The ripple effect


8 minute read

Since graduating from The Australian National University (ANU), Jessica Morrison has achieved professional success on multiple fronts. 

Affectionately nicknamed “Moz” by her teammates, she is an elite rower and recently won gold for Australia at the Tokyo Olympic Games. 

Concurrent with her sporting triumph, Jessica has established a rewarding corporate career with Ernst & Young (EY) as a Senior Consultant.

In the final excerpts of this two-part interview, she discusses her time at the ANU College of Business and Economics (CBE). Jessica shares the lessons she learnt that have helped her both on the water and in the business world, along with some travel tips.  

Q. CBE’s Associate Professor Vinh Lu pointed out that you were in his class with Ben Treffers (the 2014 Commonwealth gold medallist in 50m backstroke). Who do you feel is more competitive, you or Ben?

Oh my gosh. I don’t know if one of us is more competitive than the other. I used to train with Ben as a swimmer at Canberra’s Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). He swam backstroke while I was a freestyle swimmer, and we were relatively the same speed. 

I was lucky enough to study with him at ANU; we both found ourselves in the same International Marketing class and were even in the same study group that went on to win an international business plan competition. Incidentally, we’re both now working at E&Y, and I’ve even worked with him on a few engagements. I feel like we’ve had very similar journeys through sport and transitioning out of it. 

Q. What was the last class you attended at CBE?

The last time I was on campus was in 2014. It was for a stimulating class on developmental economics, which required in-person attendance. At that time, I had moved back to Melbourne to train for rowing. To make it all work, I flew into Canberra every week to attend that lecture. It was an interesting way to spend my last semester on campus. 

I really enjoyed my time at ANU and wish I’d spent more time on campus; I was often pulled away for training, a competition or to attend online lectures. I regret not being able to immerse myself more in that undergraduate experience. Sadly, I didn’t even make it to my ANU graduation in 2015 due to rowing commitments. 

International Marketing Award winner XP Solutions 2013
Jessica and Ben (centre) with their International Marketing team at ANU.

Q. How did your ANU and CBE experience prepare you for your life and career beyond the University?  

My experience at ANU and CBE definitely taught me how to have balance in my life. When I first moved to Canberra from Melbourne in 2012, my swimming coach at the time made sure everyone in the team was either studying or working in addition to training. Luckily, I ticked that box as I was already enrolled to study a Bachelor of Economics at CBE on a swimming scholarship. 

Personally, it was important for me to develop my professional career alongside my sporting one as I have often seen athletes retire in their late ‘20s or early ‘30s, who have neglected to either work or study. As a result, these rather young retirees can feel like they are quite far behind, as they have to restart their careers from the ground-up. I didn’t want this, but I also didn’t want my professional career to come at the cost of my sporting endeavours. 

ANU was very understanding about what I wanted to achieve and the support I needed to be successful. Consequently, I discovered how important effective communication is. For instance, if there was an assignment deadline that clashed with my sporting commitments, I needed to reach out to my ANU and CBE support networks and discuss whether I needed an extension for my submission. I also learnt how to set clear boundaries for myself – to know when I was on for University, and when I was on for sport.

These lessons have helped me in my career, particularly when working in teams and with stakeholders who need to know what they can expect of me.

Q. As an Olympian and EY Senior Consultant, do you think there is a common element in achieving success both in the workplace and on the water?

Definitely. Having a team that trusts you is important in both the business and the sporting worlds. 

As I touched on, I also think success comes from setting clear boundaries and deliverables. Clear communication is essential, regardless of the field you work in. 


Q. As an elite athlete, you travel a lot. What’s your tip for beating jetlag?

I find getting enough exposure to sunlight and exercise when I arrive at my destination helps my body clock to adjust.

Q. Do you have any must-have items for long-haul flights?

I always travel with my noise-cancellation air pods. They’re something that’s a must-have for me.

Q. When holidaying is possible, do you have a favourite destination?

Rottnest Island, which sits just offshore from Perth in Western Australia.

Q. Finally, are we going to see you participate at the 2032 Brisbane Olympics?

I don't think my body will be able to make it until 2032! I will most likely be on the sidelines supporting fellow Australians competing in a home Olympics.

In case you missed it, click here to read the emotions and elation from the historic day Jessica and her teammates won gold at the Tokyo Olympics. 

The ANU College of Business and Economics offers an extensive range of specialised programs. Click here for more details.