What is the life of a professional tennis player REALLY like? Former professional tennis player Rina Einy who’s played in the Australian Open, US Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics, gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the realities of being a professional athlete, why she decided to move on from tennis to become a finance professional, and how to balance your career choices with your personal relationships. In the Mental Fuel® segment, I’ll explain why quitting is sometimes the best thing you can do for your career and life.
Key Career Insights
- Certain professions can look much more glamourous from the outside looking in than they actually are in reality.
- You have to consider whether you still have something left to “prove” in your current career path. If you don’t, perhaps it’s time to move on.
- Your career path will always be a balancing act between your professional aspirations and personal priorities. Tradeoffs are inevitable, so you have to be willing to make those difficult choices that compromise one for the other.
Tweetables to Share
- Dress for Success is that charity Rina mentioned at the end of the episode, whose mission is to “promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional clothes, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.”
During this episode’s Mental Fuel segment, I talked about the downside and upside of quitting. What’s one “carrot” you’ve been chasing in your own career that keeps you hanging on a bit longer in your current professional role, even though you’re not fully happy? If chasing that goal is no longer serving you, what will it take for you to decide to walk away?
I’d love to hear what goal you’ve decided to let go of so you can pursue something more meaningful for your career. Leave a comment below or a voicemail for me if you want to share your story with the rest of the Career Relaunch listener community.
About Rina Einy, Tennis Pro turned finance professional
Rina Einy is a former professional tennis player who’s played in the Olympics and Grand Slams including Wimbledon, the French Open, and the US Open against well known players including Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Chris Evert, and Pam Shriver. She eventually moved on to work in finance for JP Morgan.
She went onto serve as the Managing Director for Textyle International, an outerwear company with offices in Asia and Europe. In 2018, Rina launched her own clothing brand Culthread, and was featured in this interview with the Talented Ladies Club where you can read more about her inspiring career story and perspectives on how to do what you love in your career.
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Episode Interview Transcript
Teaser (first ~15s): I didn’t need to prove anything anymore to anyone else or myself for that matter. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. So I got up from the table, I called my coach, told him I wasn’t playing anymore, and I put my rackets away. That was it.
Joseph: Good morning, Rina. Welcome to Career Relaunch.
Rina: Good morning. Thank you for having me.
Joseph: You are our very first former professional athlete on the podcast, Rina. I’m very excited to hear all about your time as a professional tennis player and also your time as a finance professional. I was wondering if you could get us started by just telling us a little bit about what you’re up to right now in your life and career.
Rina: Right now, I work at Textyle International in Textyle Asia. It’s a family owned company that we run. What we do is produce outerwear, coats, jackets in Asia for clients all over the world. My involvement is more in the finance side of the company as well as some strategy and innovation at the moment. I’m based Brussels most of the time. Obviously, I travel to Asia a lot.
Joseph: I know that you haven’t always been a Director at Textyle International. I was wondering if we could go back in time to your days as a professional athlete, which is something I didn’t even actually know about the first time we crossed paths. I was wondering if you could take us back to the days before you shifted into working in the world of corporate finance and strategy and take us all the way back to the age of eight, which I think is when you started playing tennis. Can you just explain how did tennis enter your life and how did it start to become such a big part of your life growing up?
Rina: Yes, it was around eight, nine, maybe something like that. I was living in India at the time. My father worked there, and we were based there. I went to school there in Kolkata. I think my mom sort of wanted to find something for us to do after school to keep occupied and took us to tennis club. That’s basically how it started. It was something that I found that I enjoyed and that I could do. Very soon, I started playing local tournaments and then traveling around India and playing junior tournaments and national tournaments. That was the very beginning.
It was great because I got to travel a bit. I missed a lot of school, and it was just something. I was extremely competitive, and I really enjoyed the matches. That’s how the tennis started.
When I was around 13, I think, we moved to the UK, and that was when I started playing a lot more tournaments and traveling around the UK and playing nationals and really enjoying my tennis. It was a lot of fun.
