Speaker Bio

Cathy O'Dowd
Guest speaker

Cathy O'Dowd

First Woman to Climb Mt Everest from Both Sides
Cathy O’Dowd is the first woman in the world to climb Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, from both its north and south sides. Her first ascent of Everest happened in the midst of the chaotic events that form the basis of the ‘true story’ behind the Hollywood movie Everest.
Cathy, who grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, has climbed ever since leaving school, both rock-climbing and aplinism. Her first expeditions were to central Africa and the Andes, followed by a year exploring the Alps.
She was completing her Masters degree in Journalism, while working as university lecturer, when she saw a newspaper advert for a place on the 1st South African Everest Expedition. Six months later she was the first South African to summit Everest.
Three years later she became the first woman in the world to climb the mountain from both sides. She made one last expedition to Everest to try a new route on the Kangshung face. She has written a book about her Everest experiences, Just For The Love Of It.
The years she spent in the Himalaya were for her a degree ‘in living’. The insights she discovered about herself, and about individuals and teams under intense stress in the face of overwhelming challenge, are ones she has been sharing with her corporate audiences ever since.
Her stories touch on themes of importance to anyone trying to run successful projects and get the best out of people.
Cathy has been a professional speaker for over 25 years and has presented her message to companies in 45 countries on six continents. She is a Fellow of the Professional Speaking Association of UK/Ireland, who have given her their highest award, the Professional Speaking Award of Excellence.
Cathy’s most challenging Himalayan epic was as part of a team forging a new route on an 8000 metre peak. Although Cathy herself did not reach the summit, two of her teammates did, doing the first ascent of Nanga Parbat via the Mazeno ridge, and winning the prestigious Piolet d’Or for their achievement.
She has turned this experience into a fascinating interactive case-study of successful project execution of truly innovative goals.
Cathy is actively involved with charities focused on female empowerment, notably the Rwenzori Women for Health project in Uganda, and the Voice of Women Foundation in Germany. She is also a jury member for the European Adventurer of the Year Award.
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Wednesday, 28 September, 2022 / 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM BST
CSCO Circle Session: Reaching New Heights: Teamwork and Leadership from the slopes of Mount Everest

In mountains, as in business, there is much about the external environment that cannot be controlled. Reaching New Heights draws on the lessons Cathy O’Dowd learnt from her first Everest expedition. With the focus on finances and logistics, the dynamic of the team was ignored. The team collapsed into in-fighting and power-play from the first day, and three members walked out before reaching base camp. The key obstacles that Cathy and her teammates discovered on the mountain turned out to all come from within the team. However, they also discovered hidden tools that finally got them to the top – tools that are not about ropes and ice-axes but rather ways to manage people effectively in pursuit of a common goal.

Join us to hear from Gartner experts and thought leaders.