in all P&C matters. I also co-lead the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategy with two of my colleagues and contribute to policy reforms.”
Samantha is part of a triathlon club, training anywhere between 6-9 times per week, and participates in a variety of races throughout the year – often with her partner!
“It might be the competitive side of me, but I always want to do and be better.”
But this raises the question: when you have such a demanding range of focuses, how do you find the right balance?
Finding the right balance
As Samantha shares, it can take dedication, time, and support to achieve work-life balance.
“It can be really tough sometimes, especially if there’s a lot going on at work or home. First, I identified my non-negotiables: What was I willing to miss, and what wasn’t I willing to miss for my career? Next, I set boundaries around those things.”
This included, for example, setting limits around her availability and responsiveness.
“I’ve also benefitted from having honest conversations with my manager if things start to become overwhelming, I needed a hand, or wanted some advice.”
Perhaps the biggest lesson in balancing personal and professional pursuits comes from the new goals Samantha set for herself just last year.
Setting new goals
After completing several triathlons, with the encouragement of her triathlon team, Samantha decided to sign up for two of her greatest challenges: competing in a Half Ironman and an Ironman.
“The training load was significant, so I knew trying to find the balance between work, training, and life, in general, would be tough. My base-level training each week involved nine sessions of swimming, cycling, and running. In the month leading up – this increased even more to around ten training sessions (up to 15 hours) a week.”
Factoring in a daily two-and-half-hour commute, her time was strictly limited. It was a six-month period marked by early rises and early bedtimes, morning and evening training sessions, late dinners, limited socialization, and fatigue.
Working at a supportive workplace was instrumental in turning her Ironman goals into reality.
Overcoming the hurdles
Samantha is grateful for the support she received from Knight Frank and her P&C team.
“When I shared my commitments with my manager and team, they couldn’t have been more understanding. They provided me with the flexibility to work from home on days I had multiple training sessions and work flexible hours.
“I was so fortunate to have such a supportive team, who always checked in on me, asked if I needed help, and didn’t judge me for working out of the office more than usual. I received plenty of texts the morning of my races wishing me good luck, and afterward, asking how it went! It was so reassuring to feel like what I did outside of work mattered.”
Mastering the course
Samantha ended up achieving an amazing day of personal bests at the Half Ironman and successfully completing the Ironman.
“Even though the Ironman didn’t go as planned (I had a stack on my bike, couldn’t stomach any nutrition, and missed a sub-13-hour result), I managed to cross the finish line in 13:45.
“Reflecting on this enormous six-month time period, I’m proud to have achieved this, while simultaneously achieving success in my role at Knight Frank and supporting my portfolio.”
Chasing the dream
Now, her training load has dropped significantly (only seven sessions per week now – whew!), Knight Frank is still invaluable in enabling her to achieve work-life balance and flexibility.
“Without this support and encouragement, I wouldn’t be able to continue doing something I love.”
But it’s not just triathlon dreams on the horizon.
“Not only have people in the business been so supportive of my passion for triathlon, they’re also supportive of my passion for traveling! My partner and I are keen to tick some things off the bucket list and are off to travel for six months. Knight Frank has granted me this career break – which I couldn’t be more grateful for.”
Maybe the greatest takeaway is to find work that supports your life, and life pursuits that support your work.
“People often want to see you succeed as much as you want to succeed, so have conversations with people and be honest. The worst they can say is ‘no’! So, don’t be afraid of opportunity. Seize every opportunity with both hands and run with it,” she laughs.