Joseph: We didn’t talk about this last time, but I was actually a varsity tennis player way back in high school, but I quickly figured out that I was kind of a big fish in a small pond. I’m from a very, very small town. I really very quickly realized I wasn’t going to make it anywhere close to being pro, so I’m going to kind of try to live vicariously through you during this conversation.
It sounds like you moved to the UK. Could you just tell us about the moment you went from being a really good tennis player to someone who entered into the professional tennis arena in the women’s tennis association as a teenager?
Rina: At that stage, it was juniors and it was nationals, and it was sort of representing GB against other countries and international junior things, tournaments, and competitions. That was the beginning of it. At that time, we didn’t have to decide between whether we were professionals or amateurs. We were allowed to play on the tour as much as we wanted if we were good enough.
At around 15, 16, I started playing women’s tournaments because it was sort of a natural progression. It was something that I could do, something that I enjoyed. It starts on the satellite tour, these small tournaments. You travel, you play, you earn point, you get an international ranking, and it just goes from there.
Being in England as well, we have a lot of opportunities in that we were given wildcards into, let’s say, qualifying at Wimbledon or other tournaments, and then Wimbledon, the main draw as well. We had a lot of opportunities. The Tennis Association tried to help us and push us forward. At that age even, I felt that I could do it as a career. I was earning money and enjoying it.
Joseph: Could you just give us a sense of some of the people you’ve played against and some of the tournaments that you were in?
Rina: Between the ages of 16 and probably 19 when I quit, I played Wimbledon several times. The French Open. I traveled to Australia to play in the Aussie Open and also to the States, the US Open. Tournament of Champions in Florida. I’ve played in South America, Africa, all over Europe. Pretty much everywhere. Then the Olympic Games, which was the first time tennis was included after a very long time. That was in Los Angeles in 1984.
Joseph: What was that like for you to play in Los Angeles in the Olympics?
Rina: It was probably the best experience of my life, until then anyway, and probably the worst at the same time. It’s quite complicated, but it was amazing. The whole experience of just being there was incredible, actually one of the highlights of my life definitely.
Joseph: You’re going to tell us some of the people you’ve played against. I don’t know if that gets into the best or the worst moment, but if you could just give us a sense of the types of people you played against.
Rina: Steffi Graf, she’s I think a year younger than me. I sort of grew up playing her a few times. Chris Evert was getting towards the end of her career, so I’ve played against her. I played Wendy Turnbull in the Tournament of Champions in the States in the end of her career as well. Pam Shriver in doubles. Those kind of people and a lot more.
Joseph: Sometimes, I’ve always wondered about, again, just as a former casual tennis player myself, at that level, are you able to discern the differences between the Steffi Graf versus someone who’s really amazing and incredible but maybe isn’t in that Top 10 tier?
Rina: Women who are in the top tier, they have a sort of aura around them. They behave differently. They treat you differently. There’s a lot of that sort of psychological side of it going on as well. I played Hana Mandlíková actually in Wimbledon for instance.
Because I’m the underdog, I have nothing to lose. In some cases, it’s easier to play the top players. Sometimes, it’s incredibly difficult because you’re so, so psyched out before you’ve even stepped on the court. That’s how they make you feel, and they’re really good at that. In the changing rooms as well, they behave in a different way. They keep themselves to themselves. They have a different aura around them, which makes it very difficult for you as a nobody to play against them.
Joseph: You were also getting into a little bit around why the Olympics were the best and the worst moment for you. Could you just tell us a little bit more about that? Because I’m sure that, at least for me, I think it’s just amazing to even have the opportunity to go to the Olympics. I’d just be curious what that experience was like for you.
Rina: It was amazing – even just being there, in the village, the opening ceremony, everything. It was the tennis that was a problem because I wasn’t in a very good state of mind at that time in terms of my career and my tennis. It wasn’t the Olympics per se, which was fantastic. It was more how I felt about my tennis. It just sort of peaked at that time. I pretty much quit very soon after that.
It was a very difficult time for me in terms of my tennis, but it was also one of the most amazing times. Just being there, just getting your stuff and getting your kit and traveling with everyone, and the opening ceremony was something which is almost impossible to describe being inside that stadium on that day.
