March 4th, 2014 by Yang Zhao under Fashion, Fun and Fearless, Internationals at Smith. No Comments.
“God gave you the shoes that fit you, so put ‘em on and wear ‘em
And be yourself, man, be proud of who you are
Even if it sounds corny,
Don’t ever let no one tell you, you ain’t beautiful…”
I came back from Harvard Business School for an annual retail and luxury goods conference and I feel better about myself. I met some awesome like minded speakers and made some tangible connections that might potentially lead to more open windows.
I came fully ready to challenge the elite ego and I considered myself successful.
I feel slightly sad for people at Harvard that many of them were too obsessed with “status” to ask a risky smart question. I fully understand their insecurity that they had to build a wall against the “non-elites” by not making eye contacts or talking back to non-Ivy Leaguers.
I also know that not all HBS students are like these. The co-founders of the company I am interning in are those humble, smart HBS women that everyone enjoys working with.
To quote Lupita Nyong’O: You can’t eat beauty. Beauty doesn’t feed you. You have to be beauty.
Money. Fame. Status. All the things that can be easily taken away from you can’t feed you. You have to someone that can’t be stolen and again feel proud about yourself.
February 12th, 2014 by Yang Zhao under Fun and Fearless, Internationals at Smith, Say What MBAs Say, The Smith Experience. No Comments.
I am very slow when it comes to the adoption of social media related technology. Most people choose to have a user name or a herd of followers as soon as a new thing comes out; I would rather wait until I make sure it is not something like Facebook that feeds you with semi-garbage information. That does not justify that I just registered Twitter and had only 21 tweets and 9 followers.
However, a purely unexpected incident changed my entire view of Twitter and led to new discovery of techniques in job hunting.
I bought a Chanel bag from an online marketplace X and made a comment on its user experience via Twitter. I assumed that’s how we use Twitter, we tweet things we think about. And then I realized the Founder and CEO of X followed me and private messaged me inquiring for what user experience failed to fulfill my needs. And it was the CEO himself, not some copywriting agencies. He asked me if I could write him an email and I did and the next thing was I added him on LinkedIn.
What are the rare chances of getting connected with a CEO in real time through online exchange? Well, of course, the comment I made might get me stand out. I’m sure Twitter influencers get tags hundreds of thousands of time daily.
It struck me why not using Twitter to follow the companies and people you admire and reach out to them directly? We international students usually don’t get a chance to meet the hiring managers because HR people are the biggest hurdle. Why not use Twitter or LinkedIn to get around with HRs and talk to the people you wish to work with directly?
It’s just a start but I will share more as I myself exploring social media.
February 10th, 2014 by Yang Zhao under Fashion, Fun and Fearless, Internationals at Smith. No Comments.
Me and my friends thought my heart was in New York already.
I commute some nine hour insane trip for my internship; I spent hundreds of dollars on hotels and transportation for some looming networking opportunities; When I created my online dating profile, I chose New York as my location.
But most recently I started to question: is New York really the city I want to stay in?
I came back from an up-scale soiree in Manhattan last week and was somewhat confused. I skipped classes and researched attendees and got some fancy letter press business cards but ended up making no connections. The dilemma of the fashion industry once put me off came back bugging me again. When I did fashion my own way, I made awesome supplier connections, sold some exclusive designer deals and maintained many loyal customers who later turned friends who would write me letters and send gifts. Despite all the transactions happened in the virtual world, our connections were real and genuine. But when I was in New York, some of the fashion/luxury networking scenes made me uneasy. I couldn’t help notice the pretentious smiles, wandering eyes, and insecure smirks. People checked you out by looking at your watches, bags and shoes and they were too occupied to impress than to be impressed.
By far, I have enjoyed my internship very much. The co-founders of the company are brilliant, humble and down-to-earth entrepreneurs that work hard and respect their employees. And that’s what I have expected for New York. However, the reality struck me that there is always a part of the glamour, expressionism, show-off side of fashion that I have to live with. Will a behind-the-scene type of person be comfortable stepping into the spotlight? I have no idea.
