Monday, October 31, 2016

Women Involved Series: Janette Sherman

Quick introduction – I work for Yeti Cycles as their marketing manager. I started this position in Feb of this year. Prior to working for Yeti I worked for Liv Cycles, Giant’s Women’s Brand from Sept 2012 to Feb 2016 where I started as demo driver. From there I worked as the US marketing manager and then the global product marketing and communications manager. Before my time in the bike industry, I worked in a number of industries including radio, ski, health care, beer and outdoor/adventure/travel PR. Here is my BRAIN announcement from earlier this year.

My passions lie in effective and consumable product marketing, growing women’s participation in the sport and elevating the cycling experience for women and unique branding projects. Outside of work, I am an avid mountain biker skier and traveler and I am obsessed with my ½ Schnauzer puppy, Blue.

What was the inspiration behind you discovering your #bikelife? –
I think it is the fact that no matter how painful a big ride or a day on the bike may be, at some point you are smiling. It is nearly impossible for me to not smile when I am on a bike (especially a fun descent). Also, many of my closest friendships are with people I met either riding or through the bike industry. It is a universal language in many ways.

You have been involved with the industry for several years now. What would you say has been the most interesting thing you've learned?
Well compared to many people I work with here at Yeti, I haven’t been in the industry long at all, but I try to take it all in stride. I would say the most interesting thing I have learned is how much we can push the design and engineering behind bikes. In just the 5 short years I have been in the industry, mountain bike geometry and technology continues to evolve for the better. The bikes I rode then felt amazing, but now it is mind blowing how much further we’ve come. So I guess, staying curious and taking chances is and continues to be vital in this industry.

Why do you feel women are a valuable asset to the bike industry?

Well I could be a bit uncouth and say, we are half the freaking population on this planet that’s why… but I think that would be stating the obvious more than anything. In all seriousness though, I could go on for days on this question. Most importantly, brands are recognizing that women are often their best opportunities for growth, but women are very picky about product design and how we are sold and marketed to. Thus having women’s perspective from product inception to delivery is key if you want to succeed. Also, I think women can bring some much needed levity and realness to the bike industry. It can get very serious and heated and I am not saying that women aren’t serious and can’t get into heated debates, but having a work place with no women, is simply not a reflection of the real world.

What inspired you to become involved with the industry vs. just being a person who loves riding bikes?
I guess in many ways luck. But as they say, luck is when preparation meets opportunity. To be totally honest, I was digging myself out of a bad career choice I had made and my gut told me to look for a job in the bike industry. I loved to ride and at that point in my life, I was scheduling my year around riding in the summer and skiing in the winter. I had ample experience in the outdoor industry, so when a job posted that suited my skill set, I went for it.

Job-wise, what do you do to help encourage women to feel more at ease with biking and the bike industry?
I always wish I could do more, but I work hard and go out my way to meet women in my community who ride and ride with women of all levels. I attend many of the skills clinic we sponsor at Yeti - VIDA to either participate or just meet women and hear their stories. I work hard to listen and hear where their challenges are not only to see where their might be opportunities for Yeti, but also to potentially prevent pitfalls for our brand. Finally, I go out of my way to mentor and cultivate women as professionals within the industry and at Yeti. I made my fair share of mistakes in the outdoor industry and in the bike industry. I am never hesitant to share those errors.
I also believe, no matter what gender, that we have an obligation to support each other and help each other be better at what we do. Yes, I read Lean In and as a manager there is a ton of great lessons in that book.

What inspired you to start riding off-road? Was it an easy decision or did it come with some challenge?
I actually starting riding off-road, it was the switch to riding road that was a bit more difficult for me. That said, moving to Colorado just recently was eye opening. The trails are very challenging here and unforgiving. Luckily, a lot of people “mentored” me here and helped me overcome the Front Range riding challenge. Those who weren’t native also confessed they wanted to throw their bikes from time to time when they first moved here. All in all, it was humbling and now I am a way better mountain biker than when I moved here.
If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I still have my fair share of nervousness on more challenging trails. Say for example when I rode Khyber Pass this summer with a few other industry gals. DAMN – that was hard. But I kept telling myself that the year prior, I thought Top of the World was hard. So I knew the experience of riding that trail would help me grow. I walked quite a few sections and I have no shame about that, as I prefer to be challenged than to just nail it all on the first go. That’s why we do this, right? For the challenge. So I guess, bottom line is I tell myself it’s just bikes and to keep it light and fun.

Knowing what you know now, what advice/suggestions do you have for women who are off-road curious?
Get out and do it! But first take a clinic. I rode for probably 3+ years before I took my first skills clinic. Mountain biking is a complicated sport and not always intuitive, so getting a lesson at a local resort or from a private teacher, if a clinic isn’t an option right off, is smart plan. Ask around about who might be a good local teacher or research a clinic series.

Clips or flats? What works for you and why do you like them?

Clips! FO’EVAH! How people climb in flats is beyond me. Kudos to them. That said, learning basic moves like wheel lifts and bunny hops on flats is wise and prevents bad habits.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Oh yeah… I once re-broke a collarbone that already had a rod in it. To say the least, that was excruciating. Post-surgery, I took my PT very seriously and when I was ready I was out and back on that trail as soon as I was physically capable. It is funny how those features will grow in your head and become enormous as you perseverate over your injury and how it happened. So you have to get back out on that horse when you are physically ready, stop making a big story about it and conquer your fear.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Cornering, cornering, cornering! It’s the master degree, maybe the doctorate of cycling. My biggest breakthrough for cornering on flats was to push my outside elbow up and out, think chicken wing. It forces you to put pressure on your outside hand and maintains balance and pressure on the bars (and thus the front wheel) so you don’t wash out (my least favorite crash). Opposite if you’re on a bermed corner, press on your inside hand. Works wonders for me.
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Sure. I’ll never be half as good as a lot of the young guns here at Yeti, but the point is to get out there and have fun. If you laugh it off, thank people for waiting (DON’T SAY SORRY) and again, just keep it light, it all works out.

What do you love about riding your bike?

I love being outside and feeling so close to nature. And boy do I love a good flowy descent with some fun rock drops. Nothing makes me happier.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I currently have a Yeti Beti SB5 TURQ X01 build and a cross bike I use for commuting. The Yeti Beti SB5 TURQ is one of the most lively and responsive mountain bikes I have ever ridden. I have already PRed nearly all my local trails. I choose it because it climbs super well, bombs descents and can hold its own in the bike park. For me that bike is a, dare I say it, quiver killer.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?

I think there are a few factors. One is the intimidation around the equipment, how to maintain it and what to do if you have issues on the trail. Secondly, which come from the same issue as the equipment intimidation is just plain fear. No one wants to get hurt or get in over their head when they are new to something and the perception is that is how mountain biking works. Of course, there are clinics you can take at your local shop to teach you about your bike and I already mentioned the importance of skills clinics. Educate yourself out of the place of fear! I also feel that taking that kind of stance with your recreation empowers you in other parts of your life. You’ll be surprised how much confidence you build.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?

I think the cycling industry is truly on the right path to be more inclusive towards women. So no change needed. Let’s just stay vigilant and cultivate women both in the industry and on the singletrack.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

The stories they share with me about how much fun they are having on their bike. Many women I taught to ride are now better riders than I am. I love that!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I grew up on a farm. I think that taught me how to work hard, not adhere to gender stereotypes and overcome fear.

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