Joseph: Can you just explain how you navigated that decision of whether or not to continue playing professional tennis or to move on to something else? Because it sounds like this was sort of a turning point for you.
Rina: The background to it was that five, six months before that, when I got selected, when I knew I was going, it was the time when I was really doing well. My ranking was as high as it had ever been. I’d been in South America. I beat someone in the Top 50, and things were going really well. From that moment on, things started going very—‘things’ I mean my tennis just went downhill. I was struggling. I couldn’t really win a match. I wasn’t feeling good about it, and it was a real struggle between that moment, which must’ve been in March or something that year, until the games, which were in the summer. I really struggled, really, really struggled.
By the time I got to Los Angeles, I was really not in a very good place. You can just imagine, I was at the Olympics, it was amazing, and I actually left after my match. I didn’t even stay for the closing ceremony. That just shows you what state of mind I was in. I got home, and that was the time when I realized that I had to take a look at what was going on and why it was happening and take a long, hard look inside myself, which is what I did.
Joseph: I see. When you took that time to reflect on where you’d been, and as you’re looking ahead to the rest of your life, what were some of the things that were running through your head, and what did you start to slowly figure out?
Rina: The first thing I thought about was, ‘Do I still want to do this?’ and I realized that I didn’t. It was very difficult for me because that career, I was very young as well. It was my identity. It was who I was. It was everything. It wasn’t something that I sort of did on the side. It was who I was. I didn’t want to really think about it because it was just too difficult to do that because I was sort of questioning even who I was as a person because tennis was that important to me.
When I got back from Los Angeles, I sat down in the kitchen table on my own for a few hours and just thought about what’s happening, ‘Why is this happening?’ and I realized my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t need to prove anything anymore to anyone else or myself for that matter. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. So I got up from the table, I called my coach, told him I wasn’t playing anymore. I waited for my parents to come home. I told them, and I put my rackets away, and that was it literally. That was it.
Joseph: I’m trying to imagine, almost seeming like what I guess a lot of people would see to be almost like the pinnacle of one’s career, playing in these grand slams and then going to the Olympics. As exciting as that was, it sort of sounds like it opened your eyes to the fact that this wasn’t quite for you. I’m just curious, was it the level of competition? Was it you just not feeling like your heart was in it anymore? What was the ultimate tipping point?
Rina: It’s an incredibly difficult lifestyle. I had no friends. I had no life besides my tennis career. That was all I had. I mean even when we were traveling, and then we’re surrounded by people even from your own country, people you knew, they weren’t friends. They’re ultimately all rivals, and it’s very lonely. It’s very hard. I couldn’t afford to always travel with a coach or with someone, so most of the time, I was on my own. There’s a lot of free time. There’s a lot of hanging around. It’s tough. It’s really tough.
Being ultra-competitive, the loss is also hard. They spur you on to work harder and to push yourself even more, but it’s a really, really hard life. On the other hand, you travel all over the world, and it sounds amazing, but it was tough. It was extremely tough.
I also realized that I wanted to be either really good or move on and do something else. I was very conscious that having not been at school and having not really had an education, I couldn’t go on doing something that I wasn’t sure I wanted to do for much longer before I would have to make some kind of decision as to where I wanted in my life to go.
Joseph: Before we start talking about your educational transition, just one more question about the world of tennis and the world of being a professional athlete. What sort of misconceptions, if any, do you feel there are about the life of a professional tennis player?
Rina: There’s a lot of misconceptions, because obviously, the ones that we see on the TV are we see Roger Federer winning Wimbledon and smiling and his family around him, and everything looks perfect. What’s happening behind the scenes, and especially for people lower down, working their way up or young or older or whatever it may be or injured, it’s a very, very, very hard existence. It’s very hard.
You put your soul on the line every time you step on the court actually because it’s so much more than work. It’s not a normal job. What you see is really not what’s happening. It’s impossible to really explain to someone what it’s like every single day. You have a tough loss, you come back home, and the next morning, you have to be back on the court. You have to work harder even than before. You have to train yourself to continue and to get over it and to make yourself better and to improve. It’s really, really hard, and it’s very lonely, and it’s very tough.
