Passion To Profession: Women in the Active-Outdoor Industries | Megan Cheesbrough
Megan Cheesbrough, VP of Retail at Arc’teryx, shares her path with us—life, career, lessons—and how the outdoors intersects with it all.
To recognize role models in the active-outdoor industries, we’re featuring women in a myriad of leadership roles—asking them about their backgrounds, their biggest learning experiences, and the influence of nature in their lives. Learn about Megan Cheesbrough’s long-time journey in the active-outdoor industries, why she loves her career, and the insights she’s gained along the way.
Did you ever have an “aha” moment in your career? When/what was it and how did it inform your career path?
As with many people who have built a career in retail, I never planned to have a career in retail! I fell into it initially working as a sales associate in my local outdoor store as an interim job between jobs/travel/adventure. It was there that I was exposed to a world of possibility within retail and the outdoor industry that I hadn’t ever considered before. Through reps that would visit the store, attending tradeshows as a buyer, and building connections with other retailers, new opportunities and connections continued to expand my perspective on what was possible for a career in retail within the outdoor industry.
Tell us about a teacher/mentor/role model who has impacted your life as a career woman for the better.
I’ve been so fortunate to have so many great role models, coaches, and mentors throughout my life and career. A strong female professor during my Eco and Adventure Tourism post-grad program taught me to follow my passion and to always consider myself as a brand to which I should take great care. A manager during my time at Nike taught me to believe in the law of attraction and to be the energy that I wanted to attract and see in others. And an executive leader at Arc’teryx taught me so much about vulnerability as a strength in leadership, the power of storytelling, and to not fear rapid prototyping to test and learn for the future.
What drives you (in your career, in your everyday, and/or in your hobbies/interests) – what’s your “why”?
My team and the people I get to work with, collaborate with, lead, and who inspire me every day. I’m really driven by human connection, leadership, and creating exceptional experiences for others. I feel so fortunate to have made so many friends and to have so many amazing experiences as part of my everyday job!
What is one piece of advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
Trust your intuition, and always choose wonder over worry. I have good instincts and looking back, I feel so good about the path I have chosen at every step of my life and career—but I remember worrying back then about some of those decisions and if they would be the ‘right’ one. Trusting that the dots will connect when you look back is hard to wrap your head around in the moment, but they almost always do.
How would you describe the importance of the outdoors as a force in your life?
It’s the place I can always count on to reconnect and ground myself. Whether that’s getting out with friends or reconnecting on my own, it’s always a great experience and something that is critical to my personal well being. It’s something I will forever stay committed to and protect as sacred time spent.
What is your “special place”—your favorite place in the world to be outside, and why is it important to you?
I have a deep love for the mountains and hiking and skiing, but the water is really where my heart lies. I grew up canoeing around the Great Lakes and have been passionate about paddling ever since. Moving to Vancouver to work for Arc’teryx has been amazing for my love of the outdoors. It’s a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and the ability to reconnect daily in the mountains or on the ocean is a reality that I can’t imagine giving up!
What do you see as the most prominent/important active-outdoor industry trend of 2019?
There is some great momentum within the outdoor industry in the recognition that brands, companies, and corporations have the strength, responsibility, and ability to make a difference in the world—beyond just their industry or for their consumer base—politically, environmentally, and socially. I also think consumer behavior is shifting dramatically and the boundaries around industries are blurring. The more companies focus on being consumer-centric in how they design, build, manufacture, and create experiences, the stronger their relevance will be and the more success they will have. I have a deep love for the outdoor industry. It’s where I’ve spent the majority of my career, and I believe we have an opportunity to think beyond our industry to resonate with more people around the world.
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