Alumni Spotlight: Sylvia Cai, MBA, Luxury Brand Management, Class of 2015

We recently spoke with Sylvia Cai, an MBA alumna who graduated from ESSEC in 2015, on how a focus on Luxury Brand Management in the MBA has helped her in growing her career in the industry.

What were you doing before the MBA and what have you been doing since the MBA?
Before the MBA, I worked as a National Distribution Manager at one of the leading Chinese fashion brands. After I graduated from the MBA in 2015, I joined Saint Laurent in Shanghai as an Operations Manager, and am currently a Store Director leading a team and managing store operations.

Why did you choose ESSEC? 
Before applying for an MBA, I did some research on MBA programs focusing on Luxury and found that ESSEC’s MBA, which offered a focus on Luxury Brand Management, stood out as one of the leading programs for professionals who want to devote themselves to the industry. Being able to study in Paris, one of the fashion capitals of the world, further cemented my decision to pursue the MBA with ESSEC. 
The cumulation of these 2 factors brought me to the conclusion that ESSEC would be the best choice for me to effectively grow my career in the Luxury industry. 

How did the MBA help you to fast-track your career in luxury?
The plethora of networking opportunities we were presented with was pivotal in helping me fast-track my career in Luxury. Through this valuable network, I managed to find my boutique internship as well as my full-time position after the program.
Prior to the program, I did not have any retail-related experience and have since managed to progress in my career to become a Director with Saint Laurent. For me, being able to be recognized and known by people in the Luxury industry was very important, as it is what helped me get to where I am today. 

What was your most memorable experience in the program?
My most memorable experiences in the program were the field trips to Italy, Dubai, and Hong Kong, which gave us the chance to interact directly with top management from leading luxury companies in the various markets. There was also a good diversity of markets for the different field trips, with Italy addressing the traditional Luxury market, and Dubai and Hong Kong addressing the more emerging markets. Through the field trips, we were able to observe and understand how things work in different markets, and this knowledge and experience has been invaluable to my career, especially when it comes to interacting with international clients. 

Furthermore, the opportunity to live in Paris is a very valuable life experience that one can have, and I feel that this is one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

What advice would you have for professionals looking to pursue the Global MBA in Luxury Brand Management at ESSEC?
I strongly recommend the program for professionals who really have a passion for the industry, and have a good vision of what they would like to achieve in their career in Luxury.

The Luxury Industry is very dynamic, creative, and attractive, and there are new things happening every day in the industry. For me, I feel that ESSEC is one of the best resources I ever got as a professional without prior experience in Luxury looking to pivot into the industry. 

The program is highly retail-oriented, providing a good mix between business and fashion elements. The exposure to big names such as Chanel, LVMH, and Kering, going through business courses on finance, operations management, and other business functions enriched my career and have been very helpful.

How do you think participants can make the most out of their MBA experience?
Fully leverage every meeting with alumni and top management which you can have during the MBA. Before each meeting or exchange, prepare yourself well and be serious about what you say in front of everyone as a professional manager. 

Know your strengths well, and have a good understanding of what you want to do in the future. Everyone in the program who knew what they wanted to do in the future managed to achieve what they wanted and even went beyond their expectations. Knowing where you want to go is the key to success.


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