Shinola Leading Ladies: VP of Watch Product Development Shannon Washburn

BY Taylor Rebhan

Shannon Washburn’s sweet southern accent can be detected any time she speaks, but it’s enhanced when she shares memories from her career and international travels. Her cheerful spirit and dedication to helping others are just some of the qualities that led her to a succesful career as Shinola’s VP of Watch Product Development. With more than a decade of experience in watch development, Shannon came to work for us in 2012, and moved from Texas to the Motor City last year. 

Shannon’s decision to join Shinola after working for Fossil for 14 years was about more than just a career move. 

“I wanted to do something at this stage of my career that I felt really passionate about,” she says. “I wanted to make a difference not only for the company I was working for, but for myself —  Shinola was really the perfect place because, to me, it’s not a job, it’s a journey.” 

Inside the Shinola headquarters on the fifth floor of the Argonaut building, a glass wall divides the assembly lines of the watch factory from the wooden desks of the corporate office. With a clear view of the factory floor, Shannon and her team constantly look over for inspiration from the craftspeople that assemble their designs. 

“It’s exciting and there’s a real connection,” she says. “Every day I can talk to somebody that’s working in production, or even this morning they came out and asked me a specific question about, ‘what do you think of this?’, ‘Would you approve it?’, so there’s a lot of collaboration.”


Having spent the majority of her career traveling the globe, Shannon says being closer to the factory and working directly with the master watchmakers and technical teams allows the design process to move faster and makes for a better final product. 

“There are no barriers between anything — for most of my career, I wasn’t sitting right next to the manufacturing piece of it, and that is totally new to me,” she says. “Now we’re dealing with daily situations that involve improving our ideas — I’m seeing the complete design and production happen right in front of my own eyes. I’ve learned so much from the manufacturing side of the business that I truly didn’t realize the complexity of building a watch.”


Prototypes from the watch team’s meeting desk.

When she is asked if she’d ever move back to Texas, Shannon wholeheartedly says no.

“As long as I’m on this journey with Shinola — I’m here,” she says. “I sense such an amazing sense of pride with people of Detroit. They’re so proud of this city, and excited for how the city is coming back. Everyone wants to say, ‘I’m from Detroit,’ and they’re proud of it.”

Learn more about Shannon in the interview below. 

How would you describe your management style?

I would say a priority to me and one of the things I love about Shinola is teamwork. I am very much a team player. I’m not hands-off. I am very much involved, but I would like to think that I also give people the space they need to do their job. To me, it is all about execution at the highest level. Shinola is an unbelievably creative environment and the ideas are endless. I believe in driving the creative spirit, strategizing a plan and then getting the job done. 

What is your favorite part about working for Shinola and what do you hope to see in the future?

The People…bringing manufacturing back to the United States and assembling product here is what makes this place special. Ultimately, it’s all about creating jobs. I’m inspired about being a part of something that’s getting people that have may have lost their job, or had a different job — giving them real opportunity. I feel that Shinola as a company and myself as a member of the management team, we have the responsibility to develop the talent that we have in this building — to motivate them, listen to them, and lead them. I love being part of a company that is learning together, working together and inspiring one another. In my opinion, this is key to a productive, proud and happy workforce.


Shannon working with watch designer Greg Verras.

What’s been the hardest part of your career?

The most challenging thing in my career has been balance — balancing the professional and personal, and not relying on making the time, but taking the time to do what’s important to me. 

What are your passions outside of work?

I have always felt if there are kids that don’t have the same opportunities as I had growing up, then I want to be there as a positive role model and influence. I served as the President of the board for a non-profit in Texas, and it really opened me up to many of different things. The earthquake in Haiti happened around the same time as this, and I knew helping during a crisis was something I had always wanted to do. I went to Haiti three times during that time period.

I also got really close to one family with four kids and a single mom. This was six years ago, and they have spent every Christmas with my family in the last six years. They didn’t have a lot of the same traditions that we had, but those traditions that were ours are now traditions for them, and it means something to them. 

I recently engaged with a local Detroit organization with the mission of meeting with small groups of at-risk girls in public high schools to discuss ways to overcome obstacles and to provide skills for success. If I can be a positive role model and have an impact on kids, I feel blessed and empowered to do more.

This interview is part of a new series highlighting leading women at Shinola. Find more stories, here.


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