Joseph: You decide you want to move on from tennis then, Rina. From our past conversation, I recall you made the shift into starting your first degree at the London School of Economics. What impact, if any, did not finishing high school have on your psychology as you attempted to start this next chapter of your career?
Rina: When I said to my parents that I wanted to play tennis and I wanted to travel around and I wasn’t going to go to school, I did sort of promise them that one day I would. I would do it, and they kind of pretty much let me do whatever I want, which was fantastic. It was always something that I knew I would do. I mean I had to. I couldn’t imagine not finishing school—let’s put it that way—or not having a degree. It was something that I wanted to do and I knew I would do.
Obviously, it was difficult because from the time I could remember, I hadn’t really been at school like a normal person. Even when I was very young, 10 or 11, I used to miss a lot of school, traveling. At that time, I was traveling in India. I was playing junior tournaments. My dad also used to like to take us away on holiday and didn’t worry too much about school. In fact, I can’t ever remember being at school for like a full year. Obviously, I was, but it was when I was very young.
I wanted to go back, so I found studying and doing my exams relatively easy because it was something I really wanted to do. It wasn’t something that was that was being imposed on me like school is imposed on every single child in our society anyway. I knew what I was doing it for, and that, I suppose, made it easier.
Joseph: What was that transition like for you to go from a professional athlete on the tennis courts to someone now starting to get into the London School of Economics?
Rina: It went really quickly actually because I was really, really busy. I did so many exams in such a short period of time, basically teaching myself. It went fast.
In England, when you do A levels at high school, you have to choose your subjects. You have to choose three or four subjects to do. I had decided to do those subjects, and I decided that I wanted to study economics at university because I’d already decided what job I wanted to try and get when I left. I was very focused, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do and why I was doing it, so that really helped.
When I decided to put my rackets down, I did as a professional in the sense of playing on the tour, but I played for a club in Holland, and I played a few, small tournaments in France just to earn some money to take me through, because having not taken money from my parents or anyone for the longest time or since I was 14, it was hard to not earn any money anymore. I continued that in order to fund myself through university.
Joseph: I know you eventually ended up shifting into investment banking, and you alluded to the fact that you kind of knew what direction you wanted to take your career. How did you figure that out so quickly? Because I know a lot of people who listen to this podcast, one of the questions is, ‘How do I figure out where to take my life? I know I’m not currently satisfied with what I’m doing right now.’ How did you go about figuring out exactly what you wanted to do next?
Rina: That was a sort of golden time of the investment banks or the traders anyway. I am sure I was very influenced by that. It was a sort of sexy thing to do. I also was looking for something that I felt would really challenge. It was a sort of environment that I felt would be really challenging. It wasn’t something that a lot of people would have thought about doing, at least someone like me in my situation. I think that that was what attracted me to it.
I felt that it was something I could do as well. I like the sort of fast-paced. I didn’t know what to expect really. I just knew what people said about it and what research I’ve done. It’s the fast pace, the challenge – the challenge of being on a trading floor with 200 men basically. I suppose that was part of it as well for me.
Joseph: Can you also give us a glimpse into shifting from being a professional athlete on the tennis court to suddenly becoming a professional banker in the corporate world, and as you mentioned, surrounded by a lot of men?
Rina: It was great. I just absolutely loved it. I was lucky enough also to go with a bank to New York for six months to do in-house MBA kind of finance program, which was fantastic with graduates from all over the world. Then London, it was just really buzzing. It was everything that I’d hope for and expected.
I have to say that I was extremely, extremely fortunate to get my dream job at an American investment bank where, when I landed in London, I was only trading desk with the head of trading, who is an incredible person. I have to tell you something because it’s an interesting story.
