September 24, 2019 / All Stories

Celebrating AbbVie’s 2019 Working Mother of the Year

Up close and personal with mom extraordinaire Shannon McGinnis.

Shannon McGinnis relaxes at her Georgia home alongside her loving family.
(all photos by Elizabeth Davis Photography)

For more than 30 years, Working Mother's 100 Best Companies Awards have set the bar for what it means to be a family-friendly workplace. We are pleased to make the “Working Mother 100 Best Companies” list for the seventh consecutive year for outstanding leadership in creating progressive programs, advancement of women, flexibility, childcare and paid parental leave and more.

In this feature, we recognize and celebrate our incredible 2019 Working Mother of the Year, Shannon McGinnis.

On being raised by her grandmother …

My grandmother stepped in to raise me in my formative years. She grew up on a farm in Oakfield, Georgia as part of a very large family. One of many siblings, she grew up in an era when kids were not coddled, and she was expected (from a very young age) to help provide for her family and take an active role in raising her younger brothers and sisters. This tough childhood made her a bit rough around the edges but even so, she was extremely loving to me as a child. I like to say she was the perfect balance of nurture and discipline and was careful to ingrain the same values and principles in me that she grew up with: 1) you are enough; 2) be kind to people because you may be the only kindness they see; 3) do not let the voice of doubt tell you that you are not good enough; and 4) make sure your integrity stays intact because the truth always wins.

Nowadays, I cringe at the memories of me being a sassy teenager and rebelling against my grandmother (at times). But being a mom now myself, I finally understand that she was always right; every piece of advice, every teachable moment, every disciplinary action was 100% on the mark. I feel blessed that she not only took me in but helped to guide me through my youth; that, in itself, is a legacy worth teaching my children by allowing them to live it.

Shannon and husband Michael find a brief (and rare) moment of peace and quiet in their Georgia home.

On acting as foster parent(s) to her niece and nephew …

In July 2007, we took on full guardianship of my 5-year old niece and 3-year old nephew and went from having two children to four overnight (our oldest son was 3 and our youngest was 1 at the time). It was probably one of the most difficult yet rewarding times in our lives; looking back, we wouldn't have done it any other way. Throughout the 5 years we fostered, there were plenty of moving parts: requirements imposed by a strict court system, including extensive counseling for the kids; and balancing our work, family and personal lives amidst our new normal. Although a bit overwhelming and chaotic from a parental perspective, the quick and easy ways in which the four children came together to form one cohesive unit was impressive (and quite a relief). Thankfully the kids didn’t understand the true gravity of the situation; they were just excited to get to spend every night with one another.

I’m happy to report our nephew will graduate from high school this year and our niece has already received scholarships for college as an upcoming freshman. I am still actively involved in their care and will always be in their lives. In the end, each obstacle brought struggle and even greater rewards. Watching our family thrive, together, has been a blessing. Our children have learned how to love others and accept change as it comes.

On her unique parenting style …

As a mother of three very active kids, I try to remember not to be too hard; to be comforting, nurturing, loving; to be the mom they need but also the one who encourages them to get up, brush themselves off, get back out there and give it their best when facing challenging situations. We are heavily involved in numerous extracurricular activities and are always making a mad dash somewhere or other. And although my husband and I do love and appreciate everything our children do, and participate as often as we can, we purposely give them enough leeway in their weekly activities to overcome obstacles by themselves. It’s extremely important that they know how to handle themselves in our absence, that they learn to stand on their own two feet and become the best advocates they can for themselves. I'm also very careful to teach my kids that life is not always fair, and you know what, that's okay. It’s okay because sometimes life is going to be hard. But even so, you still have to get up and keep going. You don’t get to unpack your suitcase and hide from the world when life doesn’t go your way. You have to get up and keep moving forward even in the toughest of times.

A quick mommy daughter embrace between Shannon and her 7-year old daughter, Mary Michael.

