The Making of a Mentor | Nicole Chabot

The Making of a Mentor: Women Leading Women | Nicole Chabot

Nicole Chabot
Principal, Chabot International
Former roles: Director of International, Mountain Hardwear | Director of Sales, Carve Designs | Head of International, Timbuk2

Nicole Chabot, Principal and Founder of Chabot International, gives her best career advice (and lessons in balancing it all with personal life, values, and the outdoors).

The Camber Outdoors Professional Mentoring Program facilitates one-on-one learning and leadership development opportunities between director/manager- and executive-level women. Our mentors are known for their achievements, leadership, and spark in the active-outdoor industries, and they’re helping shape the next generation of leaders. To recognize their contributions to the industries and beyond, we asked them about their journey and its intersection with the outdoors. Learn how Nicole found success by playing to her strengths, taking advice from mentors, and aligning herself with the right cultural fit.

What’s your favorite outdoor memory?

While at Mountain Hardwear, after the European ISPO show, we went skiing with our wonderful European distributors. After I realized my skiing skills weren’t up to snuff to keep up, I peeled off and hired an Austrian, private ice climbing guide. What a fantastic way to spend a post-trade show, sunny day!

What was your first job in the active-outdoor industries, and what drove you to seek a career in the industries?

My first job was running the international business at Mountain Hardwear. I came from “outside” the industry, having spent more than ten years in strategy consulting and working for $1 billion+ consumer product companies. At one point I found myself spending time with a group of people who all worked in the active-outdoor industries—which, until then, I didn’t know much about. They were all wonderful people: smart, hardworking, but with the best attitudes of any working folk I knew. I decided I wanted in. When I saw the role at Mountain Hardwear, I called in all my chips and asked my friends, “Just get me in the room for that interview.” They did, and Mike Wallenfels (VP of Sales, Hydro Flask), then CEO at Mountain Hardwear, gave me my first shot. I never looked back.

What is your favorite perk of working for your company?

We’re great people fighting together as a team for a common goal. I’ve found that less often in other industries, whereas in the active-outdoor industries, it’s more the norm, and I value it highly. Now, as an advisor to multiple companies, this is a selection criterion I use to decide whether to take on a new client.

What’s one piece of advice would you give your 22-year-old self?

Negotiate every offer. If it’s done in good faith with a constructive attitude, negotiation should be a good thing, as it enables both parties to learn what is important to the other.

Did you ever have an “aha” moment in your career? When/what was it and how did it inform your career path?

I was petrified to take the leap from a permanent role to launching my consulting business. To nudge me, a mentor of my own forced me to make an objective review of my successes and challenges in each of my prior roles, then connect the dots. The common themes I found were driving sales growth and transforming each international portfolio into a much more healthy business. I had my share of things I wish I had done better, but objectively measuring my track record and finding my strengths gave me the courage to step out on my own.

What’s your one piece of advice for women seeking a career in the active-outdoor industries?

Figure out why you’re here. We don’t get to play outside as much as we want, and it’s not the most lucrative industry; but there’s room for smart people, entrepreneurial spirit, and playing a role in whatever may be important to you—be it getting more folks outside, environmental advocacy, or mentorship!

You have the soapbox: What’s one thing would you say to young people starting their career?

Try to find what you love to do, but be ready to mix some reality with that. It’s beautiful to say, “Do what you love and money will follow,” but that doesn’t always come together. Find an environment you appreciate, find the people you want to learn from and grow with, but be ready to do what’s necessary to take care of yourself, your family, and your responsibilities. That can take shape as doing the less glamorous day to day jobs as part of a team, all the way to making concessions in your own career trajectory that make the most sense for your personal “portfolio.” And, never stop learning!

What do you see as the most prominent/important active-outdoor industries trend of 2018?

I see it as the way the consumer accesses product—considered through the lens of distribution, brand, and information flow. There is some creative work out there, but no one is yet outstanding at it.

What’s something unique you want people to know about your company?

As an international advisor to brands, I believe “international sales” is not about trying to get someone you met from another country at a trade show to buy your stuff. To the contrary, it’s about selecting the strong few partners (or staff) you hope to work with for years to come to build your brand in their markets, for mutual benefit.

Tell us about a teacher/mentor/role model who has impacted your life as a career woman or outdoorswoman for the better.

I have learned a tremendous amount from Mike Wallenfels (VP of Sales, Hydro Flask), having worked for him twice in this industry. Mike works harder than anyone I know, but he’s also a perennial student. If there’s something he doesn’t know, he’ll figure out how to learn it quickly. He doesn’t blame, he just gets it done. He’s almost always optimistic, he supports his team, he treats all similarly, he does not politic—and he likes to enable a bit of fun along the way. No wonder he’s crushing it at Hydroflask!

What do you love most about being a mentor for Camber Outdoors’ Professional Mentoring Program?

My mentee is a rock star! She’s surely teaching me more than I to her. Our discussions make me reflect, research, and talk about topics that are so much more important than the bevy of fires that creep up on all of us every day. She is a phenomenal woman and I feel fortunate to have the chance to work with her over the course of this year (and I hope beyond).

Flash Round

What’s your superpower? Chameleon-like changing communication patterns (always in English) with colleagues from Japan, Germany, Chile, you name it.
Outdoor adventure of choice for daily release? Hiking with one of my besties for a good chat—time hopefully followed by a beer.
What book would you recommend? Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Your number one outdoor hack? Bring a friend who’s better at it than me, so I can learn from that person.
One word that you think of when we say outdoors? More!

Learn more about our Professional Mentoring Program, or turn your passion into your profession by exploring our Career Center.

Formerly the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC)


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