But that’s the fundamental reason why I have to experience, feel, fail, and learn. If it were not for the internship and the networks, I would have lived in an imagined world of New York. Reality check is so important that a job is more than a job, it’s part of your larger eco-system including your off-job life and relationship, which are equally important as a career.
Networking is more than getting connected with other people; it’s also about getting connected with yourself.
December 23rd, 2013 by Yang Zhao under China, Fun and Fearless, Internationals at Smith, Say What MBAs Say. No Comments.
Most international students have some sort of identity crisis when they just came to the US. We are shy; we have accents; we don’t get drunk or high too much. Despite the high inclusivity of American culture, we sometimes still feel isolated. So “fitting-in” has become a major part of our social homework.
We talk English to our fellow countrymen; we eat Five Guys and watch footballs, forcing ourselves to fall in love with a sport we don’t even understand. Unfortunately, we still couldn’t fit in. We see our more than two decades of foreign lives ” a baggage”.
Wait a minute? Why fit in when you can stand out? Why not stay special?
This was the new wisdom I found when I was put onto a student panel of a luxury industry seminar in New York. When it comes to China luxury market, we are hot! Americans want to dig our brains and know everything we intake and expel. The audience, luxury retailers exchanged business cards with Chinese on one side and we added contacts on WeChat. Some rather effortless insights of mine led the way to a casual business lunch with a luxury retail company and another upcoming networking event with some rather prominent business people with China connections. Unfortunately, I could not disclose any further details until I secure some real opportunities.
Make sure to fully use your regional advantage. Our value is not in how “fit” we have become into American culture. What makes us special makes us stand out. Find places that look for talents with your specialties and feel proud about them.
November 20th, 2013 by Yang Zhao under Arts and Culture, Fashion, Fun and Fearless, Internationals at Smith. No Comments.
A few weeks ago, I read an interesting article on Fashionista.com about how Rihanna and Miley Cyrus were classing up raunchy videos with lots of Chanel.
Their corresponding clips share a couple of major similarities: One being an abundance of Chanel accessories, the other being an abundance of, well, ass.
If you look back, the highly Hip-hop influenced American pop culture is a history of obsession for exotic luxury. Rap Queens of the 90′s, for instance, led by Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliott are known for their signature show-off of bling bling Chanel accessories in equally explicit video clips; Bugatti and Lamborghini have been classic lyric fillers from Akon’s hay days to Britney’s recent release; and there are artists who actually named themselves after Chanel and Gucci.
We get it. Hip-hop was originated from ghetto music and over-compensation is not uncommon. Don’t get me wrong. I grew up with Hip-hop and I love some of the old skool and hardcore stuff. But pairing strippers with Chanel is more ironic than iconic. Can I call it the inferiority-superiority complex? Well. It’s surely not Ms. Coco’s intention and it will never stop me from loving my Chanel!
See some of the pictures capturing some raunchy performance with Chanel highlights. I was stunned how Lil’ Kim managed to mix & match her expensive Chanel outfits and made them look so cheap!
(Source of photos)
November 18th, 2013 by Yang Zhao under Internationals at Smith, People, Say What MBAs Say, The Smith Experience. No Comments.
Jorge Mejia is not your typical PhD student. He owns his own company and has just finished a six month research and entrepreneurial project abroad with the world’s largest incubator, Startup Chile. He’s working on his PhD in Information Systems at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
Mejia did his undergraduate and master degrees in computer science at Georgia Tech. Ever since his first internship he has been engaged in a number of R&D projects that have become successful business innovations in their respective industries.
In 2004, he took an internship with NCR and was assigned to a task as part of a product development project of the “live” interaction system between humans and automatic check-out machines, which you see regularly in major supermarkets across the country.
After graduating with his MS, Mejia worked in a consulting firm for more than three years and spent half of his time traveling to countries in Europe. He worked with a Swedish telecommunications company in 2006 in research on cable live streaming, which was exactly what Netflix was doing three years later.
Most recently, he and his company Rively are researching and developing an app to enable customers to check in “moving objects” – the first of its kind – on their smart phones. If Foursquare helps you find the perfect places that are stationary, this app allows you to check-in on a particular bus, train or flight and review your transportation experience, not limited to the carriers.
