Heather Bergstein, head of e-commerce at Rémy Cointreau USA, began her marketing career at L’Oréal USA and has since held a variety of marketing and digital marketing roles in the fields of beauty, fashion and luxury.
A published author, adjunct professor and frequent industry speaker, her expertise is in building and leading “best-in-class” digital teams that enable brands to deepen consumer engagement across both online and off-line touchpoints and drive strategic business objectives through digital activations. Bergstein is a graduate of LIM College and Fordham University, and holds a certificate in digital storytelling strategy from Columbia University. Here, Bergstein discusses her career path and mentorship, and offers advice for aspiring students.
WWD: How did your coursework and your experience at LIM help inform your career decisions?
Heather Bergstein: When I started as a freshman at LIM, I knew I wanted to be in a creative industry, knew I liked retail and knew that New York City was where I wanted to be. So, LIM was the perfect choice. The coursework was a combination of creative and business-focused classes.
At the time, department stores were king, Walmart and big-box stores were emerging, and the coursework exposed us to those shifting dynamics and how they would affect merchandising, buying, and what career paths looked like. My engagement with the faculty and LIM’s internship opportunities were as valuable as the coursework. To learn from professors who were in the industry, combined with access to fantastic opportunities in the retail and fashion space, set me apart as an aspiring professional, and shaped my career path.
Although my first and continued love is retail, through my coursework at LIM I discovered that I could build a career in brand marketing and strategy.
WWD: If you could go back in time and give career advice to your younger self, what would you say?
H.B.: I would definitely tell myself to take a moment to appreciate my accomplishments and to celebrate them along the way. It’s very easy, especially in a city like New York, to move fast and get caught up in what you are doing, and then what you are doing next. But savoring your wins is as important as learning from your failures. Also, acknowledge and be grateful for those who you learn from throughout your career. If you are lucky enough to have wonderful mentors, professors, bosses and friends, celebrate them, thank them, and celebrate with them!
WWD: How would you describe your career path? What were some of the challenges you faced?
H.B.: My career path has been filled with happy accidents, and I feel lucky every day that I get to work at something I really, truly enjoy. As a result of my time at LIM, I knew I wanted to be in marketing, so I went back to school and received an MBA in marketing, and then started a brand management career in beauty.
Then, in 2005, I like to say I “fell into” digital at a moment when it was emerging, simply because I liked writing copy, webpages and e-newsletters. I never looked back. Almost 15 years later, I never could have imagined that leveraging my skills and applying them as a digital expert for brands was a step that would define the rest of my career.
The challenges I have faced have mainly been focused on the evolution of marketing and digital marketing as a profession. Many large companies are unsure of how to leverage digital talent, and that means that you have to be a guardian over your career in a different way than if you are following a more traditional path. Keeping a focus on my own goals has helped me navigate some of the complexity facing digital in those types of organizations.
WWD: Have you had mentors at LIM or in the industry? If yes, how have they helped you?
H.B.: I feel very lucky to have had mentors within both academia and the industry. They have opened my eyes to perspectives and opportunities I would not have found on my own and taught me to think bigger than the decision, job opportunity or problem in front of me.
Another role of a good mentor, especially as you progress in your career, is to help you navigate at moments of transition.
WWD: What advice would you give someone considering a career in fashion, retail, or beauty?
H.B.: Fashion, retail and beauty can be very image-focused. My best advice? Don’t get caught up in idolizing one single brand. As you progress in your career, the brand name on your résumé is as important as the experience, quality of the work, what you learn, and people you spend your workday with.
It’s a terrific and exciting time to be in the industry. There are so many small independent brands popping up, and the role of retail, e-commerce and physical stores is evolving. This has created a lot of interesting new career paths, especially in direct-to-consumer brands. Keeping your options flexible enough to allow for new experiences will open your eyes in ways you may not expect.