Making the Move: High Fashion to E-Commerce

For today’s Making the Move series, I am excited to share Stephen Aubert‘s journey from the fashion industry to tech and e-commerce. Stephen is currently a Senior Product Manager at Amazon, leading a team of Product Marketing Managers.

Stephen’s Background in Fashion

Back in college, Stephen wanted to become a Buyer in the Fashion & Merchandising space. After graduating, he interned as a Flagship Brand Manager at Nordstrom, where he immersed himself in the world of high fashion. During these 2 years, he went to fashion shows, met with different brands and fashion bloggers, and honed his customer service, vendor management, and relationship building skills. Stephen found that the fashion industry was very volatile, and there were a lot of areas beyond ones control (e.g. inventory levels, overseas shipments, competitor discounts).

Joining the Startup World

Eventually, one of Stephen’s friends from Nordstrom convinced him to join a retail startup called Zulily. This was how he started exploring the tech space, and took on a variety of roles from Buying to Business Development, and Marketing.

Through taking on new projects and broadening his scope, Stephen found his groove in the product management space. With all of this experience, another friend reached out to him about taking on a new opportunity as a Product Manager at Amazon!

Product Management at Amazon

Although Stephen wasn’t sure that the job description fit him, he decided to apply after talking to his future manager. In his new Product Manager role, he worked on marketing offers for retailers, vendors, and buyers to automate their marketing deals and funding. Ultimately, this was a great way to leverage his retail and marketing experiences.

Accelerated Career Progression

Within a year, Stephen was promoted to Senior Product Manager and became a team lead. Part of this was from the product space that he was in—there was a lot of whitespace and opportunity.

When it comes to excelling quickly at one of the largest tech & e-commerce companies in the world, Stephen highlights the importance of speed and visibility. For speed, it comes down to how fast you’re moving with the pace of the business and how quickly you’re engaging your stakeholders. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the oil!

As for visibility, it’s important to get your stakeholders invested in what you’re doing and aware of what is going on. You don’t necessarily need to be emailing VPs and Executives, but take the time to know the people that you work with (e.g. managers, teammates, onboarding buddies). As you take on bigger projects, communicate quickly through different methods like newsletters, monthly business reviews, and 1:1s.

When it comes to networking, leverage weekly 1:1s to ramp up, and find a mentor to help you succeed. If there are people who you meet in a meeting that seem interesting, reach out and ask to learn about their knowledge and experiences.

Diversity & the LGBTQ+ Community

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Stephen shares the following advice with peers and anyone who may be starting out their careers:

  • Surround yourself with the people who matter (and who you enjoy being around)
  • Don’t work in a silo, find a buddy or friends who can lift you up
  • If you’re not yet “out of the closet”, surround yourself with people you can trust and will respect you regardless of your orientation
  • You can never love a job where you don’t love your manager. If you don’t have a great manager, you won’t excel.
  • Make sure you get the experience, feedback, and support that you need to succeed

For people who are looking to be effective allies to the LGBTQ+ community, here’s what you can consider:

  • The best way to show your support is by being willing to listen and learn
  • It’s not always about speaking up in front of everyone, but listening and supporting your peers
  • Take the time to join clubs or communities and educate yourself through resources, articles, and courses
  • When it comes to approaching uncomfortable questions, just be honest and have these conversations in private
  • If you are concerned or unsure about a topic, but want to be sensitive, ask the person directly or ask a buddy

Final Thoughts & Advice

Hunger is valued the most. As a manager, Stephen looks for people who are hungry and excited to be there. This inner spirit is what drives you to succeed quickly.

Draw your boundaries early. In this world, we prioritize work when it is not the right thing to prioritize. If you’re jumping into a new career, it is not a healthy mindset to put in so many hours. Take the time to recharge and continue the momentum.

Thank you so much to Stephen for taking the time to meet with me and share his thoughts and advice with you all through this series! Read more inspiring stories about breaking into big tech here.