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Cathy O´Dowd

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Cathy O´Dowd

The First Woman to climb Everest from both sides

Cathy O’Dowd is the first woman to climb Everest from both south and north sides. She has stood on the slopes of the world’s highest mountain four times, reaching its summit twice.  
She has been on the mountain as the last minute ‘token woman’ team-member, and as an expedition leader. She has worked in partnership with a wide range of international teams forced to co-operate on popular routes, and has climbed on a team attempting a new route, the only expedition on the entire east face. She has faced the ‘worst storm in the history of Everest’ and the giant avalanches of the Kangshung face, and she has faced warring team members as ego ran rampant. She has experienced both the thrill of the summit and the reality of failure, and has paid the ultimate price with the loss of fellow climbers.
Cathy draws on this wide-ranging experience of teams under acute pressure attempting overwhelming challenges to create her corporate presentations. Her stories touch on themes of importance to anyone trying to get the best out of people:

  • Leadership
  • Team dynamics
  • Creating effective teams
  • Risk-assessment
  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Motivation of self and others
  • Facing new challenges
  • Goal-setting
  • Creating effective partnerships, including inter-cultural

Cathy is a natural story-teller and her passionate delivery produces an inspirational tale - dramatic, memorable and packed with metaphors pertinent to business. All presentations are generously illustrated with dramatic photographs from the mountain.
Cathy presents in English or Spanish language.

Cathy's most popular presentation -

Reach for the heights!
Team dynamics and leadership on the slopes of the world’s highest mountain
Everest: at 8850 metres high, this is literally the world’s biggest challenge - 3000 vertical metres of rock, ice and snow. Of the climbers who tackle this challenge, 75% will fail, one in a hundred will die. 
What makes the mountain so difficult? The obvious answers are crevasses, avalanches, blizzards. However, the most dangerous thing you will ever encounter on Everest is people: yourself, your team-mates. Reach for the heights! draws on the lessons Cathy O’Dowd learnt from her first Everest expedition. With the focus on finances and logistics, human dynamic came a pitiful last. The team collapsed into conflict from the first day, and three members resigned before even reaching the foot of Everest. 
Cathy and her team-mates discovered that there are hidden obstacles that must be met before the climbing can start, and throughout the expedition. And there are hidden tools that allow the successful 25% to triumph over the rest.
There are three hidden obstacles as fierce as any storm:
Complacency: which so easily destroys the achievement of a seemingly successful team. A climber ignores the safety procedures for two minutes and slips on the slick ice – to his death.
Stress: caught in tiny tents for a week by bad weather, the team threatens to collapse over disputes about who does the cooking.
Fear: a final knife-edge ridge, with a 2000 metre drop. We have to technical competence to climb it, but can we overcome the voices of fear in our heads?

There are six key tools the successful teams use to meet the challenges of the mountain:

  • A team united around a clear purpose
  • Passion for the process
  • Courage to make your own choices
  • Determination in the face of disaster
  • Fully integrate all talent within the team
  • Motivation through recognition


Cathy's testimonials

The evening was perfect and you hit a home run! ... your presentation was terrific!
Executive Vice President, Pressure Sensitive Tape Council, WASHINGTON DC, Mar'10

I absolutely loved your presentation and how it can relate to our personal and professional lives.
Event and Awards Manager, Pressure Sensitive Tape Council, WASHINGTON DC, Mar'10

Landis & Gyr, they just loved you....big compliment...!
Very good content, funny, inspiring and very friendly, they could not be happier....perfect event, thanks to you!
Speaker Bureau for Landis & Gyr, LUZERN, Mar´10

sincere thanks for your efforts ... Your presentation was exceptionally well received.
Event organiser for RBS, EDINBURGH, Feb'10
la conferencia me pareció extraordinaria, felicidades
Agencia de conferenciantes en nombre de Abengoa, SEVILLA, Jan'10

The feedback I received from all participants was extremely positive and inspiring, with many feeling it was the best conference main platform session that they had ever seen. I could only agree with that assessment.
CEO ReMark, ZERMATT, Jan'10

wonderful presentation .. You have created an extremely positive impression with the hosts and the delegates.
Feedback stats ... You’re in the top quartile of our all-time list; congratulations!
Conference organizer, Aldar Properties, ABU DHABI, Jan'10

It was great having you at our event - our guests truly enjoyed it & we received a lot of very positive feedback (internal & external)......it will be difficult to top ourselves at the next year's women event!
Also, it was great that you joined the team after the event......every one was very happy about it:)
Marketing department, Swiss private bank, TEL AVIV, Dec'09

...excellent presentation... I’ve received very positive feedback from a number of managers and employees already.
HR Business Partner, INTEL EMEA Finance, Oct'09

It was a pleasure having you on the programme again, the participants were truly impressed.
Programme Manager, Executive Education London Business School, LONDON, Oct'09

the lecture was a big success! The management very well received your lively style and the exciting content. It was easy for each assistant to transfer the different scenarios of success or failure to his own task as a CEO. Even after the lecture lots of conversations referred to your lecture and other experiences.
Conference organizer, AREVA Energietechnik, BREMEN, Oct'09

awsome performance ... You captured the audience, passed the messages perfectly according to BSI brief, made us cry. To tell you that it was highly professional, it would not be enough.
1st VP Corporate Communication, BSI SA, LUGANO-ZURICH-GENEVA, Sept-Oct'09