By Shana Ferguson//Chief Marketing Officer | Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Cheers from Colorado Springs, where the air is a bit thinner but the focus on teamwork and supporting our athletes, coaches and clubs is greater than ever. My name is Shana Ferguson, and I began serving as USA Swimming’s Chief Commercial Officer in May 2019. I am honored to have been asked to contribute to this month’s newsletter, and I hope my thoughts resonate with you.
My team’s responsibilities include revenue-generating activities like sponsorships, merchandise sales, and Foundation development, as well as traditional marketing activities like communications, business intelligence, website/digital operations, and creative. We have work to do, but I assure you we have the right team in place to do it.
If you’ll indulge me a bit, let me introduce myself and my approach. I swam breaststroke at the United States Naval Academy and still count my college teammates as my closest friends. It is one of the loveliest traits of this sport, that lifelong relationships are forged on the pool deck, and coaches play a big role in that. But at Navy, we didn’t just swim together, we grew into leaders of men and women together, and we took a solemn vow to make the ultimate sacrifice for each other and country, if called upon to do so. It’s an interesting prospect to face as a 17-year-old, but I simply never looked back.
I received my commission in the US Marine Corps upon graduation, and swapped chlorine in my pores for mud and sand. I stood on the deck of an amphibious naval vessel returning from the Middle East when our world changed irrevocably on 9/11, and wished our ship was heading towards the Persian Gulf instead of home. Being deployed taught me much about commitment and duty, but it also opened my eyes to the power a leader holds. We had exceptional commanders, but we also had some really poor ones, and I think I learned more about leadership from poor leaders who lacked the courage of conviction and a sense of honor.
After fulfilling my military commitment, I tested a few civilian roles to find the team environment I so desperately needed. Soon I landed at a young Baltimore company called Under Armour and spent almost 11 years experiencing the explosive growth of a global brand. It was a fun ride, but also an interesting study in leadership through uncertainty and change. Sometimes I led, and sometimes I followed, but in every case I knew that really great things happened when we communicated, collaborated and listened.
We here at One Olympic Plaza aim to speak with one voice, to minimize uncertainty and to serve our members with excellence. We (and you) as leaders must work diligently to trust each other while holding our staff members accountable in words and actions. We must be vulnerable to criticism and willing to listen more than we talk. For our athletes’ safety and well-being, we need fearless leaders willing to navigate sometimes rough waters with an unwavering moral compass. And that’s my final maritime metaphor for now.
The years I spent on active duty remain my greatest source of pride. But that was a long time ago, and I continue to seek even a sniff of that same sense of purpose. I think I found it here with you at USA Swimming. I know we share the common goal of building the world’s finest swimmers, but I also hope we are striving to develop the kindest, wisest and most conscientious youth on the planet.
If you have any questions, or want to chat about team-building and leadership, please reach out at any time. I look forward to meeting many of you on the road!
All the best,