On her loving husband and three adorable kiddos …

My husband of 16 years, Michael, went to school for business, but eventually discovered a higher calling to work with kids and young adults in a mentorship role. He now spends his days as a high school government teacher and afternoons/evenings as the head soccer coach for the county. Never to rest on his laurels, and an athlete to his core, he also coaches high school and middle school boy’s cross-country. My oldest son, Drayton, just turned 15 and has an absolute heart of gold. I often joke that he never encounters a stranger because he already knows everyone. He is a soccer player, cross-country runner, lover of literature and art, and self-professed horror movie buff (definitely not mom’s favorite movie genre). When his energy is directed in the correct way, he has the will and determination to tackle anything. My 12-year old, Sawyer, plays soccer, runs cross-country, loves basketball, videogames (especially Fortnite) and shares my passion for helping others through community service. Although it may take him a little longer to open-up, he will quite literally go to the ends of the earth for you. A bit of an overachiever and perfectionist in competitive sports, we continue to reinforce with him that it’s not the winning or losing that’s key, it’s the learning through each experience. My youngest, 7-year old Mary Michael, is our little stick of dynamite in a small package. She loves soccer and cross-country (because her two older brothers love soccer and cross-country), reading, painting and basically anything involving her daddy! She just recently got bit with the acting bug and has thoroughly impressed in some recent local theater productions. And to that I say, Hollywood, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

On a typical Saturday night in the McGinnis household …

There is no such thing as a typical Saturday night for the McGinnis family. First it depends on what season it is for us. In the fall we can be found on Friday nights at a Cougar football game. Our Saturdays are usually spent all day on a soccer pitch somewhere around Georgia. If we are lucky enough to be in our home on a Saturday night, we are usually splayed out on our couch watching a movie; the Harry Potter saga is a favorite of the entire family. In the spring it is a little different. We still are playing soccer, and those games are during the week for school ball, and the weekends for travel games. Then we use Saturday nights together to recover.

A Typical McGinnis Family ‘Sports’ Weekend
(in pictures):

On date nights with her husband …

My husband and I have now been together for 16 glorious years! Although we have changed so much over the years, I truly believe we are still learning new things about each other. We're definitely not the same people we were when we were younger, but the cool thing is we continue to evolve individually and together. We try to do a solid date night, without the kids, once every couple of weeks. And when we go to dinner, we try to make a point of focusing on us as a couple and leave talk of the kids to the sidelines. It's time for us to focus on reconnecting on what’s happening in each other’s lives: perhaps what's going on at our respective jobs that we may not have had the chance to talk about during the week. These days, a lot of talk lands around where we see ourselves as a couple in the coming years because we've got a lot of changes coming. We've got a sophomore in high school and that's going to come quick and fast. And we don't want to look up several years from now as empty-nesters and wonder, who are you? So we try to make it a priority to stay grounded and stay connected to each other.

On her passion for missionary work …

My husband and I are very passionate about missionary work and have been traveling to different countries such as Peru and the Beni region of Bolivia since 2007. Although the two of us have traveled multiple times, we were excited to have had our two oldest boys join us for the first time in 2016. As part of this visit, the boys witnessed first-hand an environment with no running water, no electricity. Parasitic infestation from the river had left 3-month old babies crawling with worms. A flood had just ravaged the area, ruining vegetables and crops and leaving many borderline starving. We were lucky enough to be a part of the team that went up and down the river to help deliver necessities; sacks of flour, sugar, eggs, clothing, toothbrushes, etc. While the villages were rebuilding, we kept the kids occupied (until schools re-opened) by running an interim sports camp, a great cultural way to break down barriers with the kids.

Our overall mission: shower these beautiful people with love; make sure their basic needs are being met and that they feel cared for; reinforce that they matter and that people are fighting tooth and nail to help them in any possible way. We hope to continue the tradition of having our kids join us for these life-changing adventures so we can demonstrate what I believe to be a much greater purpose in life: to always help those in need and not just do for ourselves.

Shannon receives a surprise hug from 12-year old son, Sawyer.

