In celebration of the amazing women in the outdoor industry, and of March as Women's History Month, SNEWS has featured a number of female leaders in stories about Camber Outdoors' Deanne Buck to 10 rad women-led companies. In this new Q&A series, we asked women in all sorts of leadership roles about their backgrounds, what they like most about their jobs, and their best outdoor advice. Here's our interview with Ali Kenney, Burton Snowboard's VP of global strategy and insights.
Kenney jokes that she has “a lot of commas” in her job. She watches trends in the global market, engages consumers on climate change issues, crafts Burton’s sustainability goals, audits manufacturers for sustainability, human rights, and fair labor practices, and more. She is widely respected in the outdoor industry for the environmental strides Burton has made under her leadership. We caught up with her to find out how she got where she is.
What's your first or most favorite outdoor memory?
When I was a young kid, I was always outside playing games and sports. I grew up in the middle of nowhere on a dead-end, dirt road in Vermont. We spent every day outside. I had a foundation of wanting to be outside and a love for fresh air. Now, my wife and I bike commute every day, and we got into backpacking four years ago. Every vacation, we go backpacking. That’s how we refresh. We don’t use watches or phones. We go by sunrise and sunset.
What drove you to seek a career in the outdoor industry?
When I’m snowboarding or doing something else physical, there’s no other thought in my mind. I’m focused on the moment and the terrain. Working for a company where that’s what we do, the connection to nature is one of the biggest drivers for me. I don’t want to work for a company where we make widgets. Even on the most stressful days, it’s OK because then we can all go snowboarding together. I bring my whole self to work.
What is your favorite perk of working for Burton?
There are so many! I love getting outside and snowboarding. If we get two feet of snow, the office shuts down. I’ve gotten to travel the world for my job and I’ve learned so much about other cultures. Burton is big enough that we have a global impact, but also small enough that if you have a big idea and if you’re passionate enough and build a solid case, we can do it. That perfectly aligns with my personality.
What's your one piece of advice for women seeking a career in the outdoor industry?
Find a company that mirrors your values, then get your foot in the door. I came in as a financial analyst, making less money than I was coaching hockey, and that’s OK. I worked and put my head down and built trust. A lot of young people are taught to “follow their passion,” and that’s bad advice. When you start out, you’re not going to feel like you’ve found your passion because part of that is being a contributor. You must work at it. If you work hard and you’re a critical thinker and build solutions, you’re going to work your way up in the company, and that’s how you find your passion.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want to have given back more to the world than I’ve taken from it. With all the food and resources and all the other stuff I consume, I want to have somehow made the world better in a higher level of magnitude. To have an overall positive impact.