The leisure business expert and firm’s manager in the UK and Ireland on switching jobs during covid, the importance of leisure facilities and why the sea is better when it is rougher

Kate McKnight, country manager for UK & Ireland at Myrtha Pools

Why did you choose construction as a career?

It was a natural progression for me, I have spent many years programming and “sweating the asset” of a swimming pool, so moving into the design and construction sphere gives me the opportunity to deliver a pool that will work for the local authority, facility owner, local community and the wider sport.

I get great satisfaction from knowing the pool will be well-used and economically sustainable for the future, allowing many generations of children to learn to swim and enjoy swimming in their everyday lives.

What are you most proud of in your career to date?

I survived managing my first very large, complex council facility – which included a stadium and multiple outdoor areas – and it was the most challenging yet rewarding experience of my working life. I also met so many great people who I tried to support, who supported me, and who have gone on to have some amazing careers in the industry.

What has been the biggest challenge of your career to date?

Changing careers during the Covid-19 lockdown. I was lucky enough to have been liaising with Myrtha Pools prior to the lockdown, as northern Italy (our HQ) was locked down completely and well before the UK. I maintained regular calls and Teams meetings during this time to prepare myself to start to work but I found it fairly challenging.

Everything – including my induction and training – was held online so it was amazing when we finally got to travel again and meet people in person (even if we were wearing masks and had to complete covid jab forms weekly). Life changed, but it really brought home just how much we took free movement and our ability to meet and talk to people face-to-face for granted.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

I would like to see the government place more importance on leisure facilities and their use for the local community to stay fit and healthy. They are expensive to run but the benefits they provide – from learning life skills to improving our mental health and wellbeing – are invaluable.

What is the most helpful advice that you have been given?

Use your experiences to make informed decisions.


Favourite building: The Shard

Name your favourite building in the world?

The Shard – I just love it.

Which famous building do you most dislike?

The MI6 Building – I think it’s boxy and bland (sorry to those who love it).

Which famous building do you wish you had worked on?

The Shard – it would have been amazing to have a Myrtha pool installed in this building.

What single piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in your profession?

Be calm, be patient. It takes time to see projects though to fruition, but the end result is always amazing and worth it.

Who do you most admire in the construction industry?

Those who are prepared to take on the challenge of constructing some of the world’s most fabulous structures. Their attention to detail, work ethic and ability to work and coordinate with a team of experts to create something iconic is truly amazing.

What is it like being you (and doing your job)?

Fun and challenging – you have to find time for both work and play in order to have a really good balance.

As country manager for the UK and Ireland, I cover contract and facility management, business development, sales and marketing, and programming – so pretty varied. I also travel a lot to visit the HQ in Italy or see clients and projects, so being on top of everything is crucial.

Do you have a life philosophy?

Live and let live.

What do you think your best quality is?

I am calm in challenging situations.

What trait do you most dislike in yourself?

I like to be in complete control of any situation I’m involved in!

And in other people?

Those who openly dismiss other people’s opinions without any consideration.

Name three things that you like

The sea – the rougher the better (to look at); chilled white wine and Christmas!

Tell us about a secret skill that we don’t know you have

I used to work to rehabilitate heart patients, getting them fit after surgery.

What is your most prized possession?

My family.

Early bird or night owl?

Early bird.

What is your favourite food?

Roast chicken.

What would your superpower be?

To cure cancer. 

Kate Mcknight is a leisure business expert with more than 30 years’ experience in the industry. She has held positions within senior swimming bodies – including head of facilities for Swim England and honorary secretary for the World Aquatics facilities committee.

Myrtha Pools is a one-stop shop, offering design, manufacture, build and installation. A Myrtha pool is manufactured off-site, has a 45% smaller carbon footprint than traditional methods of construction and can offer cost savings of up to 20%.