I arrived in London my first day, introducing ourselves to the rest of the desk. There were five of us on the desk, including the head of trading, who said, ‘All right. All you need to know about us, besides these are our names or whatever and this is what we do, is we have a tea rota.’ He was American, but he’s obviously become quite British by that stage. He said, ‘We have a tea rota on our desk, and this is how it goes. Today, it’s my turn. Tomorrow, it’s this one. Your turn will be on Friday. Friday at 4:00, you’re going to get tea.’ From that moment onwards, I was treated like everyone else. It was amazing.
I think I was there at a great time, working in a great place with some great people. It was fantastic.
Joseph: Very interesting. What was the most surprising part of shifting into that world for you? Because it sounds like it went extremely smoothly.
Rina: The most important thing is I left all that behind me very quickly, and that’s the most surprising thing I think, because I did actually love it that much, and I had an amazing experience, and I enjoyed the work. I did have a few, little issues.
I remember once, I was the last person on the desk, and I had a call from some guy from the office in Tokyo who said I need to do this now. I’m like, ‘Fine, I can do this for you.’ He’s like, ‘No, I need to speak to someone who can do this.’ I’m like, ‘Well, I can do this.’ He’s like, ‘No, where’s your boss?’ I’m like, ‘It’s me or it’s no one.’ He ended up putting the phone down on me. I had a few of those, but I mean that was always from people outside or other people. It was never from the people who I work with. I did have an amazing, positive experience, and I loved the work.
Joseph: What made you ultimately move on from that world that you were enjoying so much?
Rina: My future husband at the time had his own family business based out of Brussels, and he said to me, ‘If we’re going to be together, I can’t move.’ As it turned out at that time, the bank had a regional office in Brussels, so it seemed like the sort of logical thing to do for me to move and to come over here.
We had started going out when I was in New York actually. I wanted to stay in New York. I was offered a job to stay out there in fact with the bank rather than come back to London. I really wanted to do that, but he gave me an ultimatum and said, ‘You either come back to Europe or it’s over.’ I thought about it a little bit, and I came back to London. Sometime later, we realized that if we were going to be together, we would have to live in the same country at least. That’s how that happened, and I moved to Brussels.
Joseph: For those people, including me, who have made a move for a spouse, do you have any words of wisdom for people who are trying to make that sort of a move work? Because obviously, in that particular situation, you’re putting someone else’s interest as a priority and making the move for them. How did you make that work?
Rina: My only advice would be to think things through as carefully as possible so that you can’t look back and say, ‘I didn’t make the right decision,’ or, ‘Why didn’t I think about this carefully?’ I think we all owe that to ourselves.
I did start working in the bank and have to learn French pretty fast, which I did. Honestly, if I moved from London to New York for him and continued working, it wouldn’t have been an issue at all. The problem was moving to a very small regional office, which I really disliked from the minute I arrived here, which made it harder. These decisions are decisions that someone has to make.
Joseph: Yeah, that’s interesting, Rina. A few years ago, I moved from San Francisco to London for my then girlfriend, now wife. That was a major, major adjustment for me with a lot of emotional ups and down. I can definitely relate to how tricky that can be.
Rina: The thing with life is you don’t ever know what would’ve happened. You don’t ever have any comparison. You only have what you know, so it’s difficult because you don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t moved. Who knows?
Joseph: Exactly, yeah.
Rina: It’s really hard when you look back. I think that’s why it’s really important to try at least to think about what you’re feeling and what you’re thinking when you make those decisions.
Joseph: When you look back on your career change, Rina, going from professional tennis player to someone who’s now working in the professional business world, what’s something that you wish you had known that you now know?
Rina: The thing I wish I had known then, which I know now, is that I’m very much a function of society, a function of how I was brought up, of the societies that I was brought up in. I didn’t realize to what degree that influenced my decisions and the way I thought about things, myself, my life, and other people’s lives and other people. I’m not saying that that would have made a difference to these decisions I’ve made or the life that I’ve had, but I didn’t really realize to what extent I was not as rationale as I thought and not as able to take decisions myself as I thought that I was. I think that’s what it is.
Joseph: Would you be willing to give us an example of one of those times when a societal construct or external forces prevented you from being able to make the decisions that you wanted to make?
