Spotlight On…Roberta Bonavia

Roberta is 34 years old, born and bred in the village of Naxxar. Second sibling out of three, having an older sister and a younger brother. In this article Roberta talks about her lifetime passion- sport.

School years were spent at the Convent of the Sacred Heart and then I attended St. Aloysius College for the two Sixth Form years. After debating whether I should study the Sciences, take up Engineering and later become a Commercial Plane Pilot, I decided to study Accountancy and Economics A-level … and perhaps, take up flying just as a hobby at a later stage, which by the way is still on my agenda.

Entering the Bachelor of Commerce course at the University of Malta in 1997, I strongly wanted to pursue the ACCA Qualification; so in order not to study Accountancy on Campus and also follow the ACCA’s curriculum, I opted for Banking and Finance, together with Management at under-graduate level. I enjoyed learning the Finance subjects better than the Management subjects so I chose Banking & Finance as a majoring subject for my Honours degree. I graduated in Accountancy in December 2006.

My first work experience was at PricewaterhouseCoopers – in Company Administration Services for a few months, later within the Audit and Assurance function for over five years. During this time, I was seconded a few times to the UK, at the Southampton office working on a variety of industries and audit clients. In 2008, I wanted to move out of auditing, and having considered different areas, I chose to embark on the business advisory role – this time within KPMG, Malta firm. After almost three years in this job, I chose to finally start practicing some accounting. It was at this point that I took up my current position of CFO at Plus One Dreams – which, I can easily say is Malta’s fastest growing online gaming company; when I joined four years ago, we had a staff complement of eight and we have now grown to forty. Here, I am responsible for the accounting and finance matters of the group of companies.

I describe myself as bubbly, energetic and yet generally having a calm demeanour around me. One of my mottos in life is “time is money so spend it wisely”. That is why when I’m not working I generally spent my free time in an active way. I would never sit and stare. TV/movie watching is minimal. I do have other hobbies that are not physical – playing musical instruments and needle crafts. Sometimes I also enjoy doing housework because it is a break from the routine. Socialising, meeting friends out and entertaining are amongst the activities I enjoy. I love music, cooking, and travelling.

Besides these, I also enjoy contributing to society. Lifecycle Challenge in 2006, Inspire’s Ability Challenge (that brings together participants of mixed abilities to successfully complete a series of challenging activities like rafting, canoeing, cycling, and paragliding) in 2007, JCI treasurer for a few years. Together with another group of women, we are currently working on setting up an NGO taking care of the needs of, and sometimes difficulties faced by, Maltese Women on Boards. I currently also sit on the MIA Social Committee.

Ironically I was not the very sporty type at school however I would attempt all sorts of games that we were encouraged to take – be it basketball, netball, tennis, badminton or gymnastics. Tennis was the only game I really enjoyed from a very young age. My bicycle – since the day I mastered my balance on the bike, I rode, rode and rode! Having fallen several times, I always had a great fancy towards my bike and after each fall, I always went back to cycling. When I got the liberty of driving myself around, I immediately took this to a different dimension and started training more intensely; during University years, I recall driving to Kordin to play tennis and soon afterwards drive to Qawra or Sliema for some other activity – sometimes kickboxing, a jog, or a game of squash.

In 2006 I participated in the LifeCycle Challenge which covered some 2,400km in ten consecutive days in August, mountain biking through Norway, Sweden and Finland. Training for this tough event was insane! The mercy of the Renal Unit patients was the only thing that kept me going.

Last year I road cycled the Official Raid of the Pyrenees in France, which is done in six days in succession covering 720km of mountainous terrain, starting from Biarritz/Hendaye on the Atlantic Coast crossing the Pyrenees to Cerbere on the Mediterranean. The route took us over many of the cols covered by cyclists in the Tour de France including the Tourmalet and the Aubisque with around 11,000 metres of climbing.

In 2010, I was one of just three Maltese girls cycling the Tour Ta’ Malta. The experience gained then was so different to the local races held more or less fortnightly during the road cycling season spanning February to June. It was fun and challenging competing against other women from the UK and Italy primarily. Since then, cycling amongst Maltese women has increased in popularity, with Maltese road cycling races attracting an increasing number of female participation.

I started running a few years ago, running 10km races then struggled to increase that distance to half a marathon; eventually in 2009, I wanted to push myself further to running a full marathon and I enrolled for the New York City Marathon. I had to train during summer meaning that I had to run at ungodly hours to avoid the scorching sun. The race itself was an amazing experience…seeing the City on foot, together with 57,000 runners and millions of people cheering on along the streets.

I have participated in two Malta half marathons, two Malta marathons, one Malta Challenge, NYC marathon and Rome marathon. My personal best was in the second Malta marathon at 3 hours 53 minutes. Despite our island’s size limitations, I think it is easier running in one’s own climate and surroundings; it’s fun to travel and explore the unknown when running abroad but the habitual terrain, etc have a positive psychological effect as well. My most memorable experience is the New York marathon because it was my first full marathon and I had been training hard for it and it was my first visit in the US and I simply loved the City!

Lately I took up trail running. We are a group of about 15 ‘nutters’ exploring the nature trails all over Malta, Gozo and even Comino. We’ve been on a few races in nearby Sicily together, and just last fall, we visited the Aosta valley – to get a glimpse of some changed scenery. My best experience was trekking on the stunning Himalayas.

I plan to run the Rome Marathon in March. My aim is to run a decent ultra-marathon of not more than 80km in the near future.

Sports, be it running, cycling, gym, horse riding, tennis or simply walking, is part of my daily habit. Sometimes, I need to be rather disciplined to follow my training and eating routines. Races are generally held early on Sunday morning meaning that there hardly exists a Saturday night! The best thing about sports is keeping/feeling fit, sane and healthy. We need to train to stay fit; with our sedentary lifestyles, we really need to compensate with exercise or yoga stretches. The secret is making time for it and prioritising. Very often, it is hard leaving the office and getting started. What I generally do is to ensure I get my meals right depending on the scheduled training; otherwise I end up leaving the office feeling knackered and without energy. I think nutrition and rest are crucial for me to follow my agenda of back-to-back arrangements. Time management is key. Determination and perseverance to fulfil personal goals. I believe that one has to make time, otherwise it will never be found.

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