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Up Close with Sarah Robb O’Hagan: Facing Failure

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As CEO of the indoor cycling company Flywheel Sports, Sarah Robb O’Hagan is leading the transformation of the business through digital content and services. Here, the 2018 WISE Women of the Year honoree talks mentorship, getting fired and life off the bike.

What career goal are you currently working on?  

Actively growing our business toward global domination [laughs]. I feel super excited about the streaming platform, which opens up the ability for people to access Flywheel in so many more ways than they could before.

How has your leadership and management style evolved over the course of your career?

It has evolved a lot, and what caused my style to evolve the most is my modeling people I was lucky enough to work for along the way. Early in my career, I had great mentors and senior leaders in business who inspired and showed me great ways to manage. We all go through transitions from individual contributor to manager to leader, and each step of the way is overwhelming, but if you have people above you who walk with values, then try to model their styles.   

Describe a moment in your career you consider pivotal to your professional journey.

Getting fired. It was at a time when my career was going incredibly well. Then, I found myself in a role that I knew nothing about, and I was too big for my boots. When it happened, I was in absolute shock. The emotions that surrounded it — humiliation, pain, sadness, anger were a lot to process. What came out the other side was a lot of self-reflection and learning coupled with other experiences that helped me to ask for help. I learned what I did yesterday was then and what I do today is today and I need to grow and learn and be humble in my journey. Every day forward, I felt like I could get fired and I was so lucky to have whatever job I was in and I will fight every day to keep my job.

How has mentorship affected your career?

Massively. I feel such a debt of gratitude to so many people who have been there for me, who have mentored me, pushed me and seen potential in me. As I go back to the beginning of my career, given my age, a vast majority of my close mentors were men, and I am still in close contact with most of the men who helped give me my first big break, which was coming to America. Mentorship is important to a healthy growing career.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Radio DJ

Fill in the Blank …

I wish I had known … that it was all going to be OK.

I can’t live without my … workout gear.

On the weekend, you can find me …  hanging out with my kids and husband and just having a good time. Weekends are when I like to binge on family.


O’Hagan will receive her WISE Women of the Year Award at the 24th Annual WISE Women of the Year Awards Luncheon on June 13 in New York City.

Read about what Sarah Robb O’Hagan believes a career is today and what you need to know about yourself to succeed.  

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.