How I Got Here - Leyanne Jenkins

Leyanne Jenkins, cycling account director at Limelight Sports, has been at the agency for almost 18 months, having worked previously for Marie Curie Cancer Care, British Cycling and LOCOG. She talked to Event about raising the profile of cycling events, why traditional routes and career breaks shouldn't be frowned upon and why it's important to show passion in interviews.

Limelight Sports' cycling expert Leyanne Jenkins
Limelight Sports' cycling expert Leyanne Jenkins

What do you do and how long have you been in your current role?

I'm the cycling account director at Limelight Sports. I joined the company in 2013 to manage and develop our portfolio of cycling events and to take advantage of the incredible growth in popularity of the sport. It’s an incredible time for cycling with a significant growth in people taking to riding a bike, and more mass participation events providing new and different sponsorship and engagement opportunities for major companies and brands. 

Where was your first job? What was the most important thing you learnt there?

My first job in events was for Marie Curie Cancer Care as regional events officer in Scotland. Running the whole Scottish event programme as a team of two involved wearing many hats to ensure we delivered on every part of the event lifecycle, from marketing and PR, sourcing commercial partners, project and stakeholder management through to full event delivery. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn so much about so many aspects of an organisation, delivering mass participation events to gala dinners. Also, meeting people who directly benefited from the charity's work was extremely grounding.

How did you get from there to where you are now?

It started with a promotion to the national team in Manchester with a role to build strategic plans for cycling and running programmes in events we owned and also through third-party events. After three years I moved onto work at British Cycling within the major events and projects team.  During my time we delivered multiple track cycling, mountain biking and BMX international world cups and accompanying events, including the first MTB pro-sprint eliminator race in the town centre, taking riders through a church yard and resident's back garden, along with participation cycling events. Cycling was just starting to become very popular at this time, so it was a fantastic to be involved with the national federation, and with a great team who worked very well together to deliver big events.

However, it was a dream of mine to one day work on the Olympic Games, and with the 2012 London Games looming I decided that I wanted to be involved. In 2011, after a successful interview process I made the move to London to start with LOCOG in the role of BMX technical operations manager. I arrived one month out from delivering our test event, the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup. My experience at British Cycling, and having already worked with the UCI, put me in a great position.

Over many months we built the huge Olympic BMX track, developed all the technical equipment and formed our team to be ready to welcome the 48 riders and deliver the BMX competition. Then came the first magical day when we opened the gates to the public for the 2012 London Olympics Games. We had David Cameron and David Beckham visit to watch the finals – looking back it was a surreal but an exceptionally fortunate time of my life. It’s true what they say, with hard work and a bucket load of passion, dreams do come true.

Looking back, did you expect your career path to take the course it has?

I don’t feel I took a particularly traditional career path. I feel that by setting defined paths it can limit opportunity. After working as a university lecturer I left the UK to travel and experience new things. Making the most of the experience, I worked on a traditional Australian ranch, doing everything to keep the farm running day-to-day, from breaking in horses that we bought at the local auction, to working the land by horseback and making the dinners for all the workers and the farmer.

I then worked as part of the crew to deliver two sister catamarans that were built near Sydney, and needed delivering to Perth. We sailed over 4,000 miles around the north of Australia which offered the most incredible scenery, along with a variety of challenges that the team all had to pull together to ensure we made it safely and in good time to Perth. 

The main point about these experiences was it offered the chance to develop a variety of skill sets, particularly teamwork, that I feel are required when working in events, practical experience that just can't be bought. I also complemented my degree with a variety of work experience, which gave me practical skills along with my education.

Post-Olympic Games and pre-Limelight Sports I spent over two months in South America – it’s healthy to take time out and try new things. I learnt to kite surf in North Argentina at the base of the Andes. There’s so much pressure from society to take traditional routes, and career breaks are frowned upon. I feel employers should encourage more flexible working and see alternative experiences as key attributes for applicants.

Would you do anything differently?

I don’t think I would, which is a great way to feel. I am so fortunate to work in cycling, something I’m so passionate about and have loved since I was a toddler – I love the photo of me as a five year old in a BMX tracksuit on my BMX. Who’d have thought that over 25 years later I’d be delivering the BMX at the London Olympic Games?

Who has inspired you along the way?

My mum, she is incredibly hard working, with never-ending energy and huge entrepreneurial skills that taught me to always try to think outside the box, be resilient and to give anything a go, along with my dad who got me into cycling as soon as I could walk.

Also my two female managers at Marie Curie and British Cycling: their straight-talking approach and guidance was a great way to show how a real working relationship should work, giving support when needed, guidance and role-models to learn from. There are also many great people at Limelight Sports who know everything there is about running successful events.

Have you ever had a job interview that went particularly well or spectacularly wrong?

To be fair, I have enjoyed every job interview I have had which I put down to only applying for jobs that truly excited me.  One of the main pieces of feedback from interviews has been the passion I’ve shown for the role or field – something you can’t fake or buy.

Is there a piece of career advice you've ever been told that has stuck with you?

Work hard, do your best and be yourself - it’s a simple line but it has the weight of a thousand words.

What career advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?

Don’t give up and also to try anything once and when opportunities arrive grab them with both hands. At 21 I remember being told to not be scared and just go for it – it’s one thing that I’ve never forgotten and would say to any 21-year-old.

How do you wind down and relax after a hectic day?

I love riding my 1970s vintage road bike the 12 miles to and from work in the morning. It’s a great way to get energised for the day ahead and on the way home perfect to wind down.

Want to share your career story with us as part of the Women in Events campaignEmail news editor Samantha Edwards to feature in a future How I Got Here.

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