Hire Up: Why This Exec Returned Home to Work for Columbia

With nearly 20 years of footwear industry experience, Shane Downey is ready to take Columbia to the next level.

In April, Downey departed from competitor The North Face to assume the role of global product director for footwear at Columbia. His prior experience includes stints with four years at Brooks and 12 years in a variety of roles at New Balance.

With four months under his belt, Downey shares his plans to help Columbia win in both the performance and lifestyle markets, working for a brand from his home city that he’s always respected.

How I got here: “Opportunity presented itself as Columbia was looking for a footwear director to support the focused efforts and investment in growing their business. When I first spoke with [Columbia VP of footwear] Peter Ruppe about the opportunity I was immediately excited. It was both personally and professionally a great opportunity as it was a chance to go back to the city I grew up in and [work for] a brand that I have known since I was a child. Couple this with the team that has been assembled and the focus on footwear and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I joined Columbia on April 1 and we have been sprinting ever since then with a smile everyday.”

Big goals: “Establishing Columbia as a premium performance and lifestyle brand while nurturing the existing customer base. We will look to drive a performance offering through our Montrail running and Titanium hike expressions and build on the emerging lifestyle business for the youthful urban active consumer who knows Columbia for its outdoor gear. They are big goals but absolutely within our grasp based on the authenticity of the brand and the emerging market need for an outdoor brand to take the lead in this new and modern space of outdoor performance and lifestyle.”

Key challenges: “Our biggest challenge right now is really the speed at which we can move as we have lofty goals focused on simultaneous product offerings in both performance and lifestyle that can help support one another. This requires a speed to market from all members of the team as we look to not only change the product we deliver but coincide this with new product construction, new materials and new categories all of which can allow us to take Columbia to the heights we believe we can.”

Typical day: “Majority of my day is spent meeting with internal stakeholders and footwear team members sharing the vision and direction for the product category and driving the cross functional alignment to do this. We are focused on building long term product plan to elevate the product offering, engage new customers and invest into new product categories. I love what I do and I am deeply passionate about the industry and the products that I work on so although extremely busy I love coming into work every day helping to drive this vision for anyone willing to listen.”

Best decision: “Taking on opportunities that are entrepreneur by nature where there is a chance to go in and build a something from the ground up. I love taking on new challenges and approaching the uncertainty head on. I relocated to Boston during my tenure at New Balance, which aided me tremendously, and since then I have continued to seek out opportunities allowing for growth and career challenges.”

Worst decision: “I am not a person that lives with regret but when I reflect back I think there were times where I could have been more proactive in my career. Taking ownership and focusing on my own career path early on would have helped to accelerate my own development when there were moments I deferred to others. I am passionate about what I do and there was a time when I let others stifle that passion. I celebrate this every day and try and empower this with anyone I manage or coach.”

Career mentors: “Joe Preston, the CEO for New Balance, was incredibly impactful in my career to see how he was able to balance personal relationships, perform in his role and lead with character and integrity is someone I was able to learn from and witness his impact. Dan Sheridan, EVP/COO for Brooks, was a teacher and leader that I learned a great deal from as he leads with humility and candor and builds incredible collaboration. Lastly is my partner of 20 years who is the ying to my yang — she is a yoga instructor and is a compassionate thinker that provides me great clarity on perspective. I have learned the importance of listening and learning from others around you as I try and pay this forward to my direct reports and people I mentor regularly.”

Below, watch the career advice Saucony president Anne Cavassa shared with FN.

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