carnegieXchange: School of Sport

How Leeds Beckett gave me the skills to switch to a career in sport

After working as an engineer in India, Rekha Mathew decided to switch both career path and country when she received a scholarship to study the MSc Sport and Exercise Science course at the Carnegie School of Sport.

Image of Rekha Mathew

After navigating the triple challenge of adapting to life in a new country, studying an entirely new subject and dealing with the disruption caused by the pandemic, Rekha graduated in 2020 and secured a job as a Sport Product Manager at sport-tech company Pillar. Read about her experience and her advice for anyone looking to make a career change below.

Why did you come to study at the Carnegie School of Sport?

“I finished my Bachelor’s in a completely different field – Computer Science and Engineering. I was very much into sport, I was a gymnast myself, although I did work as an Engineer in India for a couple of years, but simultaneously I was passionate about sports.

“In 2019 I received a full scholarship from British Council, India, who provided the scholarship to complete a Masters in Sport and Exercise Science at Leeds Beckett.”

What were your first impressions of the university?

“My first impressions of Leeds Beckett were of how big it was. The Headingley campus has so many different buildings and the classrooms were laid out like a map! I loved living in Leeds. It has a very student-y vibe – I thought it was very vibrant initially, it was great to be around other students from universities across the city. It gave me a good vibe. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit midway through my course, so things did change, but I still enjoyed living in the city.”

How did you find your new course and studying in a different country?

“Coming from a completely different country and education background in India, where we learned mostly from textbook learning, I was caught off-guard by the new education format I had to follow in the UK.

“I had conversations with the Course Director Gareth Nicholson, who later became my dissertation supervisor. I remember him encouraging me to take a hurdle and try and get myself into the zone and giving advice about how I would be able to transition into a new form of learning.

“He guided me throughout the entire initial process and understood that I didn’t have any particular background in my area of study, and helped me to grasp all of these new subject areas at Masters level. Having that support helped me get to the end of the journey. I couldn’t imagine the experience without it.”

What parts of your course did you enjoy the most?

“I really enjoyed Biomechanics because it’s analytical and technology-based. I was dealing with a lot of software and doing analysis, so I really found that very interesting.”

Where are you working now and how do you use the skills you learned at the Carnegie School of Sport?

“At the moment, I’m working as a Sport Product Manager with a sport-tech company called Pillar. We are developing a mobile app that gives training recommendations to cyclists, using sports science principles and Artificial Intelligence.

“At Pillar, we focus on the holistic development of an athlete. We don’t only look at training, we look at physiology, nutrition, sleep and recovery, so it makes my sports science background beneficial, because my expertise isn’t focused on any single area. My Masters covered so many modules that have become part of my job. I’m the only Sports Scientist in my team.”

Finally, do you have any advice for students who might be in a similar position to you?

“The most important advice I can give is to believe in yourself. You need to believe that whatever decision you make, you can find success if you make the effort and work hard enough. You don’t have to be from a sporting background to complete a Masters like mine. Don’t be scared – a lot of people are, and that is why they don’t switch their career.”

While studying at Leeds Becket, Rekha started an initiative called Sports Cafe with the support of the university. Sports Cafe is a virtual platform that encompasses conversations with athletes, professionals and students to understand performance needs in a highly competitive sports environment. Find out more here: https://www.linkedin.com/company/sportscafeuk/?viewAsMember=true