When Sports and Business Go International
Vladimira Uhlirova’s life is a fascinating journey. Starting out growing up in communist Czechoslovakia, to becoming an International Business major at McCombs, to becoming a professional tennis player, all of it can be attributed to her relentless perseverance and hard work.
Vladimira was born in Czechoslovakia in 1978 during the Communist reign and grew up listening to illegal radio broadcasts in secret with her family. She dreamed of one day living and studying in America, but given her circumstances, she felt this impossible. After the Velvet Revolution, everything changed and dreams both new and old were possible.
Throughout her childhood, she played tennis and worked hard on her skills on the court, eventually getting the privilege of joining the national team. Despite her love for tennis, Vladimira also knew how important an education is. Because she wanted to pursue both a college degree and her tennis career, she looked to America for opportunity. In the late nineties, it was harder to gain information about college opportunities, so Vladimira started her career at Sam Houston State University, but she knew that it would not be her final stop. She used her first semester there to improve her English and learn more about the other opportunities available to her. During that year, UT saw her play and recognized her talent both in the classroom and on the tennis court. Soon after, they offered her a scholarship, which she readily took.
At UT, Vladimira was able to nurture all of her skills: she became #1 on the tennis team and was an excellent student, eventually becoming an academic All-American. She especially appreciated the mixture of academic professors and industry professionals she had the opportunity to learn from during her time as an International Business major.
After graduating with her BBA, she knew that she wanted to get a graduate degree, but first she needed to pursue her tennis career. She wanted to be in control of her career, and so she managed all aspects of being a professional tennis player — planning, scheduling, logistics, fitness, finances, promotion — on her own. Once again, her commitment to hard work and perseverance paid off, and across her career, she played in 32 Grand Slam events, won 5 WTA doubles titles, reached an individual WTA doubles ranking of #18 in the world, and finished among top 8 doubles teams in the season-ending WTA doubles team ranking.
After 10+ years of professional tennis, her time on the court wore at her as she started having knee problems. She transitioned her focus and got a Masters degree in Sports Leadership from Northeastern University. Today, she also uses her expertise and experience to organize and commentate tournaments, as well as mentor and coach young tennis players.
While not all IB majors will pursue a career in tennis, Vladmira has two pieces of advice that will apply no matter what career path they follow:
- Learn languages: by learning languages it removes barriers helps open doors to you when working internationally. It will also allow you to experience other cultures more fully.
- Spend as much time as possible abroad: This will teach you about other cultures but it will also teach you about yourself. Your degree is the start of your education not the end so always be on the lookout for new experiences.
If there is one takeaway from Vladimira’s experience, it is best summed up in her own words: “Nothing is ever given for free. You have to work for it and never give up.”
For more information on International Business alumni, or for information on how to get involved, visit our website at www.mccombs.utexas.edu/CGB.