On her self-described OCTDD, or Obsessive Christmas Tree Decorating Disorder …

The first Christmas my kids decorated the tree I convinced myself I wasn’t too bothered by the disorganized pattern of ornaments. The next Christmas, I crept downstairs after the kids were asleep to make slight tweaks to each ornament placement. By that third Christmas, I pretty much re-did the whole darn tree. And by the time my oldest was 5-years old, I couldn’t handle it anymore; I broke down, ran to the local tree farm and purchased a second tree of my very own; one that nobody but mom is allowed to touch. Ironically, we like to call this second Christmas tree each year “the family Christmas tree” … it’s become an annual tradition in our household. And although I take pride in the beauty of it, it is NOT my favorite Christmas tree. My favorite tree is the one dripping with all my kid’s precious ornaments.

On her active life and building bridges in the community …

I have always been extremely active; a self-described “type-A” personality who is always on the go. When not chauffeuring my kids around town to their many extracurricular activities, I enjoy projects involving my hands: painting, crafting, sewing. I also love athletic activities such as running or riding my bike. Any other free time I have is dedicated to making connections and helping others in my community: friends, family, colleagues. I pride myself on being able to connect with just about anybody and have made it my personal mission to help whomever, or wherever, or however I can. I think it’s important to understand that “helping” doesn’t necessarily mean always giving to others or doing for others. Sometimes helping is just listening, or sitting with someone who’s having a hard time, or encouraging through words. I'm very tuned-in to others needs, so I try to make sure I am always available, emotionally present and 100% supportive when I sense someone is experiencing an important crossroads in their life. When talking to other women, mothers and friends, I try to relay the same profound messages that had impact in my life: you are enough; choose kindness; don’t compare yourself to others; life is not fair, and that’s okay; work hard, even if no one sees it; you can only do what you can do so control that which you can first. It’s truly about helping each other, forging through the mess and loving each other through it. Oftentimes, we want to see the perfect, judge the perfect but at the end of the day, it’s comforting to know we are not all perfect and we don’t always need to be.

Shannon gets a little lovin’ from 14-year old son, Drayton.

On her AbbVie family and the company’s many available resources …

I feel so blessed to have been working for this amazing company for over 15 years. Not only have I blossomed under AbbVie’s amazing culture, but my colleagues and peers have become my extended family. The company affords me the flexibility, trust and resources to make important family decisions. As a field mom, I cherish the flexibility to set my schedule the way I need to while at the same time being able to tackle those expected (and sometimes unexpected) occurrences that pop up when you have children. And because the company is so good to me, I make sure never to take advantage of that. I'm very careful and cautious to make decisions based on the needs of my family.

From a resource standpoint, the company has such a large array of helpful aids, services and policies. From insurance that provides a nurse to new moms on maternity leave, to internal professional development and training courses on topics from A-Z, to the flexible managers who have a great understanding of a working mother’s needs (especially as a busy mom who may need to take sick hours for herself and/or her kids). On a side note, when I was considering fostering my niece and nephew, AbbVie was integral in providing me with all the necessary guidance and information on foster care services and family medical leave so I could be fully prepared to tackle the inherent complexity. The abundance of company resources are literally right at your fingertips; all I need to do is just pick up the phone and call.

Shannon and family love spending time together and appreciate the small things in life, even just a fun family golf cart ride behind their Georgia home.

On what inspires her to come to work every day …

Just recently, one of my colleagues made a joke about winning the lottery. I rarely play, but he asked what I might do with my “mega-millions” if I ever won someday. Honest to goodness truth, this was my response: if I won the lottery, I would get up the very next day, I'd get dressed and I’d get right back to work. As corny as it may sound, I absolutely, positively love what I do. When you are a driving force in the education of health care providers and patients, it’s easy to get up and go to work every day. So no, if I won the lottery, I would not quit the next day. I will continue to work for this company until they kick me out!

In the end, what continues to inspire me to show up at work every day is my love of helping people. It is why I went into pharmaceuticals. It is why I do missionary work and it is why I believe being kind solves more problems in this world than anything else.

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