September 20, 2018
February 8, 2018
May 31, 2017
McKinsey & Co., Inc. Alumni Profile
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.”