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McKinsey & Co., Inc. Alumni Profile

July, 2014

Christiana Shi asked for what she needed and became a trailblazer as she advocated for flex time after her first child, and then became the first Principal and then the first Director elected on a part time program.  After an illustrious career, Christiana retired from the firm and is now President of Nike Direct-to-Consumer, in charge of all retail stores and ecommerce for the company globally, including its affiliate business., Even before she arrived in Beaverton, however, Christiana lived the “Just Do It” spirit.

Q:  When you joined McKinsey you were surrounded by women, right?

A:  Not quite.  I was the only woman in my class, there were no women partners in the office, and there was only one other female associate – who was two years ahead of me.

Q:  The all-male environment wasn’t completely foreign to you, though?

A:  Good thing I came from banking…!

Q:  How did you pioneer the part-time-yet-influential role at McKinsey?

A:  I was just about to be promoted to Senior Engagement Manager when I got pregnant.  At that time no one was really part time and – at least in my office – no one was raising the subject.  I knew that unless I could change my work schedule, I would want to quit after I came back from maternity leave.

Q:  But Bill Meehan changed that.

A:  He was my office manager and a great supporter.  Along with Jerome Vascellaro, they really encouraged me to challenge the status quo.  So I helped create one of the first part-time programs at McKinsey.

Q:  The rest is history but give us the highlights.

A: I was part time for almost ten years, becoming the first Principal and then the first Director elected on a part-time program.  At the time, both were thought not possible.  But I learned that at McKinsey, you could help shape what is possible.

Q:  What was your first exposure to McKinsey?

A: I majored in International Relations and Economics at Stanford, then worked at Merrill Lynch where I was a client team member on a McKinsey study.

Q:  What opened your eyes?

A:  I was totally impressed with how the McKinsey team came from all over the world, yet was able to work together very effectively.  So I applied to be a summer associate, but was turned down.

Q:  Then McKinsey came to its senses?

A:  They reached out to me as soon as I was back on campus.  That made a big difference.  They really took a personal interest in me.  In the end, McKinsey was a much better cultural fit, and had a much stronger professional development proposition than the other consulting offers I had.

Q:  What about the lifestyle side of the equation?

A: McKinsey won there too!  It was a much better lifestyle situation than the investment banking offers I had.

Q:  You had enormous success at McKinsey.  Tell us about the “Rule of 75” and what it meant to you.

A:  The “Rule of 75” is a concept where you can retire with full healthcare benefits when your time at McKinsey, and your age, equal at least 75.  When I hit that number it seemed like the right time to test what I learned in industry.  I had accomplished everything I had hoped to do at the firm.

Q:  Were you concerned your career options would stagnate?

A:  I had built a deep, industry-specific knowledge base in retail and I had a wide network of executive relationships.  Once I let a few clients know I was getting ready to retire, a number of choices came along.  The options at Nike were the best.

Q:   Other than leaving your friends and colleagues, what was the hardest transition?

A:  Learning to be a leader at scale.  I lead a very large front-line team at Nike Direct-to-Consumer, and I need to inspire and motivate them. I also must recognize their hard work, accomplishments and commitment to service every day. 

Q: Is the McKinsey alumni network everything they say it is?

A:  I’m still very close to many former colleagues.  Everything you’ve heard about the alumni network is quite true.  We all take calls, requests for help, at any point in time. 

Q:  What five people, places and things mean the most to you?

A: My son, my extended family (I am one of five siblings), Stanford (I am on the advisory board of several Stanford institutions) and my “new old” house in Portland which I fondly refer to as “my money pit.”

Christiana Shi: Women in Power

November 29, 2011 By Hilary Brooks