Cathy O'Dowd: Biography highlights

South African mountaineer Cathy O’Dowd is the first woman in the world to climb Mount Everest from both sides. Her many high Himalayan expeditions provided extensive experience with individuals and teams facing stress, risk and overwhelming challenge. She shares these insights with her corporate audiences through story-driven expedition case-studies. She is an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker who has spoken in over 40 countries.

Full biography

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 of 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. 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. Finally 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’s most challenging Himalayan epic was as part of 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 has been a professional speaker for over 20 years and has presented her message to companies in 44 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.Her spring 2019 expedition is a ski ascent of Mt Steele, a 5000 metre peak in the Canadian Yukon.

Cathy is actively involved with charities focused on female empowerment, notably the Rwenzori Women for Health project in Uganda, and the Astraia Female Leadership Foundation in Germany.She lives in Andorra, in the Pyrenees mountains, from where she pursues her speaking career, and explores the mountains of Europe. In her free time she does technical rock-climbing and ski-mountaineering.

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After Dinner Engagement

Watch Cathy in action

Playlist
1/4 videos
1
Cathy O'Dowd: Think Like An Explorer - going where no one has gone before
Cathy O'Dowd: Think Like An Explorer - going where no one has gone before
05:01
2
Alcanza las Alturas con Cathy O'Dowd: hasta la cima del Everest - y más allá
Alcanza las Alturas con Cathy O'Dowd: hasta la cima del Everest - y más allá
05:27
3
Cathy O'Dowd: teamwork & leadership from the slopes of Everest
Cathy O'Dowd: teamwork & leadership from the slopes of Everest
05
4
"It is not impossible..." I Cathy O’Dowd I Hager Forum
"It is not impossible..." I Cathy O’Dowd I Hager Forum
24:43
European Retail Forum

Cathy’s professionalism was first class, not only at the event but also in the build up to the event. The presentation Cathy gave was greatly appreciated …. I would strongly recommend her as a professional speaker.

Event Organiser
Arendt DAIMLER

Cathy O’Dowd selected Client Testimonials from 2018EUROPEAN RETAIL FORUM 2018 – Amsterdam Cathy’s professionalism was first class, not only at the event but also in the build up to the event. The presentation Cathy gave was greatly appreciated …. I would strongly recommend her as a professional speaker.Event Organiser, European Retail Forum ARENDT – Luxembourg The participants loved your presentation, the story and the structure of it it! So thank you very much again for having contributed to the success of the conference!

Event Organiser
ProcureCon EU

A huge thank you for injecting some much needed excitement and laughs at ProcureCon Europe. A fantastic presentation that more than fitted what I wanted and the feedback has been very positive.

Organiser
IHIF

Cathy is an incredible speaker. Her presentation draws on her mountaineering experience and delivers messages that are relevant to any business environment: team work, strategic thinking, leadership, learning from mistakes etc. She delivers her talk in a very engaging way, and really inspired our audience of senior investors and executives. She was also great to work with in the lead-up to the event when discussing the format, content and objectives of the talk, and on social media. It was a pleasure working with Cathy and I’m happy to recommend her as a public speaker.

Content Director
CWT Global Leadership event

a truly inspiring talk … I have had the opportunity to attend quite a few such events but yours stood out for me, mainly for not only the very powerful messages but also for the staggering humility you displayed.

Vice President
Arendt

The participants loved your presentation, the story and the structure of it it! So thank you very much again for having contributed to the success of the conference!

Event organiser
Voice Norge

I have received a lot positive feedback…. People felt drawn into your story, very engaged and found it thought provoking. I would not hesitate to recommend this to anyone.

CEO
BearingPoint

What we liked was that you linked your personal story to our BearingPoint business and project culture. The audience had the chance to realize that also in our world teaming, making mistakes and diversity is very important.

Senior Manager
IHIF

Cathy is engaging, authentic, spirited and was able to completely capture the attention of everyone in the room (2,000 senior level hospitality executives) and offer a compelling story but more importantly, tactical advice for better navigation of the unexpected. Leading up to the event, as Marketing Director, my role is to drive event awareness and Cathy was so easy to work with in helping to create some engaging teaser campaigns that helped us generate more traffic to our site. I would highly recommend Cathy to speak at any upcoming event in need of a truly inspirational and one-of-a-kind talk.

Marketing Director
CWT North America Annual Client Forum

Cathy delivered an impactful and compelling talk on the challenges of climbing, paying particular attention to weave in elements that were meaningful to the audience. Her speaking style is natural and she “connects” with the audience in both tone and content… There are so many parallels to Cathy’s talk that resonate with the world of business – risk assessment, decision making, leadership, initiative…
The formal rating was 5 out of 5 (doesn’t get better than that!)…and the anecdotal feedback was equally as positive.

Regional Vice President

Cathy's speaking topics

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