By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, June 2, 2017
Laura Sogar knows she owes a lot of what she has and who she is to swimming.
She met her boyfriend through the sport and honed her confidence and ability to think, act quickly and relate to all kinds of people through the sport.
And in her current role in business development for a leading cyber security company, she’s found her career path largely due to swimming.
That career led her to New York City this past April to embark upon this next phase of her life less than a year after she missed her last chance to make an Olympic team.
While she said that Olympic Trials experience last summer was bittersweet, she knows now that everything happens and has happened – including not getting to swim at the Olympics – as it is supposed to even when you may not be able to see it right away.
“I definitely didn’t finish like I wanted (at Trials), but it was amazing to be surrounded by friends, teammates and family at my final meet,” she said. “I experienced so many emotions. The sport completely changed my life, so to know I was done after Trials made it sad but joyous to be starting the next phase of my life.”
In her new role with United Kingdom-based Darktrace, Sogar works with businesses and organizations that need security technology to protect their files, lists, data and even machinery from outside hackers. Darktrace markets itself as the world’s leading machine learning company for cyber security.
An economics and business major at Texas, where she earned All-America status in the pool, Sogar uses those skills to sell Darktrace cyber security services.
A month into her new role, she said she also relies heavily on the varied skill set – namely being able to talk and relate to people from various backgrounds and cultures – she acquired as a top international competitive athlete.
“I traveled a ton with swimming, which gave me more access to lots of different people and cultures, and then to compete on a stage like swimming, I’m used to being able to talk to everyone and anyone and relate to and understand them,” she said.
“I learned how to present myself as well through competitive swimming, and that’s really important in building connections with potential clients. I love what I’m doing, and I love living in Manhattan. There’s so much going on and to do.”
Before she meets to make the sale, Sogar said she initially “feels out” large companies and researches their products, culture and needs.
Depending on their product or service, she is then able to tailor her presentation/meeting to the organization’s needs – whether that’s to protect customer information or prevent tampering via a hack to a piece of manufacturing equipment that costs the company thousands or millions of dollars in lost production or damage.
“Everyone is aware of the threat of cyber-attacks – it’s in the news almost every day – but I work to alert companies to how we can help them see that threat in terms of their business and needs,” she said. “We’re a digital, electronically connected world, and there are people out there who do nothing all day but try to hack companies to hurt them or steal from them.”
In addition to her work in New York, Sogar said she is really enjoying exploring different parts of and activities within the city.
One of those endeavors she continues to pursue more and more – and with her boyfriend Matthew Broussard’s influence and encouragement – is improv comedy and performing. Broussard is a nationally known comedian and improv actor who’s appeared on Conan O’Brien, among others.
Having dipped her foot in the improv pool while living in Austin, Sogar said she enjoys the creativity and freedom it allows her, and was a great retreat from the pressure and expectations of being a top competitive swimmer.
“I think it lets me be the performer I am naturally but it also allows me to be and do things I wouldn’t otherwise do,” she said. “And just like I was in swimming, I can’t do it halfway. I’m all in when I perform.
“It’s just so much fun, and it helps me learn to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations. That helps me in my job responsibilities as well – being able to adapt and evolve as I need to during meetings with top CEOs and CIOs.”
And while she’s loving her new life outside of swimming, Sogar said she might jump back into competition somewhere over the next couple of years leading up to the 2020 Olympics if she feels the urge.
But for now, she is excited to continue learning more about the tech field and cyber security so she can do her job to the best of her ability – and help the world be a safer place in the process.
“The past year has been a huge growth year for me since Trials, and I’m extremely happy where I am in my life,” she said. “When I look back on where I was two years ago or even just 12 months ago, I never would have thought life would lead me to where I am today.
“I also don’t think I would have grown as much if I had made the Olympic team last year. That experience, while very disappointing, gave me new perspective. Swimming has given me many things, most importantly the amazing relationships and friendships that are still strong today. It’s also given me security in myself, and I’ve had to rely upon that self-confidence a lot over the past year. Without swimming, I know I wouldn’t be where – or who – I am today.”