Women Making Waves – Shannon Blanchard

Director of Supply Chain Innovation, Port Saint John

Shannon is a native Saint “Johner” and feels very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be raised, educated and work in a city that has so much to offer.  She has raised her two adult children here, who also call Saint John home, and now she and her husband have the chance to see a new generation enjoy the many advantages of living in the city of Saint John.  

Upon completion of her formal education, at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, Shannon joined the marketing team at a local aquaculture company where she lead national marketing campaigns and was responsible for new product development.  In 2005, Shannon joined Port Saint John as a Marketing Coordinator in the Trade and Business Development department.  Fast forward to 2013, when Shannon completed the requirements to be a CITT Certified Logistics Professional (CCLP),  and shifted her focus from Marketing to Business Development for the Port.  For eight years she was responsible for developing all cargo sectors and recently, was promoted to Director of Supply Chain Innovation with a focus on the Port’s growing container sector.  She leads the Container Development team and works directly with the Port’s supply chain partners to collaboratively grow this sector. Her primary focus is to attract value added services to support the terminal operator, rail providers and shipping lines, as well as initiatives to support a more fluid, optimized and visible container supply chain offering to shippers and receivers alike.  

In her spare time, Shannon and her husband enjoy spending time with their family, including their Grandson, as well as exploring New Brunswick’s natural beauty on their ATV.       

1. How did you end up working in or alongside the maritime industry? Please tell us the story of how you got to your current role. 

I was looking for a new opportunity as my previous employer had announced that the assets and business would be sold off.  I knew there would likely not be an opportunity for me post sale and was being proactive in the process. It was old school, a newspaper advertisement, I applied because it fit nicely with what I was familiar with doing in my previous role at the aquaculture company and it was in Saint John. Little did I know at the time how passionate I would become about working at Port Saint John, a significant economic driver to the region I love so much.

When I joined the Port Saint John team, it felt like home, everyone was so welcoming.  It was a small, but mighty group, many of us wore multiple hats at the time. In my previous marketing roles at the Port, I had the opportunity to work within both the Cruise and Cargo sectors and developed an appreciation of the complexities and differences with each. I was fortunate that the Port’s vision of cargo diversification and growth had shifted, and with the support of the leadership team, I was encouraged to take a leap and change my career path to focus on Cargo Business Development.  I haven’t looked back and continue to see only further growth opportunities for me and the Port in this sector.

2. What education have you taken a) pre-working in or alongside the maritime industry and b) since joining the maritime industry? 

I have a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from the University of New Brunswick in Saint John. And since joining Port Saint John I have completed my CITT Certified Logistics Professional (CCLP), which is the leading recognized designation in the transportation and logistics industry. In addition, I have completed an intensive Personal Leadership program through the Leadership Management Institute (LMI), as well as several management certificates in Negotiations and Change Management.

3. What is the most rewarding thing about working in or alongside this industry? 

The most rewarding aspect of working at Port Saint John is pausing to see where the Port has grown from 2005 to now and knowing I played a part of it; especially on the cargo side of our business.  We are seeing investments being made in infrastructure, addition of new supply chain partners and double-digit growth in our container sector over the last 5 years. Knowing the Port is positioned to support future growth and having the right partners in place to make it happen truly motivates me!

4. Did/do you have any female role models in the industry? If so, please tell us about that experience and tips on how to approach someone for mentorship. 

I have two. One with whom I worked alongside at Port Saint John for many years.  She was a leader within the cruise industry and provided great wisdom and advice to me; as a young professional trying to juggle career advancement, as well as being a mom to two, regardless of the industry you are in, it can be a challenging time for an individual.  She always had my best interest at heart and encouraged me to take the leap from marketing to business development.  She always instilled in me that feeling uncomfortable was only an attribute of growth.  She saw my potential and knew I was capable.  I will forever be grateful for her vision, mentorship and lifelong friendship.

I was also privileged to have had a former female Port CEO offer her guidance through a formal mentorship relationship last year.  I had always admired her ability to lead in an industry that was male dominated and always showed up with poise and determination.  This relationship was formed at a pivotal point in my career and she provided direction to see me through this significant change. I will forever be indebted to her for the gift she provided.

As a young professional, I did not appreciate the significant contribution a mentorship can provide.  While formal education provides the knowledge, the mentor can provide the know-how. I strongly recommend seeking to find those individuals with whom you have admiration and similar values, and simply ask.  Many of those people would have also experienced a similar story to mine and would welcome the opportunity to invest back into the industry’s next generation of leaders.     

5. What is your advice for someone looking to get into this industry in our region? Any important events or associations to be following? 

The truth is, growing up in Saint John my entire life, I took the Port for granted. I mean, the city was built around the Port and I didn’t realize how impactful the Port’s ecosystem’s health is to the health of the community. The reality is, communities that are built around a Port, typically grow and strive along with it. Being able to contribute each and everyday to the Port’s health and having it positioned for future growth, I now know and appreciate the impact of what I do each day; it is for the future of my children and their children, should they continue to live their lives in such a wonderful community.

There are many types of career opportunities in the Port community, and I only see this growing as we collectively build additional capacities.  It is an exciting time for the Canadian Ports system as the supply chain lens is heightened due to the challenges we face with disruption and building resiliency plans for the future.

I am certainly open to discussing this more with anyone interested in developing their career within this amazing and developing industry!