For Alexandra Rodrigues, acquiring new skill sets, being patient and heeding the wisdom of mentors, “who are everywhere” in one’s life, helped shape a career path that may seem unconventional at first blush, but is actually well-thought-out and strategic.
A 2013 graduate from LIM College with a bachelor of business administration in management, Rodrigues’ experience in fashion began with showroom ready-to-wear brands and a concert merchandise gig at Sony, which led to launching the Kings of Cole brand with two other partners. The brand caught the eye of Jennifer Lopez and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop and has been featured multiple times on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”
Rodrigues then had an opportunity to take on a European showroom, which advanced her transnational career by taking her to seven countries annually. In 2016, Swarovski had recruited Rodrigues to help support its business-to-business division, which services high-end designers and talent to create and enable evergreen partnerships. There, she was cited as a top Swarovski Global Sales Performer, winning the 2018 Sales Champion Award for the U.S., as well as leading the first charge from a b-to-b sales perspective in the entertainment industry.
Rodrigues also helmed the first Swarovski-sponsored concert tour, in 2018, with Sarah Brightman. This paved the way for the Swarovski Japan team to re-create the opportunity with the boy band Arashi last year. While at LIM College, she was a leader for the NRFSA Retail Contest, and continues to be involved with the student leadership network around New York City.
Here, Rodrigues shares insights into her career path, and what informed her experience, which is still evolving.
WWD: How would you describe your career path? What were some of the challenges you faced?
Alexandra Rodrigues: With both of my parents having been born and raised in Portugal, I was the first member of my family to graduate with a degree from the U.S. Like many students interested in fashion, I was determined to study in New York, but I had no family, friends, connections, or contacts there. I was forced to take the initiative and absorb as much as I could in order to fully understand the nuances of living, working and succeeding in this city and in fashion. Some of the toughest challenges I ever faced were during those times.
My career path has been a bit unconventional. I originally planned to graduate with a focus on buying and planning, but a LIM College professor helped me identify that a path in sales and/or business development would be a better fit for my personality and innate abilities.
A significant portion of my journey has involved making strategic decisions based on where I want to be and what I want to do next and taking the steps necessary to develop new skill sets. I began my career in concert merchandise and wholesale showrooms, and today, I am focused on developing partnerships with leading talents and brands. The skills and abilities I acquired along the way have facilitated that career evolution.
I have also faced challenges in navigating how to work with and manage different kinds of people. Not everyone will have a positive outlook or view of their employer, or a willingness to be a team player. The important thing to remember is to always treat people with respect and put your best foot forward.
WWD: Have you had mentors at LIM College or in the industry? If yes, how have they helped you?
A.R.: I was and continue to be exposed to individuals who inspire me, many of whom may not even realize the impact they had. Mentors are everywhere. They are your professors, friends, family, colleagues, senior management, customers and more. I have had a sales career for 10 years now, and I still listen to and learn from everyone I can.
These mentors have taught me to believe that unique ideas have a place in every organization and that the value of character can exceed that of intellect. They have taught me that the power of silence during a negotiation can be greater than that of the loudest voice in the room, and to always think objectively, no matter the situation.
WWD: How did your coursework and your experience at LIM College help inform your career decisions?
A.R.: LIM College offers its students a significant amount of career guidance while pursuing their education. It’s a structured curriculum with a focus on internships to help build the foundation needed for a career in fashion or retail.
I found that interning was not only beneficial for kick-starting my career, but also for aligning my passions and interests. It can be challenging to identify what you won’t like in any given role, or company, at the beginning of your career and not every student has the ability to take up an internship as an extracurricular activity. The extent to which LIM incorporates experiential learning into the curriculum is unique — and highly beneficial to students.
WWD: If you could go back in time and give career advice to your younger self, what would you say?
A.R.: Have patience. It’s easy to get sidetracked and overwhelmed by all of the information we have access to through the Internet and social media. Rather than wasting time and energy thinking about what others around you have or are doing, you need to direct that energy towards reaching your next goal. It’s important to set realistic milestones that will serve as the foundation for your career and position you for continued success. As the Roman philosopher Seneca, wrote, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
Also, mastering the art of listening and pausing to think before you speak is very important. I regularly interact with people all over the world, from different countries and different cultures, and being able to adapt to various communication styles and really listen to people is paramount.
WWD: What advice would you give someone considering a career in the retail and fashion apparel market?
A.R.: When applying for positions and interviewing with companies, take the time to do your research and prepare. I can’t say it enough — there is power in preparation. Know your audience and ask engaging questions, not only to come across well during the interview, but also to learn more about a potential employer.
It’s also important to be excited about the company you are working for and not to be too self-critical if you don’t have it all together at first. You won’t learn everything from your first job, but the key is to learn as much as you can from each experience in order to continue to develop and grow. It’s all a part of the process, and since we spend one-third of our day working, it’s better to be happy while you’re there.