Shannon NelsonBack to Blog

My parents raised me with a sense of legacy, faith in Christ, and responsibility to community. My father was a pastor, and he practised what he preached in more ways than one! He’s an incredible public speaker and I developed his affinity for storytelling and relationship-building. My mother, an educator and homemaker, advocated for my siblings and I in a public education system which too often generates unjust outcomes based on race and socioeconomic status. I’m grateful to her for teaching me a love of learning and creativity, disciplined work ethic, and the importance of self-advocacy. Seeing my parents serve as leaders among leaders allowed me to see myself in them. I, too, could be a leader.

Growing up, I had limited exposure to corporate America. Coaching and internship programs like Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) and Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) granted the coaching and guidance to successfully navigate the world of financial services. I pour out because I’ve been poured into by so many.

I often joke that I love building community because I was born into a community: I’m one of a set of triplets: Charisma, Deborah and I; and also have two amazing older siblings. My older sister was self-appointed Founder/President of our “Girls’ Club”. My parents had five children under the age of five! My mom resolved that we forge individual identities, and put us in separate classes. Charisma was a shy kid but I was – and still am –extroverted and gregarious. I didn’t learn until adulthood that she thought I was a friend-stealer! “I used to hide my two friends from you,” Charisma told me recently, laughing. That wasn’t my intention! My mother was wise to give us our own space. She’s currently writing a book on parenting and I can’t wait to read it. My triplet sisters and I were blessed to follow our older brother to Duke where we enjoyed deepening our connection while discovering our own paths. I treasure that experience because we haven’t lived in the same state since then.

I was also raised with a knowledge of a strong legacy. My family has been in the US for generations and can even trace lineage on my mom’s side to a commander in the Revolutionary War. The legacy of resilience, overcoming hardship, hopefulness, and joy I was born into is integral to the strength that I exhibit now. In 2013, I wrote a spoken word poem for a group of over 200 MLT fellows which gave me the courage to write a poem for my Harvard Business School admissions essay. I think this excerpt from the poem expresses my sentiments about community and legacy: “Perhaps Ecclesiastes 4:12 can be truthfully spoken. If 'a cord of three strands is not easily broken'… what can a cord of hundreds or thousands of strands withstand?” I am excited for the journey ahead as we move onward together – not only withstanding the challenges but also building an excellent, equitable, and effective community within asset management.