These days, Australian water polo Olympian Amy Jones is making a splash outside the pool. Since retiring from professional water polo, the Beijing 2008 bronze medallist has worn many different hats in the worlds of media, marketing and leadership.

The former Aussie Stinger now splits her time between digital education organisation General Assembly, where she’s the Director of Strategic Partnerships; the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS), where she’s on the Board of Directors and influential in helping make the sporting landscape more diverse; and the Australian Olympic Committee where she’s involved with athlete wellbeing initiatives.

Amy says it’s quite a contrast to the 15 years she spent competing at the highest levels of international water polo. She now takes a “helicopter view” of sport, focusing on the overall strategy of NSWIS.  

“When you’re an athlete, your life and your focus is more insular,” she says. “Your day to day is focused on your performance and your team’s performance – the next training, the next match. You just have to trust that the powers that be are enabling you to perform your best.”

But after retiring and joining the Board of Directors for Water Polo Australia in 2010, Amy realised how much she enjoyed being able to change something she loved so much for the better.

“I really got a taste for making influential decisions that drive an organisation toward actionable change.”

Amy says the AGSM @ UNSW Business School MBA Executive (MBAE) program helped her unlock that strategic mindset – something that’s helped her guide the NSWIS and grow General Assembly across the Asia-Pacific region.

From medals to media to an MBA

After retiring from the pool, Amy transitioned from competing against athletes to covering their achievements. Being a broadcaster gave her a wider view of the sporting landscape and showed her the business side of the industry.

“I saw these huge broadcast and sponsorship deals, and the whole ecosystem was so interesting,” she says. “I wondered how those deals got done, and where all that money went and how it trickled down to the athletes.”

That interest sparked a desire in Amy to upskill. So, in 2012 she decided to enrol in an AGSM MBA to help make the transition into the business side of sport.

“I thought, if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it properly,” she says. “I did my research and spoke to a number of people who’d done their MBA, and it was clear that AGSM was the strongest option for me.” 

See also: AGSM’s Business of Leadership Podcast: The Business of Sport

A stroke of genius

Soon Amy made another change. In 2014, midway through her MBAE, Amy left the broadcasting industry to join the communications agency, Bastion Collective. 

There she worked on building partnerships between businesses and sporting entities. It hit the sweet spot between her sporting life and her growing interest in the commercial side of sport.

The flexibility of the AGSM MBAE was key in facilitating Amy’s transition.

“I was working in Martin Place, so I was able to attend classes in the city campus which was so convenient. It meant I didn’t have to try to rush home after work and then make it to the Randwick campus. 

“Speaking to other people I studied with, that flexibility was really huge. So many of them had young kids and were working full-time. I had a busy day job, but I still really wanted to study, and the AGSM MBAE allowed me to do that.” 

Unlocking a strategic mindset

Amy said the final year of her MBAE – the Executive Year – was the most impactful. 

It featured a series of week-long, intensive courses in which Amy and her cohort lived on campus as they worked through real-world problems for existing businesses. She says these were crucial to developing a more strategic mindset.

She says these week-long sessions produced multiple “light bulb moments” as she and her peers tackled questions surrounding growth and whether it’s always a positive choice. There she developed a lens that’s put her in a position to succeed on boards.

“In business, a lot of people like to just push ahead and think you have to keep growing and getting bigger,” she says. “But we learned that sometimes that’s to the detriment of the organisation and needs to be balanced with strategic values and long-term goals.”

Amy also says the talented alumni she worked with throughout her course were a huge benefit.

“The quality of people the program attracts is a huge pro. In any given classroom or group I worked with, across any subject, there was such an incredible mix of bright, switched-on, ambitious people from diverse backgrounds and industries and skillsets,” she says.

“We keep in touch and cross paths in business any given week. It’s always nice to be sitting down to a meeting and realise you went to the same business school with the person sitting opposite you.”

Performing on the international stage once again

In 2018, after taking maternity leave, Amy joined General Assembly. As Director of Strategic 

Partnerships, she helps companies enhance the digital skills of their workforce to ignite innovation.

Her primary focus is on the APAC region. This international view is something she credits to her time on AGSM’s international exchange program.

“If I trace back to where my ability to do business around APAC started, it was when I completed the exchange component of my MBA in Hong Kong. I went with a few of my classmates, and we did some leadership courses and had a great time,” she says.

“Just like in Sydney, the courses were so diverse, with people working across Asia and different fields. It’s that idea of, you can’t be what you can’t see. Being in a classroom with people who are working for large corporates across the region – that really exposed me to a new way of thinking, a much broader global mindset.”

Encouraging the next wave of athlete diversity

Back at home, Amy and NSWIS are not only trying to help Australian athletes make their way to the podium on the world stage. The organisation is also working toward higher levels of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

“It’s one of the reasons I love working with NSWIS so much,” Amy says. “In terms of sporting organisations in Australia, we have perhaps the strongest Paralympic program in the country.”

She says 90% of the Paralympic athletes who made the trip to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics were NSWIS athletes. But she says the organisation is focused on more than medal count when it comes to DEI.

“We’re very conscious of creating employment pathways for athletes, current or retired, and others within the community who have a disability,” she says.

“We’re also focused on increasing the opportunities for Indigenous athletes. We want to capture that Australian sporting talent and create that awareness and support so young Indigenous athletes have the chance to experience and succeed in Olympic sport.”

NSWIS also has an Indigenous internship position, another sign that the group is, “committed to taking action and creating change, rather than just spouting token words and phrases,” says Amy.

“There’s still a long way to go, but I’ve seen momentum start to build on that front, and it’s something I’m really proud to be involved in.

“AGSM’s diversity and the focus on strategy has really put me in a good stead to take on these boarder roles throughout my career and make a real impact in the areas I love so much.”


To learn more about AGSM’s globally ranked MBA (Executive) program, click here.

To find out more about AGSM @ UNSW Business School, click here.

To hear more, listen to the AGSM Business of Leadership Podcast: The Business of Sport with guest speaker: Danny Townsend, CEO of Sydney FC, on how he adapted and grew Sydney FC during the pandemic and found opportunity amidst challenges.