“I like research,” said Mejia, “and I always try to find research that is interesting and people have actual needs for it.”
In 2012, Mejia and his college friends formed a team to participate in Startup Chile, a six-month $50,000 budget accelerator program backed by the Chilean government, which selected 100 early-stage start-ups out of 600 applicants worldwide. Mejia conducted research for his PhD project within the incubator to see how the entrepreneurs were using their money and time.
“Six months and $50,000 – you can use them for product development, or traveling to raise money, or going to networking parties for mentorships or ideas,” said Mejia. “I wanted to measure the outcomes of these different approaches.” He analyzed the data he collected and found out that if teams didn’t know each other well, the probability of raising money was low.
“We screwed up a lot,” he said, noting that they lost a teammate in the beginning and they couldn’t find a developer. “It was also our first time meeting with an investor,” Mejia recalled. “It was all about real-world learning and I highly recommend this incubator program.”
Mejia appreciates the support he received from the Smith School. “[The level of support] is unconventional for a business school,” he said. “My professor was putting his neck out for me and the school was not afraid to take a chance on me.”
Now, Mejia is looking at areas that could combine his strengths in academia and entrepreneurship. “I love research and I want to find cool problems to solve,” he said.
November 10th, 2013 by Yang Zhao under Fashion, Fun and Fearless, Say What MBAs Say. No Comments.
I still remember my own words during my first week in business school – “I find it really hard to develop affection for data.”
You never know.
One year later, I fell in love with data! Not simply because I am doing surprisingly well in heavy quantitative courses, in fact scoring A+ across all data driven classes, but also because I discovered the fun part of it.
Of course, I am never a friend of math. But data is not just about math. Math is merely a tool but what makes a difference is your business sense and the creativity involved in setting up hypotheses. Last term, I took a Marketing Analysis class and I am totally addicted to it. Upon completion, I chose to enroll in an advanced course in Data Mining and also take a major data analytics project in my recent internship at a fashion e-commerce company.
Yes. I will keep you posted of this exciting and challenging internship.
For 26 years, I have never thought of myself as a quantitative person and I have been trying to avoid numbers for my whole life. If it were not for the MBA, I would never have forced myself to acquaint with data and found the sexy part of it. So never make a conclusion for things you haven’t tried out yet. Outside the comfort zone lies the sweet spot!
November 1st, 2013 by Yang Zhao under Fashion, Internationals at Smith, Say What MBAs Say. No Comments.
I was invited to write a buyer’s review on mytrnd.com - The no. 1 global reference point for passionate fashion professionals with 1,244 lookbooks and 38,207 styles!
Never thought about fashion would be my career some three months ago and now I am making things happen!
Check out my draft review for Dion Lee RTW 2014.
Dion Lee, arguably the best designer from Australia, has brought his signature filter design to the stage for three years in a row. As a young label, Dion Lee is able to establish a consistent personal style featuring wearable 3D-pattern making, architectural silhouettes, layered cut-outs, as well as highly selective fabrics. Still relatively underrepresented in the North American market, Dion Lee has huge potential to evolve to a haute couture brand. The 3D filter biker jacket is definitely a collectible classic piece that will prove its value in the resale market if it’s ever available.
In addition, I just finished an interview with co-founder of Material Wrld on Thursday and I will officially kick start an internship in an amazing, fast growing fashion e-commerce working on things I’ve dreamed about.
To be honest, this was one of the interviews in years that I truly enjoyed. It was like a heart-to-heart conversation with a like-minded friend with an outflow of passion.
It was the first time I had the feeling of wholesomeness – combining what you love and what you are good at, an inner strength that pumps out endless ideas, courage to overcome obstacles, and will to succeed.
October 28th, 2013 by Yang Zhao under Fashion, Internationals at Smith, Say What MBAs Say. 2 Comments.
Many of us love fashion, but few consider it a real career.
