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Influential voices: Christiana Shi

Influential voices: Christiana Shi

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Christiana Shi, Nike executive, tells stories from her life and relays advice for the next generation.
Christiana Shi, Nike executive, tells stories from her life and relays advice for the next generation.

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: The Clayman Institute on Aug 15, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Taking risks
didn’t get to where she is today by
playing it safe. As Chief Operating Officer of GlobalDirect to Consumer (DTC) at NIKE, Inc.,Christiana
oversees DTC’s Global Store Operations, Real Estate,
Finance, Supply Chain Operations, and InformationTechnology. When asked what proved most helpful in
arriving at her current position, she replied, “I asked for 
what I needed. If y
ou don’t ask, you don’t get.”
 Christiana took a number of risks throughout her career. As a management consultant with McKinsey &Company,Christiana built a deep expertise,established a supportive network, published numerousarticles, and became well-respected among her clients.But after returning from maternity leave, Christiana
almost quit her job: “I didn’t get to the point of quittingcasually. It just wasn’t working. I wasn’t spending
enough time with my son
, and I was exhausted.” Her boss stopped her by asking, “what would ittake to make you stay?” This question revolutionized Christiana’s approach to her career.
 When flexible schedules were barely beginning to emerge into public consciousness, Christianaasked to work a 40-hour four-
day workweek. “I was sure the firm would say no,” she explained. But
with the support of her mentors, she was able to create this non-
traditional schedule. “You can’t
even imagine how many people told me that was just career su
icide, completely.” She expected the
firm would only allow such an unusual schedule for a few months. But Christiana worked this
Influential Voices: Christiana Shi 
Nike executive reflects on taking risks
on 11/02/11 at 2:50 pm
The Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research is committed to 
empowering women’s
voices and leadership on the Stanford campus and beyond. To promote this goal, the Clayman Institute is publishing profiles of our Advisory Council, women and men who have volunteered their time and energy to creating greater gender equality. Over the course of the year, student writers will interview council members-- representing many communities, including financial, legal, non- profit, and entrepreneurial. We hope these profiles will inspire, as well as begin a dialogue with our readers about what it takes to exercise voice and influence in the areas that matter to you. We will ask each of the council members to share their histories, paths to success, and career advice.
schedule for nine years, and she was the first woman with anon-traditional schedule to be elected to Partner and thenDirector (Senior Partner). Soon others followed in her footsteps; now more than 30 men and women have beenelected partner on flexible or part-time schedules. By takinga chance, Christiana was able to achieve greater balance inher own life while paving the path for others.
Transforming challenges into successes
When asked about other risks she’s taken—
besidesworking a compressed work week
Christiana enumeratedmany examples: helping to build a new retail practice on the west coast where none previously
existed, moving to LA, and going “off 
track” by renouncing her Director title and taking on amore “administrative” role. “I decided as my son went into high school, I wanted to be around. Ididn’t want to travel.”
“So I went ‘off track’ and agreed to be a
Principal again, which I hadn’t been for five years.” Her colleagues were concerned about the potential dangers to her career: “if I wasn’t doing client
service in a client-
serving firm, then was I going to be invisible?” However, this role created
new op
portunities for Christiana. “It was the first time in my career that I had more of anoperational role…so when I actually ended up talking to Nike last year, they were as interested
in those three or four years of operational experience as the 20 other years I spent servingclients.
Who would have guessed?” Instead of damaging her career, Christiana’s“administrative” role introduced her to new skills and opportunities that positioned her to take
on the retail COO role at Nike.I asked Christiana how she w
as able to leverage her “off 
track” experiences to make herself more marketable. “You have to play the game you can win,” she replied. “I tackled each thingas an experience and an opportunity to learn. Every time you’re good at something, you create
ns. What options are you creating for yourself?”
Christiana advises those just beginning their careers to “take a leap of faith.” “You have to have
a no-fear attitude. Compassionate, but no-
fear. You can’t be afraid of downsides. I think people
overestimate career risks. People stay inunhappy situations at work too long and areafraid to ask for the change that they need
 She admits she never could have achieved whatshe did without the help of her mentors. Whenasked how to cultivate a solid mentoringrelationship, Christiana gave simple advice:
listen to your mentors. “If somebody’s mentoring
you, part of the compact is, you have to taketheir advice sometimes. They have to see thattheir advice is paying off.

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