Women in Business Q&A: Shannon McGarrigal King, COO, Levo

Shannon McGarrigal King was named Chief Operating Officer of Levo in January 2014.
In this role, King manages the full scope of Levo's digital business including business operations and strategy for technology, content, advertising sales development, product marketing, promotion, and business development for all digital and offline platforms.

Prior to joining Levo, King spent over five years building the digital business for the Time Inc brand, Real Simple and other Lifestyle Group properties, such as Cooking Light, MyRecipes and All You. Previously, King lead sales solutions efforts for the North-East Region within the marketing development team at Yahoo!, and before that, she served as Director of Marketing, Distribution, and Sponsorship sales, respectively at Studio One Networks and AOL Moviefone.

King graduated from Smith College with a double concentration in Economics and Women's Studies.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My leadership style is one of mentorship, encouragement and guidance. I want my teams to feel empowered I set goals and direction and let them go. I think my professional relationships and personal life, both growing up and now with my own household gives me a constant training ground for evolving my leadership style.

Becoming a mother added significantly to my own growth. It has made me more efficient and focused. I have more empathy, patience, and conflict resolution skills- all of which have made me a better decision maker and leader.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Levo?
I've seen the whole spectrum of employment -- from year long training programs at a bank, to super small startups and very large corporations. Seeing the positives, and struggles from both, allows me to really shape how we want to work and want to be at Levo.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Levo?
There are many highlights on just a weekly basis. The beauty of a start-up is that you can really feel the impact you make every day.

So whether it be when a new product launches, to hiring a new member of our dynamic team, to having the great pleasure of meeting some amazing women role models, it can be extremely satisfying. But I would say its feeling the passion of our consumer first hand, when we rally our entire community around a concept like Equal Pay Day (#Ask4More) and seeing both the demand of the market and the impact we make when we come together, that is greatest joy and highlight.

The number one challenge of any start up is harnessing the 'idea factory'. We have no shortage of
great ideas and ways to expand our brand. Our challenge is staying focused on the key initiatives of the moment to push those forward before tackling the next thing.

What advice can you offer to women who want to launch a start-up?
You have to be passionate about what you want to do. That's the first thing. Then you have to realize there will never be the 'perfect' time to start.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This is always a tricky one. 'Balance' seems like a misnomer and perhaps even self defeating.
The goal should really be toachieve a level of 'integration' that you are satisfied with from both a work and life/family perspective. I like the 'mash-up' concept from Jennifer Dulski (Article here)
because it speaks to the notion that there's never one set schedule, there's going to be give and take on both sides, and every day will be different, but that in combination each layer adds value to the other.

When you are running a business and a household simultaneously it's easy to lose yourself amongst the other 'To-dos' on your list. You must be extra vigilant about shaking the guilt and taking time for yourself as well-- even if it means a yoga class at an unusual time slot.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Options & Flexibility and redefining the term 'success.' That's what's so exciting about our work focusing on Millennials, because this is the generation that has the power to shift the workplace and change those dynamics.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I wouldn't say that I have had a traditional model of 'mentorship,' ie some 1:1 relationship with one person over many years. But I think that's important too. 'Mentorship' is not a one size fits all. You have to create your own model.

I have always tried to work with and for organizations that included inspiring people and business leaders. There is something to learn from each of them, whether it be over a 'networking' event or during a meeting that you are participating in. When I have reconnected with people over time and re-visited something I learned from them they are always pleasantly surprised and flattered that their words stuck with me for some reason. Take a moment, think about people you have worked with or for. Can you identify one thing that you learned or value about that experience with that individual. That's mentorship too.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Oh there are so many from the highest level women to aspire to, such as business & political professionals like Arianna Huffington, Sheryl Sandberg and of course, Hillary Clinton to the women I have been fortunate enough to work with more closely like Fran Hauser or Wenda Harris Millard. Each of them have pursued both a career and a lifestyle based on their passions & breaking new ground while still achieving a level of personal fulfillment outside of their career as well. They have created their own models of this 'mash-up/integrated' life and because they came before me, I can too.

What do you want Levo to accomplish in the next year?
Young women today have more choices than ever before. There is no one simple path to follow. Levo is there to inspire her, help her with creating a network, and build new skills. Our focus for the next year and beyond, is to be THE place for these aspiring women to turn as they navigate their own way and make those critical decisions that face them.