The Powerlifting Principal (II): In the thick of it

7 June 2023

How injury can lead to some of your greatest engineering breakthroughs.

In the previous blog post I described how I stumbled into the world of competitive powerlifting and quickly started to see the benefits in all aspects of my life, including my career. I had been lucky enough to receive an invite to the Commonwealth Championships, and was starting to let myself relax a little in work; to stop competing with everyone around me and enjoy the process.

Training had been going well, the buzz in the gym was unmatched, and in no time at all, it was off to Limerick for the Munster Championships.

April 2019

April 2019: Munster Championships

This competition ended with a squat PB, bench press PB, deadlift PB, total PB and silver medal. For all intents and purposes, this was a great day! There was a mere 2.5kg between my total and the winning total. But, as we so often do, I started to focus on the negative aspects of the day, missing all of the positives; “why didn’t I win the gold medal? why did I fail my last squat? had I let my coach down? had I let my team down?“

I began to rewatch videos of my failed squat (150kg) and try to analyse why I had failed to get approval from the referees. I quickly noticed that the spotter (there to keep the lifters safe), had taken the bar in haste, as he believed I was going to fail.

In hindsight, I can see how great this day was, and how the importance I put on the negative self-talk dampened it. This is so often the same in development - instead of focusing on the negatives, learn from the negatives.

April 2019

April 2019: Failed 150 squat

As my annoyance eased, I realised this was exactly what I was doing in my development role at the time. I started to focus on how I mentored more junior members in the team. I needed to be prepared to help, but not jump in too quick. This changed how I mentored people drastically - frustration at things not being done as quickly as I thought they might be, turned into pride that the team was figuring things out for themselves!

Later that evening, as the adrenaline started to wear off, I realised I had a small tear in my bicep, and representing Northern Ireland in the Commonwealth Championships would no longer be feasible.


Along with the physical pain of an injury, comes a big dollop of mental difficulty; training has to change, routine has to change, the outlet of lifting heavy weights is taken away from you. It’s easy to let the negative thoughts spiral, but thankfully my coach had me start to look at what I could learn from the injury rather than focusing my attention on all of the negatives surrounding it.

I had to take some time away from competing, but still wanted to be involved in the powerlifting community. If you are willing to take the support of volunteers, then you should also be willing to give back when you can, and this is exactly what I did! I volunteered my time at competitions and supported others when they were competing.

It's the same with development, and we should all try to give back a little to the community. This doesn’t have to mean standing at the front of a lecture room with hundreds of eyes staring back at you, there are loads of ways you can help!

  • Meetups (talking and attending)
  • Internal “brown bag” sessions
  • Answering forum posts (thank goodness for these people!)
  • Slack / Discord communities
  • A simple “Good job” if you see something good

Look forward to November 2019, rehab was (mostly) complete, and my coach and I decided it was time to try another competition! So, off to Galway for the Connaught Open we went! Little did I know, this competition would bring with it one of the biggest lessons for me.

November 2019

November 2019: Connaught Open

The photo above is my coach at the time, Sean Crowe and a teammate, Brónagh McPeake. Brónagh was one of the first members of the Irish Powerlifting Federation and earned Irish, European and World medals, across multiple weight classes, what a woman!

In the lead up to this competition, I struggled mentally. Imposter syndrome was at an all time high, a feeling most engineers will know all too well! I confided in Brónagh, and she chatted to me about how she still feels like that sometimes before a competition, and how to channel that energy. This chat was incredibly powerful for me, and one that I would continue to think about for a while!

It reiterated to me the importance of being honest - you never know who is listening, or who you might help, and that is truly special! The people at the top DON’T know it all, and no-one expects you to either! Read that again, and really take it in! Once I truly believed this, I became a much better, and confident engineer.

In the next post, I’ll look at how I grew into this new-found confidence, both within powerlifting and my career!

Article By
blog author

Hannah McKee

Principal Engineer