My favourite thing about Skeet Shooting is that it provides a separate puzzle unlike any other I experience during the work week. It can be best described as a Rubik’s Cube – you think you have solved it and then when you turn it over you find the other side has got scrambled! I enjoy the discipline it demands of the athletes to keep persevering and find it interesting to experience how others muddle through the same challenge.

My name is Jessica Burgess and I work for Accenture as a Technology Strategy Consultant based in London. I specialise in Banking advisory, but as a private investor, I also have exposure across many other industries, most recently in the technology start-up space.

I have always been interested in technology, particularly consumer-facing technology, and aspired to have the knowledge to advise the C-suite on the strategic direction of their business. I was keen to find a role that married the two aspirations and when I discovered Accenture, I realised Technology Strategy consulting was where I wanted my career to go. It was from there I completed an internship at Accenture, which then manifested into a graduate role.

I continuously balance work with a commitment to Olympic Skeet shooting. This involves quite extensive travelling, within the UK and abroad, as well as a large financial commitment that my job and investments help offset. This doesn’t leave much time for other commitments, but it is a passion I enjoy pursuing and that I find brings many interesting learnings to other areas (e.g. work).

I have been clay target shooting for over 11 years, but I first heard of Olympic Skeet shooting when an instructor was telling me about how my style of shooting would work well for the discipline while I was at school. I was fortunate enough to watch the finals of the women’s Olympic Skeet at London 2012, where world and Olympic records were set – it inspired me to not forget that it was something I could do and, when the timing was right, I could make it happen. I was initially inspired by the USA Shooting team, particularly Kim Rhode for her awesome gold medal performance at London 2012. As I started to study the discipline more, I discovered other domestic elite athletes such as Amber Hill that brought the sport to life in terms of which local ranges did the discipline.

Olympic Skeet was quite a difficult discipline to access when I was first interested, so it wasn’t something I considered more strongly until I started working and lost my regular shooting commitments. I joined the Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club to keep me shooting occasionally and, coincidently, it ran an introduction to Olympic disciplines session, which included Olympic Skeet. Since trying it then, over three years ago, I joined the British Shooting Talent Pathway (the main organisation that underpins the Olympic shooting sports and talent in the UK), and haven’t looked back!

British Shooting has a pathway programme with five levels, of which based on your assessed level, you are then assigned to. They offer different levels of support based on your shooting attainment and potential, like regular coaching and psychology and nutritional classes. Anyone of any shooting level can therefore join the pathway, which is typically through a “Talent Identification Day” run by British Shooting. If you are interested, I recommend reading more about it at www.britishshooting.org.uk.

I am fortunate enough to use a Beretta DT11 Skeet shotgun. The barrels are slightly shorter than usual (28”) and the stock (the part that goes into the shoulder) is in the process of changing from a traditional wooden to a fully adjustable mechanical one. This will allow my equipment to evolve as my technique evolves.

Although skeet shooting can be technically demanding, the real competition is with yourself. It is as much about understanding how you respond under competition stress, how you manage variability, and how to measure your reactions across a round despite missing targets. As a result, I have developed (and am continuously developing) meditative techniques such as breathing, visualisation, and music. I also practice good nutrition and physical wellbeing so my weekends are capitalised for training and competitions.

My experiences with skeet shooting have been an enjoyable and fantastic learning opportunity. The British Shooting Talent Pathway really helped refine my more “rustic” shooting methods into an accelerated performance in competition. My proudest moment so far as part of Olympic Skeet was last year when I competed in a major domestic competition called the British Shooting Grand Final. I made the ladies final (top six), of which the highlights were aired on FrontRunner TV and YouTube. It was also at this competition that I reached a personal best. However, it did make me note how I needed to work on a better concentration face!

I am excited for what this year holds, particularly as focus starts to draw onto Tokyo 2020 selection, and what this means for exposure for the sport and women in the discipline. I would like to be able to represent both England and GB at international competitions and compete at the Olympics; I can’t imagine a higher honour. Although I won’t disclose how many Olympics I would like to represent at!

Skeet shooting has definitely been a benefit to my technological career. It has certainly broadened my thinking around client problems, as well as highlight the importance of wellbeing in delivering high performance in the workplace. Olympic Skeet as a discipline in the UK is also relatively new, in terms of there being fairly limited data available. This opens up opportunities on how to use the limited data to gain insights, in a similar way that you might do for a client. It has also enhanced my soft skills like my drive for success, logical thinking, and team/leadership skills.

For new shooters, I would recommend going to your local range and signing up for a lesson in sporting shooting – it is more varied and “experimental”, which is best if you are trying the sport out for the first time. If you can do it in a group, it’s even more fun! The adrenaline of pulling the trigger for the first time is truly unforgettable and I am sure will get you hooked in no time.

For more experienced shooters, the typical (although not exclusive) entries to Olympic Skeet are through English Skeet and Sporting. English Skeet helps you get used to the format of Olympic Skeet and gives an introduction to shooting in a more disciplined manner. It is also much more available than Olympic Skeet. Sporting is considered more of a jump (and that is the route I took), although if you are competitive, then this may not be as steep a learning curve.

I cannot underestimate the importance of sharing our passions, and I wouldn’t limit it to sport. There is always more to technology and work, so giving yourself that space to think differently with an entirely different challenge gives you a much broader and refreshed perspective. Moreover, understanding high performance in sports means a better understanding of high performance in the workplace.

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