If there’s one word that sums up Shannon White’s career journey, it would be “change.”
And if there’s one quality Shannon has consistently brought to that change, it’s “adaptability.”
The Canadian-born mother of two is the Human Resources manager for the Hartford Yard Goats, a minor-league baseball team affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. As such, she manages the employees of Hartford’s new stadium and team home, the 6,000-seat Dunkin’ Donuts park.
Sports have always played a part in Shannon’s story.
In her native Toronto, she worked for 10 years at Scotiabank arena, home to the NBA’s Raptors. It’s where she met her husband Doug, a programming executive at ESPN.
The couple managed a long-distance relationship and after Doug proposed in 2009, Shannon emigrated to the U.S.
With her new home came a new job at a recruiting agency. But the 2012 arrival of the couple’s first child, daughter Nya, changed everything.
She would have had a full year of maternity leave in Canada, but in the U.S. Shannon found only a paltry 6-week leave policy. It was one of the reasons she chose at that time to opt out of the workforce to raise her family, made bigger by the birth of another daughter, Dahlia, in 2014.
“We didn’t realize how much we wanted this little family until we had it,” Shannon recalls those early years with joy.
Still, staying at home was hard. She struggled without the help of family nearby.
She missed Toronto, which she considers “the greatest city in the world,” with its multi-culturalism and standards of education and healthcare. And she felt out of place in the suburbs, noting she was typically the only woman of color in local Mommy & Me groups.
As the girls grew and went to pre-K, Shannon found herself “itching” to go back to work. She missed that other side of herself – the part of value outside the home. She wondered how else she might use the degrees in political science and feminist theory she had earned from York University in Toronto.
A few weeks shy of her 40th birthday, she also felt the pressure of time.
“I said to my husband ‘It’s now or never for me. Millennials are coming up and if I’m to get ahead of them, I need to get going.’” Shannon says.
But after opting out, how to get back in?
That’s when she attended a meet-up hosted by Untapped Potential, a social enterprise founded by Candace Freedenberg that removes barriers for professional women who had left the workforce to care for families. Untapped Potential helps them return to the corporate world through networking opportunities, career re-entry services, and “Flex-return internships” that provide a stepping stone to the workplace.
Freedenberg was so impressed by Shannon’s innate confidence and her background in HR and recruiting that she ultimately offered her a job with Untapped Potential as a career re-entry specialist. As such, Shannon served as a connection tool for candidates, conducting interviews to determine their strengths and helping them navigate a return to the workforce.
“This spoke to me,” Shannon says. “I needed to do something I felt passionate about. I could have gone to a bigger company and pushed papers around, but it wouldn’t have been as soul-satisfying.”
“The Flex-return let Shannon deliver professional services all while managing her two young daughters,” Freedenberg explains. “She held candidate calls, gained skills on modern workplace tools, and was a key presenter at events.”
The job was a timely fit as Shannon considered her own corporate future.
That helped her prepare for the inevitable question she’d face when she interviewed for an HR position with the general manager and owner of the Yard Goats.
“There’s no sugar-coating my time away from the workforce,” Shannon says. “I told them that even though I’ve been home for 5 years I haven’t stopped grinding.”
She continues to grind away at what has become a rewarding next step in her career. Reporting to the President of the Yard Goats and Dunkin’ Donuts park, Shannon is responsible for both year-round front office employees and seasonal workers that multiply the staff ten-fold.
As the team’s first HR person, she deals with recruitment and personnel issues.
“Going back to work after 5 years, it’s like conditioning after 5 years off from the gym,” Shannon explains. “It’s been hard, the transition is hard. I’m still transitioning. It’s about me finding myself again. At the end of the day, I feel really good when I go home and I still have the energy to be really engaged.”
Basketball is still her favorite sport, but she loves the sense of community of the team and of being at her office in the ballpark. She takes pride in how employees feel from the minute they walk into the park until they walk out.
“Customer service is paramount,” she says.
Like many women interested in returning to the workforce after time away, Shannon can relate to the specific needs of a “second act” career.
“There needs to be purpose and meaning to their search,” she explains. “They want to take what they learned from their past career, what they gained from being a stay-at-home parent and combine it to do something they feel passionate about.”
Passion is the word that currently fits Shannon’s career journey. And now that she’s found her team, she’s ready to play ball.
PROFILE: Shannon White, HR Manager, Hartford Yard Goats and Dunkin’ Donuts park
TITLE OF YOUR CURRENT CHAPTER: “Finding My Team”
MOTTO TO LIVE BY: “The wise man knows that he knows nothing at all.” I’m a constant learner. No matter what I don’t know, I’ll find a way to figure it out.
DAILY RITUAL: A morning cup of tea. I grew up drinking tea (my family is from Sri Lanka) and for me, it really helps me wake up, enjoy the few minutes of silence before my kids wake up and get ready for the day.
HOW TO YOU GET UNSTUCK: To be honest, this is something I am STILL working on. I am an overthinker and a worrier – so sometimes I find it really hard to just let go. However, I have some amazing friends who are always willing to let me talk things through with them (along with a glass of red wine). Music and movement are also tools that help me get out of my own head.
WHAT’S NEXT?: My current organization has enabled me to participate in not-for-profit boards. I’m on the board of directors for YWCA Hartford Region and the board of the Minority Inclusion Project (Manchester, CT) which educates not-for-profits about having a diverse board of directors. I’d like to do more work in the not-for-profit world to continue making a difference in the community. I am also passionate about Diversity and Inclusion and would love to be able to eventually transition into a role that enables me to be the person responsible for creating and administering D&I programs in their corporations.
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Valerie Gordon is a former television producer, lifelong storyteller, communications trainer, and the founder of The Storytelling Strategist. If you know of an inspiring woman to profile for our “Next Chapter” series, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.