Lucy Lesniak ’10 followed her instincts from Lancashire, England to the College of Charleston, then New York, N.Y. and finally, for now, to Bangkok, Thailand.
She trusted those instincts when she decided to double major in business administration and hospitality and tourism management instead of studio art as she’d planned, and when she decided to join the Schottland Scholar Program while also working full-time during her senior year at the College.
Now, after moving up the ranks through four positions at fine jewelry designer David Yurman, Lesniak’s instincts have led her to become senior manager of operations at the new David Yurman corporate location in Bangkok.
Lesniak welcomes current students to reach out to her for advice. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with a message to be forwarded.
A: I work in the back-end of the company, on the corporate side. Basically my job begins after the design team, headed by David, Sybil and Evan Yurman, come up with designs for a new collection. Then the design goes to the engineering, project development and procurement teams, which will turn the design into something that can be manufactured. The engineers will develop components like clasps and hinges while the procurement team will buy the diamonds and gemstones, everything that goes into making jewelry. I oversee the office operations supporting that process in Thailand.
As this is a new office, though, I’ve been doing everything from recruiting, interviewing and hiring for the office to managing the office construction, building a benefits package comparable to those of other Thai businesses, establishing relationships with payroll, accounting, banking, customs, and legal firms, leasing a company car, building and managing the budget, ensuring invoices and office rent gets paid, training employees and attending to their needs. Each day is vastly different from the last.
Q: What is it like doing all those things in a country with a language barrier?
A: The culture and language barrier make day-to-day processes quite challenging here. For instance, Thailand is exceptionally document intensive, so something that might take half an hour in the U.S., like preparing social security paperwork for a new employee, will take three hours here because of all the documents required.
Establishing the office here is similar to what I imagine starting a business would be like. There is no typical day, I’m often working until 11 p.m. or later. There are a lot of responsibilities and while there are challenges, I love it here. I can imagine spending the next few years here in Southeast Asia.
Q: What is the best part of your job?
A: The opportunity to travel. Being in Thailand is amazing, and David Yurman has offices in Hong Kong, New York and Switzerland; next month I’ll head to Hong Kong.
I think the travel part is pretty awesome, but I also love being a part of a family-run company that’s based on design. David Yurman is a sculptor by training and his wife, Sybil, is an artist, so we always say our job is to make their designs come to life. It’s always interesting.
Q: How did you get started at David Yurman?
A: I moved to New York in fall of 2011 and applied for a receptionist position at David Yurman. I had worked at Louis Vuitton in Charleston, and had gone from a sales associate to accessories specialist and then customer relationship management specialist, so I was hesitant to take a job as a receptionist after that.
I did decide to take the job, and about six months later I was promoted to executive assistant, and then a year after that I became a product development and procurement project manager. All in all I’ve been with the company for almost three years, and here in Thailand for a little over a month.
Q: How did you hear about the receptionist position and what was the interview process like?
A: A friend of mine in New York put me in touch with a recruiter. The best way to find jobs in New York is via recruiters, there are good ones and bad ones and I was fortunate enough to work with a good one. The recruiter encouraged me to interview for the receptionist position, despite my hesitance. The interview process was very simple: I went in for a standard interview and was offered the job very quickly thereafter.
Q: What does the next year hold in store for you?
A: I signed a two-year contract here, so I’ll be in Thailand for two more years. I look forward to growing with the role – by the end of this year we’ll have 12 employees in the office and by the end of next year we’ll have 20, so growing my role with the office will be tremendous for me. I imagine the role and scope will change a lot between now and the end of 2015.
Q: How did your time at the College help you prepare for your positions at David Yurman?
A: My concentration in business administration was leadership, change and social responsibility; I believe that helped enable me to assume a leadership role, take initiative and advance quite quickly in my career thus far. In addition, being a double major, working part- and then full-time for Louis Vuitton and becoming a Schottland Scholar forced me to become very organized and learn to manage my time effectively.
The Schottland Scholar program also gave me great hands-on experience. I felt like it provided real-life insight into the world of business by allowing us to speak with people who are in the field. It’s very different than being in a classroom.
Finally, participating in a liberal arts school where the curricula are very broad helped me to be able to handle diverse tasks.
Q: What advice would you give to current students interested in working for an international brand, or in a foreign country?
A: I took a lot of big risks. For example, I decided on a Tuesday that I wanted to move to New York, packed my belongings on Wednesday and drove to the City on Thursday. In December last year, David Yurman asked if I would move to Thailand, when I said yes they gave me a month to pack up my life and move.
Of course setting goals for yourself is immensely important, but I think it’s just as vital to be flexible with your planning and goals – have an outline for where you want to be and what you want your life to look like, but be open minded. Then, you will be able to take opportunities that present themselves.
For those interested in international business, I absolutely recommend studying abroad. David Yurman knew I was from England but had gone to school in the States and moved to New York, so they knew I had international experience. I think that made them feel more at ease sending me to Thailand. If you’re interested in working abroad after college, consider doing an extended study abroad, or see if you can get an international summer job. Your company will feel more confident in your ability to adapt and to not feel culture shock knowing you have that experience.