Ashley Branagan ’11 left Charleston the morning after graduation in pursuit of a career in New York City. After a couple of bumpy months – Branagan quickly realized she couldn’t accept just any job, adding pressure to her search – she landed an entry-level position at fast-growing e-commerce startup Gilt Groupe, where she’s held five positions since July 2011.
Q: What is your position and what are your day-to-day responsibilities at Gilt?
A: I am a Senior Curator at Gilt City. Gilt City is the lifestyle division of Gilt, so it is my job to put
together exclusive experiences for our members to purchase. If you look at my calendar any day of the week, I am meeting with everyone from luxury restaurant and hotel groups, boutique fitness studios, cleanses and tech startups who are looking to introduce their brand to our audience.
It is a sales role by nature, but there are also strong business development, analytics, marketing and event aspects to it. It involves a lot more creativity than the typical sales role.
Q: What is it like working for Gilt City?
A: It is fast paced, for sure! My first week here I was told that three months at Gilt is like a year anywhere else and they sure were right. We essentially launch a new store each day. It definitely keeps us on our toes!
Q: What is Gilt headquarters like?
A: Iguess the best word for it would be open. There are no offices or cubicles, not even for the CEO! It organically promotes a lot of collaboration.
RELATED: Check out Gilt’s website
Q: What do you like most about your position?
A: In my case, I have really been able to chart my own course. I came into Gilt with an entry-level position and became interested in another area. I was encouraged to give that a shot when a position opened up and have been able to grow greatly from there. I think it is a major perk of working for a younger company.
Q: Did you start working at Gilt in your current position, or have you taken at new position since you started?
A: No, this is actually this is actually my fifth position since I started in June 2011. I started as an account manager, but I knew I wanted to get more sales and business development experience. Nine months later I moved into sales as an inside sales role. Three months forward I was promoted to Associate Curator, nine months from there I became a Curator and eight months from there I became a Senior Curator.
Q: How did you find out about the position you started in and what was the interview process like?
A: I saw the posting on Gilt’s website, applied and in the process I noticed that a roommate from the College was connected to someone at the company. It turns out that her soon to be stepsister (who she had met only a handful of times) worked at Gilt and agreed to let me list her as a reference. I got the job and she got the referral bonus!
Q: What do you think made you stand out?
A: I received the email for an interview at Gilt within minutes of accepting a position at another company. Knowing I would have preferred Gilt, I immediately called the human resources generalist who sent the email and explained my situation and she agreed to a quick phone interview then and there, allowing me to move on to the next rounds.
Inadvertently, the urgency allowed my strong interest in the company and my excitement about working there to really show through. I think it made human resource’s job easier too!
Q: Did you move to New York City before you had a job? How did you make the City feel manageable?
A: I left the morning after graduation with interviews set up for the next week. I received a handful of offers, all of which I could not even afford to accept with my student loans.
The month after graduation was really rough. I stayed on friend’s couches, with family nearby and went back and forth from my parent’s house about three hours from the city. Moving from an ideal city like Charleston to New York certainly was not easy either. I think the whole first year I was more or less pouting because I gave up this awesome city for a dirty one where I could only afford a bedroom without a window! But after the first year I kind of found a groove. The work-life balance improved, I got a better apartment and started to appreciate the city more.
Q: How did the College help you prepare for your position?
A: My internships and work-study programs are what best prepared me for the position. I am much more of a hands-on learner and I really thrived in my internships. But specifically within school, I took a class with Bonnie Grossman that focused on resume writing, interviews, etc. I highly recommend that to upperclassmen.
Q: What advice would you give to current students interested in corporate sales, or working for a start-up like Gilt?
A: Test-drive a position ASAP! I went into college thinking I wanted to be an event planner. After shadowing an event planner for a summer and working as a wedding planner my freshman year I decided I did not want to give up my nights and weekends and the part of the events I really liked was the concept and brainstorming. Those elements lend themselves much better to marketing and branding, which is a huge part of my job now.
So many of my friends went to school for something they thought they really wanted to do and did not try it until they got out. It is never too late for a career change (especially not at 22 or 23), but at the same time everyone would rather be growing in a career they really want to be in.