Brand Builder Jean-Marie Shields On Her Career Spanning Nike, Starbucks and Lululemon

Listen Now:

On iTunes

Jean-Marie Shields is a brand builder and a brand lover. She’s led a powerhouse career taking her from Nike to Starbucks and then Lululemon, but most importantly, she’s also a mom. And, as a single mom, she believes kids are smart and they want to be a part of their parent’s job, too.

“When I helped reposition the Starbucks brand and we updated the identity and we enrolled 5,000-6,000 people across the company into the new brand and experience as it had evolved, I actually had a conversation with my son. I said, “Hey, during the next 7 weeks Mom is going to be really busy. That means we’re not going to see each other as much as we were before, but right around the corner is going to be really different. Here’s what Mom is working on.”

Before she was a mom, Jean-Marie was born and raised in Sweden. She came to the United States as an exchange student, then married and had a family. Early on in her career she worked mostly in creative roles—which is where she started her career path at Nike. After a few years, she moved to oversight of product, before eventually moving into more brand-centered roles. Jean-Marie spent 13 years at Nike, including 8 years in the company’s European office and 5 in its global headquarters. After her tenure there, she spent another 8 years at Starbucks helping to reposition the brand. Then she made a move to help Lululemon after the brand’s unfortunate see-through yoga pants incident.

Now, Jean-Marie is Seattle-based and applying her 20+ years in building lifestyle brands to launch dusk, her company where she does mindful branding for companies and homes. Homes, you ask? Yes. Her approach to the energy of a space helps individuals focus more on the present. With presence comes a life more fully lived, and that outcome is a more joyous life, she says.

In episode 51 of I Want Her Job: The Podcast, Host Polina Selyutin and Founder Brianne Perleberg talk to Jean-Marie about the important role curiosity plays in creativity, calming a creative mind and what it was like to work with some of the most influential business minds of our time at Nike and Starbucks.

Topics Discussed In Today’s Show:

  • Getting Closer: Jean-Marie was working at Nike when she realized she wanted to get closer to customers in her work. A colleague recommended that Jean-Marie get closer to product, so she then moved over to a product management role. “I really wanted to bring great products to market. That’s what I was really interested in. If I had to do that creatively, or through other management roles, I’d just go for it,” she says. She credits many wonderful supporters at Nike for helping her move from a creative to a more business-centered role at the time.
  • The Power Of Story: Now with a wealth of experience in branding, Jean-Marie offered up a crash course on the complexity of bringing a brand to life. A company’s story is grounded in its mission and how they express that, she says. Each mission statement will share who a company is trying to connect with, by doing what and then once a connection has been made, it will detail the outcome. This mission statement grounds a brand, she says, and connects it to the manner in which it conducts business and messages itself. “The backbone of storytelling for any company is really grounded in what the company is hoping to accomplish with messaging or the connection with a guest or consumer,” she says.
  • Brand Love: Jean-Marie says she loves branding as it deals with the beliefs and values of a company, allowing her to see its heartbeat and how it’s then incorporated across that company. By focusing on brand, Jean-Marie explored how a company can make sure it lives its mission in the day-to-day, how corporate culture expresses this promise, how the behaviors of a brand align with its mission and then how that mission is messaged to connect with a guest or consumer.
  • Her Vision: With dusk, Jean-Marie is looking to uncover the connection a space brings. “ … dusk is for working with companies and making sure a lot of things I’ve already been doing in my corporate roles—like ensuring that mission and vision is alive, making sure the emotive nature of a company is clearly shown in how it messages and connects with its community—and then I’m also looking to do that in people’s homes,” she says.
  • What Is Unsaid: Branding is the lens through which a company holds itself accountable to the things it said it would do, Jean-Marie says. “I think a brand is [also] equally shaped by the things it doesn’t do,” she says.
  • On Connecting Branding + Home: “What I’ve learned from working in the sports and wellness industry is the connection between the physical space, the emotive nature of the space and the thoughts in the space. When you connect those three—the physicality, the heart and the head—you allow people to be more present. With presence comes a life more fully lived, and the outcome then is a more joyous life.”
  • Finding Opportunity: “I’ve had many different career paths within each company [I’ve worked at],” Jean-Marie says. And she’d recommend others—especially those working for a large company—consider a similar approach. “Get into conversations and be curious about all the opportunities in front of you inside a company,” she advises. “I would say at Nike I had at least four careers within my 13 years [spent working there].”
  • On Leadership: “I’ve always been a servant leader. One of the things I’ve always chosen to do is to work for companies where I really believe in their mission. I don’t always have to believe in the mission for myself, but I have to believe in the mission and the person they say that they’re wanting to connect with.”
  • Managing Motherhood + Career: As a single mom raising a son, “I had to learn to ask for help,” Jean-Marie shares. She opens up that life has taught her it’s okay to seek help from others and to find a community that offers support for a single mom managing a full-time career. She also credits transparency and involving her son in the details of her career as tactics for successfully helping to balance the two.
  • On ‘Mom And Dad’ Mentorship: “I find being a mom has made me more of an empathetic leader,” Jean-Marie says. She continues that she likes to be a role model for other women and dads—encouraging employees to spend the time they need with their families.
  • Quieting The Creative Mind: Jean-Marie says her daily practice of TM (transcendental meditation)—practiced in the morning and at night—helps her to feel more stable, more mindful and less quickly to react. “When you are somebody that has a creative mind, you are always thinking and you see opportunities everywhere,” she says. “Meditation helps me quiet my mind and helps me balance.”
  • A New Focus: Jean-Marie believes as companies and as individuals, we shouldn’t always get so wrapped up in the “how” when it’s the “what” that’s important to be aligned on in life, love and work. She suggests companies should help their teams spend more time aligning on the “what” because the “how” will be determined by each of our own independent creative interpretations and ideas.
  • Worth Remembering: “You’re not defined in any sort of way by what happens to you. You’re really defined by how you handle it,” Jean-Marie says. “How you show up when good or bad things happen to you is really important.” Experiences like being fired, getting a demotion or being in the wrong area shouldn’t define us, she believes, as they are out of our control. Instead, she affirms, we should focus on what we can control—our reactions and attitudes after facing these experiences.
  • On Learning From Brilliant Leaders: Jean-Marie has had the fortune of working with some of the brightest and boldest leaders of our time—Starbucks former CEO and current Chariman Howard Schultz and Nike Co-Founder Phil Knight. Howard, she says, taught her how a leader shows up in empty moments when there are tough decisions to be made, as well as how to incorporate humility as a leader. Phil, she says, taught her about innovation, to look forward and to not be afraid, encouraging that, “If you can think it, you can do it.”
  • The Bottom Line: Jean-Marie’s parting advice? “The true passion of a company always shows up in the day-to-day,” she says.
  • Get More: Watch Jean-Marie speak about thoughtful change at the 2008 PSFK Conference, and learn more about her work at Starbucks here.

Connect With Us: Like what you’re reading? Get weekly doses of I Want Her Job sent fresh from our desk to yours. Sign up here.