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In Conversation with Shannon, Technology Manager - Supply Chain

Shannon has been part of #LifeAtPetSmart for 11+ years. We're proud to share this conversation she had on behalf of Retail Women in Tech.

Can you share the journey of how you started in your career and the key milestones that defined your career path?

I attended the University of Arizona Eller business college. Initially I wasn’t sure what to major in but I definitely knew I wasn’t interested in economics, accounting, finance, etc. and basically did process of elimination to select my major. What was left over after crossing off almost everything was Operations Management. I had no idea what I was getting myself into but thought I’d give it a shot.

After working in a few other roles, I really wanted a retail corporate position within Phoenix, and PetSmart was one of very few in the valley. I became an individual contributor (no longer a manager) and wrote process manuals for the distribution centers. I took a chance to join a company where I'd start at a lower level but where I might have more opportunities, and I loved their mission. 15 years later, I’m glad I took that step back.

I talked to my mentor, he had moved over to IT from Supply Chain, and I asked him what he thought I should do and he said, “Have you ever thought about moving to technology?”  I said, “I'm not a developer so why would I go to technology?” He responded with, “Technology isn’t all developers.”  It was a huge light bulb moment for me. I quickly moved over as an analyst on his team.

We supported not only the supply chain but also legal, real estate, and charities. I got exposure to other areas of the business and rolled out applications and new technology. I became a senior analyst, and then I moved into a role as a project manager working with infrastructure. I knew NOTHING about infrastructure (databases, servers, network—oh my!). In this position, I was able to expand my knowledge of technology and all the background infrastructure needed to roll out new technology.

After more experience and learning, I was offered a position as an IT Application Manager for supply chain distribution systems. This was my dream job! I get to play with all the new toys, roll out really cool stuff, and work with the distribution centers. This job has even morphed since I took it on initially; I now also have operations support. In summary, I haven't had a ladder; I've had a lattice when it comes to my career, and it's been an incredible journey! I'd always said I'd never stay at a company very long, and here I am, 15 years with PetSmart. The main reason I've stayed for so long is that they’ve given me challenges and opportunities that other companies probably wouldn’t have. They saw that I could learn, adapt, be resilient, and benefit the company in whatever position I was given. Thank you, PetSmart!

What is a specific project or initiative that you're particularly proud of in your career?

I have two major ones. One is more of a project, and another is more of a person. 

I had the opportunity about six years ago to roll out some new technology to our Georgia facility when I was a Sr. Analyst. It was so easy to train and to get people ramped up. Rolling it out and seeing the tangible rewards immediately was amazing, and I loved it. I stepped away from that role to become an infrastructure PM and Service Desk manager but in the role I’m in now I was a part of implementing this technology to three other facilities in the past year. The enthusiasm from the distribution centers and excitement about getting it up and running makes me giddy.  We successfully deployed all of them on time and within budget, even pulling one of them up three months forward for go live.

The second one relates to mentorship. I love being a mentor, helping people, and guiding them in their careers. I really wish I would have realized the importance of mentors sooner in my career. I had the opportunity to have an intern, and at the time, I was an analyst, not a manager. I told her I'm taking you with me everywhere, and you will see the true corporate culture. I exposed her to conversations - uncomfortable ones and really good ones so she could make an informed decision. She did a fantastic job on her project and presentation in front of senior leadership…and I ensured everyone knew she needed to be offered a job after graduation.  She finished her degree at the University of Arizona and returned to PetSmart. She’s been here for about four years and has been promoted every year. I'm super proud of her!

What has been the biggest challenge in your career so far and how did you overcome it?

I would say number one is being in male-dominated fields like Supply Chain and IT. Trying to establish credibility, trust, and respect is a lot of work. I asked a lot of questions and became a subject matter expert and resource to foster those relationships. I pushed myself to be uncomfortable and defeat impostor syndrome to prove I was just as capable.

I also joined a leadership position in our Women’s Associate Resource Group. I found that since I first moved into a leadership role within the women's organization and am now a co-chair, my confidence has increased, and I don’t care about that potential perception anymore.  A huge passion of mine is helping people get to that in their careers way sooner than I did. To be authentic to yourself, to know that you have a seat at the table and that you have a voice, is really what I try to impart to my committee members and try to help educate them on. I don't have to be one of the guys. I don't have to talk about sports if I'm not comfortable talking about sports. I can just be Shannon.

What do you wish you had known from the start?

The power of mentors and sponsors. The conversations that happen about you behind closed doors are extremely important. You have to make sure you have people who are going to support you, have your back, and give you the valuable feedback that you need to grow.  You need to have those people on your side who are willing to step up and vouch for you. I don't think I would have had a lot of the opportunities that I’ve had if it wasn’t for the strong core of mentors and sponsors I’ve built up over the years.

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

“You are the expert.” I had the opportunity to lead a distribution center tour for our CIO and my VP.  I was incredibly nervous!! I was chatting with my boss and told him that and he said “You are the expert, they may ask questions you don’t know the answer to but ultimately you know more than they do.” That completely stopped me from being nervous. I led the tour, and it was a great conversation, and they did ask questions that I couldn’t answer. But I never made up answers. I just told them I’d find out and get back to them…and I did. 😊

That piece of advice has followed me in my various positions and has helped me foster incredible relationships both inside and outside the company. I pride myself on being a great resource for distribution questions or needs, but if I don’t know the answer to something, I either find it out and pass it on or give them a better resource to partner with.




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