Rina: Without really thinking about it, it was this sort of idea I suppose that was in me which I hadn’t really thought about or hadn’t really confronted that, yes, I was a certain age, I was going to get married, I was going to have children, and it was something that I hadn’t actually even thought about in that way. It was sort of something that I expected myself to do, so I didn’t challenge it and didn’t think about it. It was a sort of natural thing. I think that was the first thing.
After moving out there, getting married, it was then the children. I had the first child, and then I thought, ‘I want to get my career going again.’ What I wanted to do was move back to London three of four days a week and trade on the financial futures exchange, but this didn’t go down very well at home. My husband obviously would’ve preferred to have another child. Again, everyone was saying and it was normal to have another child because you don’t only want to have one child and all this kind of stuff.
It sounds ridiculous the way I’m talking about it now, but it’s the dumb thing. It was what was expected. It was how it was. I did sort of challenge it but maybe not really. Adam, I’m sorry if you’re listening to this, but I thought one child was fine. She was great. It was okay. I was ready to work again, but my life didn’t really pan out like that. I think a lot of the time, it was just because I went along with it, and I didn’t really ask myself that many questions about certain things which were, I suppose, expected of me.
Joseph: I know what you mean. I think we sometimes all fall into this trap of just following these societally constructed milestones – you go to school and then college, maybe graduate school, get married, have a kid, have another kid, and yet, that may not be the right thing for you. It’s just sometimes hard to block all that external noise out, and it’s hard not to fall in line.
Rina: That’s right. I think my advice would be just to think about it. I’m not saying it’s wrong at all. I’ve had a great life, and I don’t have any regrets, but I think we all owe it to ourselves to realize that that’s what’s happening and that we should think about it and just acknowledge that there’s a lot of that going on.
Joseph: When you look back on your transition going from professional athlete to the work you’re doing right now, what’s something that you have learned about yourself through this career change?
Rina: I learned a lot about myself, especially from that first career change. It’s that it’s okay to change. It’s okay to accept that your heart’s not in something. It’s not failure and it’s not a fear of failure that causes it because I’ve had people say to me that it was this sort of fear of failure that made you stop. I thought about this really carefully, and I know that very competitive people, it’s possible that there is an element of that. I’m not saying I’m immune to it, but that wasn’t the reason why I did it. People say a lot of things, and I think that you have to be true to yourself and think that that’s not the reason why I did it and that it’s okay.
Then I think it’s important to think, if I’m moving on, I need to realize why I’m doing this, and I need to know that it’s okay and move on, find something else.
Joseph: The last thing I want to talk about before we finish, Rina, is Dress for Success, which I know is a charity that’s important to you. It’s doing some great work for women in the Greater London area. Can you just tell us a little bit more about that charity and why you’re so passionate about it?
Rina: Dress for Success is an amazing charity. It’s an international charity. I’m involved in London. What we do is we help underprivileged women get back into the workplace. It’s a direct help. We dress them. We give them advice on interviews. Clothes and how you look and how you feel when you’re going to an interview, it’s very important. There are so, so, so many women who need this kind of basic help in order to have a chance to start working and to get involved. I’m talking about really the most underprivileged amongst us.
It’s a fantastic charity. It does a lot of good work. As I said, I really like the direct impact that it has on lives of not only these women but their families, their children, their communities. Yes, I’m really, really excited about being involved.
Joseph: We’ll definitely include a link to Dress for Success in the show notes if people want to learn more.
Rina: Thank you.
Joseph: Rina, thank you so much for your time today. If people want to learn more about you or if they are interested in reaching out, where’s the best place they can go to learn more about you or the works that you’re doing right now?
Rina: Probably LinkedIn. That would be a way to come find me.
Joseph: Okay, we will include a link to your LinkedIn profile in the show notes. I just wanted to thank you so much for telling us more about your life as a tennis player and your transitions along the way into the corporate world, and most importantly, the importance of thinking critically about your path that you’re on in your life and being true to yourself. Best of luck with your current work, and I look forward to talking again sometime.
Rina: Thank you very much.