Shawn Robertson grew up in Springfield, Missouri, and spent much of his childhood doing what most kids do, playing make-believe. For some boys, the game of pretend involves ninjas or cops and robbers, but for Shawn it was always about playing army or the role of GI-Joe, taking on missions and defeating bad guys. He remembers vividly playing with a specific GI-Joe character called Gung-Ho. Gung-Ho is described as a “proud Marine through-and-through.” Not a terrible character to look up to, and for a young Shawn, Gung-Ho was the man.
Fast-forward ten years and Shawn is faced with what to do next after high school. “If I had been born in the middle-ages, I would have been a knight,” Shawn says. Since that wasn’t an occupation at the time, he went toward the next best thing, the US Marine Corps.
Shawn went into the Marines wanting to learn how to be a leader and to gain discipline. “I wanted to be able to operate my life on my terms and be in control of it,” Shawn explains. “But I needed to understand what it was like to shoulder responsibility and I needed to grow up first,” he says.
Looking back, Shawn says he got out of it exactly what he was looking for and remembers those lessons and skills he earned when facing adversity or challenges today. One of the leadership objectives and principal lessons of the Marines is “mission accomplishment/troop welfare.” It’s a simple phrase, yet it would have a large impact on Shawn throughout his life. Mission accomplishment/troop welfare means the first objective is to accomplish the mission, regardless of what the mission is, and the second most important thing is to take care of the people doing it.
“Every time I think about leading teams, or I’ve had to decipher a situation in business, that phrase pops into my head,” Shawn said. “First, you break down what has to be done and determine what success looks like, and then you ensure that when we come out the other side, we still have an engaged, nurtured team,” he says. Shawn explains that the point isn’t to accomplish the goal at the cost of people. On the contrary, those accomplishments should feed the people involved.
Shawn also remembers learning that as a leader in the Marines, you don’t just lead people, you also have to follow. He discovered that the best leaders know when to make that decision. Shawn explains that often a leader becomes a leader just by influence alone. You don’t need a title to be influential to a group.
Shawn graduated from the Marines and entered corporate America, where he was able to lead teams, put his abilities to the test, and hone them along the way. “I wanted to do great things, while taking care of the people helping me accomplish those things,” Shawn says.
Over the years Shawn took on different leadership roles, and he came to a point where he started compiling business-building skills. At one point, he was in charge of kicking off startups within the company he worked. “Launching these businesses allowed me to learn how to build something from the ground up. Starting from nothing but an idea, and then assembling people, and getting them excited about the mission,” he said.
He eventually took on a larger position where he was in charge of redirecting businesses that were unsuccessful or doing poorly, a sort of “fixer,” if you will. It was in this position where Shawn began travelling the world. “I learned how to do my job in sixteen different countries,” he explained. And in each new country, he absorbed the culture.
“I had to work with people in the same way I always did, but incorporate their philosophies and values,” he said. In this position, he learned about the different ways people see the world, and regardless of how different the culture, it all came back to good, basic humanity and how people want to find a way to succeed in the best way possible.
Working internationally gave Shawn an understanding, foundation, and appreciation of how other cultures execute business, from negotiation to priorities. And no matter what country he was in, Shawn was always able to rely on the good basic nature of a group of people who want to succeed together and use those core principles from the Marines – determine the goal, define success, and nurture your team.
Shawn didn’t come to Everest Group in the usual way. He was on a plane and just happened to sit next to Everest Group CEO, Peter Bendor-Samuel. During the flight the two shared their beliefs and approaches to business. Shawn disembarked knowing he wanted to learn more from Peter and about his company, Everest Group.
“I remember thinking what a principled place that company must be,” said Shawn. “I had just learned about this firm, where people strive to do the right thing, have a genuine desire to do great work, respect each other, want to succeed and see their teammates succeed, and want to be part of something great, while also excelling in their careers. I just knew I needed to learn more about Everest Group,” he said.
Everest Group’s culture fit exactly with what he’d been living his whole career, work hard to complete the mission and care for your team and colleagues. And it wasn’t long before Shawn became an employee at Everest Group, as Chief Commercial Officer.
“It’s been two years, and I still feel like the best days are ahead of us,” said Shawn.
Shawn is naturally inspirational, but when it comes to people, the thing that makes him happiest is when he sees someone do something extraordinary, or overcome hardship, and they live their true potential. “When you have someone who really loves what they do and they’re passionate and happy, the amount of goodness they create around them from being in that environment rubs off onto others, whether that’s colleagues or clients,” he explains.
As Everest Group grows, Shawn is excited to bring new people onto the team to do great things. “Every time we add people, we get to offer a job to someone where they can be their best in a great culture. And when you have something like that, you can’t wait to share it!”