Serious Sisu: Catherine Francis

It takes a lot of sisu to hold down an impressive career in advertising, while pursuing a sport at a high level.  We are especially aware of those challenges within Asia, where the stigma's and stereotypes associated with girls pursuing these activities can be deemed inappropriate.   

Therefore, we believe it is important to highlight these day to day role-models for our young girls.  The young women who are finding and pursuing their passions, no matter the challenge, no matter the stereotype, despite what other people think and say. 

Meet Catherine Francis, an Account Manager at OgilvyOne Worldwide, based in Singapore, who at 26 years of age has pursued her passion and become an avid climber.  Many women often drop sports and often their confidence will decline with it - thanks Cat for inspiring us to keep up our sporting pursuits and our sisu.  

Please can you give us a brief introduction of yourself?

I'm Cat and I am 26 years old. I am an ad girl most days, and a rock climber some days. Meaning, I work in advertising in Singapore Monday through Friday and try and rock-climb as much as possible on weekends. 

What is a typical 'week in the life' of Catherine Francis?

I work in an office in Singapore 5 days a week. I like to be out and about and am seldom home.  After work, I unwind with friends either at a movie, karaoke or drinks.  At least once a week I'll do yoga.  Sundays are my fixed rock climbing days, and I try to climb one other weekday. I reserve Saturday afternoons for my Dad. We are cursed with a sweet tooth, so it's always tea with apple pie.

Rock climbing isn't traditionally a very female sport (something we're trying to change with SisuGirls!) - what attracted you to it? 

When I first tried rock climbing, I wouldn't call it an attraction. I tried it out of curiosity and assumed it was going to be a one-time thing.
What hooked me was that it was a very personal sport. It's you and the climbing route and the climb belongs to you - glory or no glory. I also like that climbing routes have different answers, or beta, as we call them. What works for one person won't work for me -- there isn't a cheat sheet. The best part is, even though it is an individualistic sport, you also get the same support as a group sport. For such a physically and mentally intense activity, climbers are chilled and very encouraging.

What was your family's reaction to your choice of sport?

Before I found climbing, I led a pretty sedentary lifestyle, so my family thought I was crazy. I went from no sporting activities to something as extreme as climbing.  My mother says she sometimes feels that she has two sons instead of one. She also takes notice of the changes to my body. My tan lines, constant scrapes and bruises, thicker fingers (although I don't think my fingers have changed), misshapen toes and dead toenails. But, she has acknowledged that climbing has made me leaner and stronger, so I think she secretly finds it cool. 

 Can you see Cat SWINGING on the rock?

Can you see Cat SWINGING on the rock?

What life lessons have you learnt through rock climbing?

After I started climbing my confidence grew.  It felt so good to finish a climb without hanging on the rope, and I was constantly chasing that feeling.  However, I only attempted climbs that were within the grades I could complete. A friend pointed out a climbing route I would like and refused to show me the grade. I finished it and realised that a harder climb means some sections of the climbs are hard, not the entire climb and figuring out the challenging sections was crazy fun. I would have stopped climbing out of boredom if that 'blinded' climb didn't happen. My whole climbing world expanded after that. Lead climbing, overseas trips, and multi-pitches.  The comfort zone is the danger zone. That experience changed me and my entire perspective in life.


Do you have any goals that you want to achieve with rock climbing?

I want to rock climb beyond Asia one day. I've always entertained the thought of travelling the world for a year just to rock climb and hike and explore a country. I have a list of places I want to visit but the top three are Yosemite, Ceuse in France and the Blue Mountains in Australia. The climbs there are harder than what I'm used to but alot of the climbs I am doing now were harder than what I was used to also! So...

What piece of advice would you give to our young SisuGirls who are about to take on the climbing wall for the first time (and their parents!)?

To the girls: Have fun, and when you don't finish a climb, don't beat yourselves up over it. 
To the parents: Have fun supporting your girls and give climbing a shot, too! 

What makes you wake up each morning?

Knowing that today is going to be so different from yesterday. 

What and who inspires you?

My siblings, for chasing their own dreams. My sister's passion for food and my brother's insatiable curiosity for technology has made them take risks I'd never have dreamed of taking. They make their work look effortless, but I've seen how much determination and effort has gone on.  

What is the piece of advice you ever received?

Breathe - this is both for climbing and for life in general. 

Who do you think has serious sisu?

1. My mum. 27 years ago, she moved to Singapore to be with my Dad and even though she was in a strange land, she was our pillar of strength. 
2. My climbing mates, because we all have demanding day jobs and sometimes the temptation to skip climbing days is great. But we seldom flake unless we are sick! That's serious determination. 

Chloe Chickclimbing