The mainstream sees fashion as glamorous from the outside but hideous from the inside. It is an industry with often ridiculously high price tags and dis-proportionally low average income. That’s why fashion is rarely associated with MBA. A typical MBA student targets a 6-figure post graduation income, while in the fashion industry, the mid-level income is almost half of that figure. So when I brought my resume to the Style Careers New York Fashion Career Fair, I found I really need to make my MBA education a legitimate story.
Late boomer as I am, I was not determined to jump into the fashion industry until the end of my year-one MBA life. Trying to identify my true career goals, I went back to school to give myself time to think and try out things. And it turns out that a setback is a blessing in disguise. If I were so sure about continuing my former career in marketing/business development, I would never have the chance to come across this industry that I have been in love since I was a child.
It’s difficult for international student and I have to face the fact that I am going to earn much less than the majority of my classmates if I could eventually land a job in fashion. But this is the only industry I would still love to work for if I were not paid and had to work 24/7.
So what I have done so far to get closer to my dream job? Check out some of the steps followed if you are also an international student and want to make it in fashion?
- Build LinkedIn network to explore opportunities
Join relevant groups and follow companies you are interested in. Connect to people that have an aspiring career path, even if they are completely strangers. Closely monitor group discussions and job postings on LinkedIn. I spotted the Style Careers job fair in a group discussion one day prior to the event!
- Utilize Specialized Job Board to identify your targets
So far I found the most useful ones are stylecareers.com and fashionjobstoday.com. Take full use of headhunters/agencies registered in StyleCareers.
- Cross check on myvisajobs.com to narrow down your targets
Search for relevant companies and check through their H1B filing history and positions offered for each H1B. If they are all about technical jobs, you can basically rule that company out. I used to fly all the way to Houston for a fashion buyer job and could not even start my interview conversation because the company has strict rules not hiring H1B students except IT professionals. Unless you can find a way to get around with the HR, don’t waste the time and money. We are not trying to make miracles.
- Take baby steps and build experiences as many as possible
Contribute to online blogging communities or take up an internship regardless paid or unpaid. You might be a PHD in engineering but you are a freshman in fashion. Start from the basics!
I wish the best of luck for all of us. Where there is a will, there is a way.
October 25th, 2013 by Yang Zhao under Fashion, Say What MBAs Say. No Comments.
Business schools open up a nation or even worldwide network for the entire MBA community. Different professional organizations, chapters, and clubs are platforms for students across different schools to meet and exchange.
The New York City is unarguably the best place for fashion in the U.S.. Just look at the business schools – both Columbia and the Stern School of Business have state-of-the-art retail and luxury clubs and each year they host annual conferences attracting hundreds of leading industry players and business school students to attend.
Last Friday, I attended the 7th Annual Luxury & Retail Conference held by Stern and I totally got my mind blown. As a second year business school student, I went to a lot of events of various themes and sizes across the country, but this, so far, was the best one. Not only because the topic was most relevant, but the line-up of speakers and organization rivaled those of WWD’s events at a much more affordable price point – $75 for non-Stern participants.
The Conference included three breakout panels and a key note by Barbara Cirkva, Division President, Fashion, Watches, & Fine Jewelry, Chanel. Retail’s Reinvention, the panel I took part in, featured five speakers, two start-up founders and three executives from Louis Vuitton, Moda Operandi, and Warby Parker. All three companies are at the forefront of retail innovation with distinct business models – Louis Vuitton continues its legendary journey that creates unparalleled customer experience; Moda Operandi offers exclusive pre-order of the latest runway haute couture; Warby Parker makes designer quality eyeglasses at revolutionary price tag.
I was very much inspired by the concluding sentences by the three panelists, wisdom drawn from their respective personal growth and I would like to share with all of you here:
“Stay humble. Be honest about what you know and what you don’t know.”
- Alexander Winokur, Vice President of Client Development & Digital, Louis Vuitton Americas
“Work with people you admire and you will learn so much from them.”
- Indre Rockefeller, Director of RTW, Moda Operandi
“Be willing to take baby steps.”
- Shannon Malone, Director of Product Strategy, Warby Parker
Now, take a look at the Stern style!
(Photo credit: Stern Retail & Luxury Club)