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Questions & Answers with Shannon Arvin: Image

Questions & Answers with Shannon Arvin

Shannon Arvin Women in Racing Interview Questions

1. Hometown?

I was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky.

2. I imagine a lot of the people reading this might already know your story, but what was your path like to get to your role now?

Keeneland has always been a special place to my family. My grandfather, W.T. Bishop (better known as “Bish”), worked as the track’s first general manager from 1936 to 1972. My father, William T. Bishop III (“Buddy”), grew up at Keeneland and lived in an apartment in the Clubhouse, and rode his bike and horses all over our grounds. He went on to be a lawyer, and remained devoted to Keeneland as counselor, Director and Trustee.

As an undergraduate I attended the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill where I received by B.A. in International Studies. After graduating, I spent two years in Washington, D.C. where I worked on Capitol Hill for Senator Mitch McConnell.

After leaving D.C., I attended Law School at the University of Kentucky. I practiced law at Stoll Keenon Ogden in Lexington, Kentucky for 18 years until I took the position that I hold now at Keeneland. I worked with many excellent attorneys at SKO, including my dad until his passing in 2008, and am privileged to continue to work with SKO as Keeneland’s counsel, as has been the case since 1936.

3. You’re the first female to serve as President and CEO at Keeneland – what does that mean to you?

Being part of the Keeneland team is an honor.

Throughout my journey, I've learned the value of determination, hard work and the importance of effective communication. I've been fortunate to have been mentored by a number of people who have supported me in my professional journey. I have never let myself believe that being a female is a disadvantage, and instead have felt comfortable in my own skin, and have not tried to be anything I’m not.

4. Keeneland does so much great work in addition to the sales and racing. Is there an aspect of what Keeneland’s work that you enjoy the most?

I love our team at Keeneland. I couldn’t imagine being in a workplace where I didn’t genuinely respect and enjoy the people around me, and thankfully that has never been the case at Keeneland. I feel incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by such a fantastic group of awesome people, each bringing their unique talents and perspective to the team. I love the variety of what we do as well – we are a sales company, racetrack, industry leader, community citizen, restaurant, arboretum, training facility, and the list goes on.

Ted Bassett gave me great advice when I started my job at Keeneland – don't sit behind your desk. I love walking the grounds at all times of the year. My favorite time of day is at the track in the mornings. Any time I feel frustrated or weary, I go to the track in the morning or walk through the barns, and I feel at peace and am brought back to the purpose behind all of our efforts.

5. Are there any cultural changes you have made since taking the reins at Keeneland to help encourage more work life balance?

We spend a lot of time at work – our schedule is demanding, our work is demanding, and we deal with difficult issues. I firmly believe it is so important to create a positive atmosphere where people have fun being at work, and feel appreciated for their contributions. I don’t believe in “facetime” and believe in the importance of flexibility, but also believe in the importance of being together face to face. Many of our jobs can only be performed on the grounds, and there is no substitute for being in a room face to face for discussions and planning. I also recognize there are seasons in people’s lives, and believe we have to give grace as a person moves through their career. There are times when it is appropriate and exciting for an employee and leader to “lean in” and there are also times when it is best for an employee to “lean out” and focus on other aspects of their lives.

At Keeneland, we are really fortunate because our true north star is what is best for the horse, and what is best for our sport and community. We believe we are stewards of this amazing place, and we are all working to leave Keeneland even better than we found it. This means we cannot be afraid to take chances and try new avenues to improve our sport. As I often say, we will take the best of our traditions, and forge ahead, making new traditions, all rooted in what is best for the horse and what will support our abiding mission to be a model racetrack and internationally leading sales company.

6. If you had to choose just one, what’s your favorite aspect of the racing industry?

This is a fascinating global industry and it’s rare to find a business in Lexington, Kentucky where you can connect with people from around the world. I love traveling to see clients and learning how they conduct their business in their home states and countries.

I also love watching racing live from different locations across the U.S. and internationally. Still, I’m always happy to come home to Keeneland and to what I believe are the most beautiful grounds in the world.

7. A lot of people see your more public persona, what is something that you do just for yourself?

Prioritizing exercise is a commitment I’ve made for my physical and mental health more than my vanity, and it’s non-negotiable time that I take for myself. I also enjoy taking walks on our farm with my husband, Will, and our daughters, Bishop and McCutchen.

8. You’re raising two daughters, as a working mom with such a big job, what do you try to teach them by your example?

There are definitely sacrifices that I have to make regularly for my professional life and by virtue of that, our girls make sacrifices as well. I hope they learn the significance of choosing a career they are passionate about, that they understand the importance of working hard and that they learn to prioritize the things in their lives that are most important to them. Above all, I hope they always remember how much they are loved.

9. What would you tell your younger self, or any young woman for that matter, who might just be getting started in the industry?

Remember the importance of putting your best foot forward every day, regardless of what happened the day before. And remember that some days you’ll be a better mom, wife, daughter and friend, and other days your professional life will take center stage. It’s important to not beat yourself up over the fluctuation and challenges with balance in your life. What matters is learning how to embrace the juggling act. Do what you love, give yourself grace and keep at it.

Photo credit: Keeneland 

Questions & Answers with Shannon Arvin: News
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