General Manager; OneSource Distributors
By Joe Nowlan
McKinnon Shisko grew up in Charleston, S.C., “and never really left,” he laughed. But when he did, it made a big impression on him personally and professionally.
While attending the College of Charleston he enrolled in a logistics and finance internship at Sonepar.
“I was fortunate enough to live and work in Germany for the better part of my summer,” he explained. “It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. That was my first exposure to ‘Holy cow! There’s more to the world than just the little place I’m from.'”
McKinnon graduated from the College of Charleston in 2013 with a degree in business administration. He also minored in global logistics, transportation and finance. Such a course of studies would seem to have a distribution career written all over it.
“I always knew I wanted to go into business management,” McKinnon explained. “My dad started and ran his own company so he is full of good advice from his experiences with both success and failure. I’m lucky that he has always been and continues to be a good mentor for me.”
While still in college, McKinnon was running a business he started on his own.
“I invented a product for the hunting industry, a waterfowl accessory,” he said. “It wasn’t super successful fiscally, but as a learning experience, it was very successful. The supply chain aspect of just getting the raw materials was fascinating to me.”
After graduation McKinnon was hired by Sonepar and went to work at OneSource in San Diego, Calif., as part of the Sales and Operations Leadership Development Program.
“The holistic exposure that I received during this rotational program has proven invaluable. One key takeaway was that I learned just enough to be dangerous in almost every department so I’ve become a good resource for many people,” he explained. “But the biggest advantage came in the form of developing relationships with the varying subject matter experts, in each of their respective fields, that I constantly am able to leverage now.”
Shortly after completing the program, McKinnon was presented with the opportunity to manage an acquisition in Hawaii.
“I was in Hawaii for about nine months, traveling back and forth from San Diego to Hawaii every three weeks. So I would be there for three weeks and then back to California for one week,” McKinnon said. “That was a heck of an experience. It was really interesting and quite humbling, being so young and new to the industry.”
In October 2016, McKinnon was named general manager for the San Diego region.
“I am part of a pretty good-sized team that consists of inside sales, operations, and other various support roles all aimed at providing the best customer experience possible.” he explained.
McKinnon is single and enjoys indulging in his love of the outdoors while living in the San Diego area.
“My favorite activity is bird hunting for waterfowl, quail and dove. Any kind of hunting really. And fishing as well,” he said. “Then going to the beach and paddle boarding, surfing. I am going to enjoy the San Diego weather as long as I can.”
Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. Be hungry and approach from curiosity and not from judgment. But challenge the status quo. [Challenging the status quo without offending people] is almost an art. And I am becoming better at it. I’ve stepped on a few toes and ruffled a few feathers, which I think is always going to happen no matter what. But learn to do it tactfully and respectfully.
My dad always told me, “Challenge but challenge respectfully.” And what I have added to that is do it from a curiosity-based approach. Rather than saying “You’re doing it wrong. Here is how you should do it.” You do it more open-ended. “Why are you doing it that way? Have you considered doing it a different way that could possibly save you time? Are you open to trying it a different way?”
I didn’t learn that until about two years in, so it was a little later in the game than it should have been. I apologize to those people from the first two years of my career [laughing].
Q. You’re one of the youngest people to be recognized this year. Do you or have you ever run into difficulty commanding respect in the company because of your age? If so, how did you manage that?
A. I don’t want to say that it is an everyday struggle but it is on my mind every day. It is a matter of perception. I can perceive that there is a struggle and someone I am working with may perceive that there isn’t a struggle or vice versa.
What I have found is that I like to talk a lot. But what I need to do a better job of is listening before speaking my mind. I have heard before—and these are not my own words by any means—that there are two types of leaders. There are those who listen to speak, and then those who listen to understand. Currently, I am more aligned with the first type, but I am actively and consciously working to become the latter.
I think leaders who listen to understand are more inclusive as well as humble and often end up having greater long term success with their teams. Easier said than done, but I am working on it. Progress…not perfection!
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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