Why I went from Google to reinventing work wear.
For the last decade, I have been extremely lucky to have a dream job at Google in San Francisco. While I’ve always loved fashion — I used to sew my own clothes as a way to beat stress in college — I wouldn’t say I was the most likely candidate to start a clothing line. An athlete and tennis player, I was most comfortable in sneakers and skirts. Silicon Valley is about company T-shirts, and I was happy to partake.
Happy Googler, circa 2008
That all changed a few years ago, when I took on a new role as Google’s Head of Industry for Education. While previous positions at the company were much more behind the scenes, suddenly I was speaking at events and flying across the country to meet with CEOs. An important part of business is learning about and showing respect for the partners you work with, and there was no way I was going to walk into an executive’s office wearing a hoodie.
My partners seemed to appreciate the effort. Here’s actual written feedback I received in a survey after a speech in San Francisco: “In addition to giving a great presentation, I wanted to thank Shannon for dressing appropriately.”
Me dressing appropriately at SES San Francisco 2012
At the same time my work style was growing up, I became increasingly aware of the physical nature of many business jobs. Like many of you may experience, my work calendar looked like a brick wall: long days of commuting and back-to-back meetings, punctuated by dinners with partners and cross-country flights. A typical day might involve walking to work, closing a deal, hopping a flight, and landing ready for happy hour — all while remaining constantly connected on my smartphone. I was ready to Lean In - but I certainly wasn’t going to do it sweating in a ladies pantsuit with fake pockets.
"I was ready to Lean In - but I certainly wasn’t going to do it sweating in a ladies pantsuit with fake pockets."
So I began spending my off hours in pursuit of something better. A colleague told me her dad, an architect, went to work every day in a button-down shirt with a calculator and two mechanical pencils in his front pocket. He was armed with tools he needed to do his job. I wanted to do the same. I began talking to as many women as I could about what they wanted to wear to work. I wanted to create something that was not only suitable for business but provided tools needed for success in the modern age: comfortable fabric for long active days, deep pockets for smartphones and a loop to hang an employee work badge, which thousands wear daily.