Christina Shi is the Chief Operating Officer at Nike, Inc. and when you look into her progress and career path she brings a whole new meaning to the company slogan of “just do it”.
Through her career, Christiana has taken a lot of risks. She started as a management consultant working for McKinsey & Co. where she started building the network that would eventually launch her to the top. During her time in McKinsey, she had her son and after coming back from maternity leave she was ready to quit due to the hours leaving her very little time to spend with her little boy. What happened next was ground breaking for her. When she went to quit, her boss asked her “what would it take to make you stay?” From then on, she followed the rule of “I ask for what I need. If you don’t ask, you don’t get it.”
At the time, this was not common. You worked the schedule you were allotted by the company and were happy to have a job, especially as a woman. But Christiana knew what she wanted and asked for a 40 hour/4 day work week, despite thinking that she would be turned down.
“You can’t even imagine how many people told me that was just career suicide, completely,” she says in interviews. When it was approved, she assumed it would only be for a few months and then back to normal. However, she worked this schedule for almost a decade and eventually managed to be put into the position of Partner; All of this while managing to maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life.
As she moved through her career, she did something most people would never do – downgraded her role. Like she had done when her son was born she now made the decision to give up her Director role at McKinsey and moved back down into Principle so that she would be around while her son started HighSchool. The travel had kept her away too often for her liking.
“So I went off track and agreed to be Principal again, which I hadn’t been for five years,” she says. “If I wasn’t doing client service in a client-servicing firm, then was I going to be invisible?” But despite her worries the role actually created new opportunities for her. The movement into a more operational and administrative role, combined with her past experience as director and partner were some of the key points that drew Nike to offering her a job. She had been so well rounded through the different roles she had taken that rather than damaging her career, it got her an amazing new opportunity.
When asked about ways to leverage positions and circumstances that don’t necessarily fit with a traditional career path, she says, “You have to play the game you can win. I tackled each thing as an experience and an opportunity to learn. Every time you are good at something you create options. What options are you creating for yourself?” And when advising others like herself she urges people to take leaps of faith into the unknown. “You can’t be afraid of downsides. I think people overestimate career risks. People stay in unhappy situations at work too long and are afraid to ask for the change that they need.”
So to all women out there who want to make changes or who look at books and magazines of the women and men high in the ranking companies of the world and asking yourself why you aren’t there – take the risk. Just do it.