Keysight employee and professional triathlete sets the bar for high-performance
2019-06-18 | 10 min read
If you've ever wondered what it takes to compete in a 1.5k swim, followed by a 40k bike, followed by a 10k run—Keysight employee and professional triathlete, Brittany Warly, will tell you it takes "preparation, commitment to the daily process, and a relentless work ethic." Having competed in triathlons throughout college, Brittany was prepared for the sacrifices it would take to go pro. "Racing on the ITU Draft-Legal Circuit requires me to be sharp from February through November," said Brittany. "There really isn't a significant break, until the end of the season (November) when I take about two weeks off."
It wasn't until Brittany toured Keysight's Colorado Springs Technology Center (CSTC) that she started to believe she wouldn't have to sacrifice her career as an engineer to succeed as a triathlete. When Albert Yeh, CSTC processing engineer manager, recruited Brittany as a part-time program manager for Keysight, he knew she would be dedicating about 20-22 hours to triathlon training per week. As a former competitive soccer coach, Albert believed that Brittany's academic achievements and "can do" attitude made her an excellent fit for Keysight's culture of high-performance and passionate individuals. And he was right. Over the last three years, Brittany has competed in over 20 international races, shepherded the introduction of Keysight's new 5G Thick Film Filters, and led her team to generate over 50 new products.
This week, we asked Brittany and Albert to tell us how they made this unique situation work and why it's a win/win for Keysight.
Brittany, did you feel like you had to choose between your engineering career and athletic career when you accepted the position at Keysight?
Initially, I felt like pursuing an engineering career alongside trying to make it as a professional triathlete would limit me. Being a professional triathlete is a full-time job that includes training, recovery, preventative work, managing sponsorships, massage, working with a sports psychologist, and nutrition preparation. It can be difficult to factor in adequate rest; however, Keysight's flexibility and willingness to work with me made this possible. I never felt I needed to put my athletic career on hold to be successful at Keysight. Albert and the CSTC team have been supportive of my athletic endeavors since day one. I am so grateful to have that.
Albert, did you have any reservations about hiring someone with two passions?
Following our initial interview with Brittany, the team unanimously agreed that Brittany is precisely the kind of person whom Keysight wants to invest in. Her dedication to her athletic career easily translated to the new product introduction (NPI) program management position, where there is a need for strong organization, communication, prioritization, and time management skills. Also, Brittany's engineering background was a major plus and brought valuable technical perspectives to this role. Fortunately, our program management needs, at the time, had the flexibility to fit in well with Brittany's training schedule.
Brittany, what trade-offs do you make when balancing both careers?
This is a great question. My biggest constraint is undoubtedly time (or lack thereof) when it comes to balancing both careers. Most of my races fall in the summer months, which is the busiest time of the year for Thick Films. It's all a balancing act. I prioritize triathlon when I am training, and my work at Keysight when I am working! It is crucial for me to compartmentalize. This January, when I was torn about a big decision, Albert shared the Kepner-Tregoe Decision Analysis Tool with me. Basically, it helps you list and rate the important aspects of making a decision, and then enables you to weigh the options clearly. I have used this in both careers on multiple occasions.
Albert, how did Brittany's athletic mindset translate to performance at Keysight?
A high-level athlete requires constant attention to detail, time management, accountability, as well as a continuous improvement attitude; also, competing in triathlons requires the ability to simultaneously strive for excellence in three distinct disciplines, each with a unique set of challenges. These are attributes that match well with the characteristics of an effective NPI program manager, where there is a constant need to juggle multiple projects as well as the continuous pressure to evolve and improve systematically to accommodate the ever-changing NPI delivery and scheduling challenges. Brittany's dedication, efficiency, and accountability have enabled her to repeatedly achieve new heights in both her competitive as well as her Keysight careers during the past few years.
Brittany, we've talked a lot about how your athletic career translates to your work at Keysight. Have you learned anything at Keysight that you've applied to your athletic career?
I have learned and continue to learn from Albert as a manager and person. In choosing a team, whether it's a corporate team or the team that surrounds my athletic goals, it is essential to pick a group of individuals that mesh well together and uplift one another with the same goals. A unified team is a successful team. I also look up to Albert's demeanor in working with his employees. I know how busy his schedule is, and he still takes the time to check-in on everyone daily. I have tried to translate this into my own life in that no matter how busy I am, I am never too busy to give the people I care about my attention and time. It is the people you touch that have a lasting impact on life, not your level of success.
Albert, how did your coaching experience help you mentor Brittany when she came on board?
My experience working with athletes has shaped my understanding of the total-focus mindset as well as the physical training tolls that Brittany faces. I must be able to recognize the importance of switching back and forth between hard training and physical recovery and be able to identify when there are times when too much pressure would only result in diminishing returns. We have built a strong and trusting relationship where Brittany can honestly communicate her physical state, training needs, as well as her work pressure to me in real time, and I can adjust her workload and schedule to ensure success for Keysight's business and Brittany's athletic career.
Lastly, we have been able to build a strong and supportive team around Brittany, where we have been able to celebrate her successes with her and provide encouragement when she encountered setbacks. There is a positive and enthusiastic environment for Brittany as she pursues growth in both professions. We are so grateful that so many of her colleagues (teammates) are willing to step up in support of her career aspirations and provide mentorship and friendship along the way.
Brittany, tell us about your decision to include the Keysight logo on your professional jersey.
I will be including the Keysight logo on my racing suit not only to demonstrate my pride in working for a company of such individuals whom I respect but also as a thank you to Albert and Keysight for continuing to support my crazy lifestyle and dream of qualifying for the Olympics one day. I truly believe that Keysight is a unique place to work in that it is a family, and I am proud and honored to be a part of it.
Competition photo by Ryze Photography