Tech, tries, and transformation: Vickii Cornborough on rugby retirement

For the past ten years, Vickii Cornborough has expertly maintained two full-time roles. When she hasn’t been packing down at the front of the England or Harlequins scrum, she has been in boardrooms and on calls helping ambitious organisations make strategic decisions about their technology.

In the same year as her senior England debut, Vickii joined Cloud Direct as a Business Development Manager, and in the decade since her role has grown with the business and she now works as a Senior Manager for our Strategic Accounts, guiding them through digital transformation programmes and demonstrating the opportunities that Microsoft technologies can unlock.

To many, it may seem as if Vickii has been living two parallel lives. Playing in a World Cup Final in front of 42,000 supporters at Eden Park, 11,000 miles away from home, seems a far cry from the leather seats and detailed discussions of the boardroom – but that isn’t necessarily the case, according to Vickii.

“If I map my professional development against my playing career, it aligns perfectly,” she explained. “The clients I work with now are a huge reflection of how Cloud Direct has grown and scaled over recent years, and at the same time with England I was moving into those senior leadership roles.

“I’ve found that I’m the same person whether I’m on the pitch or in the boardroom. It’s about leadership, decision making, and managing a team efficiently for optimal performance, and there are skills that I have picked up at Cloud Direct and taken into England or Harlequins training, and vice versa. My approach is the same whichever role I am in.

“Cloud Direct wants to work with ambitious businesses, and that means having ambitious employees. I’m a product of that environment because of the flexibility that Cloud Direct has given me to balance my role here with my England career.”

Vickii leads a team huddle with her club side Harlequins.

As Vickii’s career has developed, alongside and as part of our business, so too has the world of technology. The speed of innovation is now greater than ever before, and the past year alone as seen the launch of countless new technologies that transform the way we work and operate.

The world of data has exploded, making it more valuable than ever. Businesses are creating and collecting enormous amounts of data, and now have the tools and capabilities to tap into it and use it to empower more impactful, meaningful decision-making – which brings us to another confluence in Vickii’s roles.

“That synergy between business and sport is growing,” Vickii said. “Data has been crucial part of finding that competitive edge in sport for a while now – I’ve grown up wearing GPS and heart-rate monitors, there’s microchips in the ball and in our gumshields now. We have teams of analysists working to find us that extra 1-2% to aid improving performances and, consequently, deliver the results.

“Business is no different. If you know your data and manage it well, then it’s there to guide your decision-making in exactly the same way. I’ve seen data transform sport and provide that leading edge. It’s really exciting to see businesses being impacted in the same way, and it’s great to play a role in that.

Last year, less than nine months after starting at loosehead in the Rugby World Cup Final, a third full-time role was added into the mix when Vickii became a mother. The rugby ball was put to one side, the boots tucked away, and attention turned to caring for the twin children that she and rugby-playing partner Will had welcomed into the world.

It was this third role that ultimately lead Vickii to call time on her international rugby career, announcing her Red Roses retirement earlier this week. She completes her career with a tally of 75 caps, winning five Grand Slam titles and reaching two World Cup Finals, and as a Guinness World Record holder having played an integral role in the Red Roses 30 consecutive victories.

So, what next for Vickii?

“I’m fortunate to have a role at Cloud Direct that has allowed me to be so flexible, and to come back and hit the ground running,” she said. “I’m in a role where I can continue to make a big difference. I spend every working hour helping businesses to transform themselves, and make the most of technology, and that’s something I’m really passionate about.

“There’s a real synergy between sport and technology, and my role at Cloud Direct is one that allows me to capitalise on those professional and leadership skills every day.

“And hanging up my boots doesn’t mean I’m finished in rugby,” Vickii added. “I’m passionate about sport and the transformative effects of technology, and I want to play my part in changing the game for the better. I can still have an impact off the pitch, and encourage the next generation of leaders, and that makes me look forward to what the future holds.”