Alumni story: Nikki steps up at the Olympic Winter Games

“A lot of what I learned in the course was really important for me to take into that Olympic environment because it was very intense.” Nikki Burger shares her leadership journey and experience with the Advanced Leadership Program.
Nikki Burger
Women & Leadership Australia
3 mins

Nikki Burger is an experienced leader running a sports management consultancy, Life Sport Journey. Previously Nikki worked at the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia, holding roles including Village Manager for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games.
In 2020, Nikki was looking for an opportunity to develop herself personally and professionally to create new opportunities and increase her network of contacts.

To celebrate 20 years of empowering leaders, we asked Nikki to share her experience with the Advanced Leadership Program. Here’s what she told us.

Nikki Burger

“The Advanced Leadership Course I completed continues to leave a profound impact on me and the way I work and collaborate with others.”

Why did you want to do a leadership development program?

Nikki explains, “I value continuous education, staying updated, networking, and developing connections. Professional and personal development has always been something that has been important to me, I was feeling a bit stuck in my current role and wanted to expand my impact and prepare for future leadership opportunities.”

“I really wanted to educate myself, be current and interact with other women specifically and undertake a women’s leadership course that would have some intensity to it. The Advanced Leadership Program ticked all the boxes .”

What tools and concepts from the program have been most beneficial to you?

Nikki attributes her success in managing the intense and unique environment of the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games, during the COVID-19 pandemic, to the mindset and tools she acquired from her program experience, particularly in time management strategies that helped her maintain control and stay calm.

“A lot of what I learned in the course was really important for me to take into that Olympic environment because it was very intense, and I was always very conscious of needing to be calm in front of the athletes.”

Nikki also reflected on learning about ‘the third space’ which centres around creating downtime between meetings to help process information.

“I changed my 60-minute meetings to 45 minutes and they always work in 45 … I have found that having that space (‘the third space’) in between meetings helps with feeling more prepared and not rushed. This is something that has really stayed with me.”

How has the Advanced Leadership Program impacted your leadership journey?

After finishing the program Nikki took on a role as the Village Manager for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games.

“The course gave me the confidence to perform in the way that I needed to, so I could support the athletes and the coaches in the best possible way. There are parts of the course that contributed directly to the way I was able to manage myself in that intense situation.”

After this experience, Nikki felt prepared to transition to full-time entrepreneurship to focus on growing her consulting business – Life Sport Journey.

“After the Games, having spent eight years at the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia, I was aware that I had accomplished everything I had set out to achieve and that it was time for a new chapter.”

The relationships and skills she built have played a crucial role in Nikki’s transition to entrepreneurship, providing ongoing support and insights. She has recently become a Board Member of Water Polo Victoria, which presents her with new opportunities to contribute and excel.

Were there any unexpected benefits from the program?

Nikki emphasises the immense value of the network she has built during the program, highlighting the peer-to-peer coaching she maintains with her partner, and the relationships formed with a group of Melbourne-based participants.

“I found the camaraderie and the support that the women give each other something I wasn’t specifically anticipating, and I can’t express highly enough how much I value that.

“[A group of us from Melbourne] have made the commitment to meet quarterly and we’re now in our third year of doing that.

“This has been an opportunity to get a bit more breadth in my network as well as glean perspectives from women in different areas.”

Nikki's Melbourne Alumni Group, 5 of 7 members
Nikki at brunch with 5 of 7 members of the Melbourne alumni group.

What advice do you have for other women wanting to invest in themselves?

“I want my daughters to do this course!”

Nikki’s aspirations for her own daughters and advice to those considering a women’s only leadership course is to thoroughly research and understand their own expectations.

“Do your research. I was amazed at how much this course offers in terms of content, connecting with other women, and expert professional coaching. I looked at some other courses, but I felt that this actually offered much greater breadth and depth.

“The other important thing is talking to your employer. If employers embrace this opportunity for their team, it’s so valuable for women to do this course.”


Nikki’s journey through the Advanced Leadership Program exemplifies the transformative power of women’s only professional development. The program not only equipped her with valuable leadership tools but also fostered lasting connections and provided a platform for continuous growth.