Jaeseok Lee is a South Korean, 2020 ESSEC Global MBA Alumnus with an appetite for retail. Born and raised in South Korea and with broad professional experience in the fashion retail industry, Lee sought a program that could take his career in luxury to the next level. He set his sights on the ESSEC Global MBA and graduated in 2020. The program helped Lee land his dream job: Today, he works as a Senior Retail Strategy Development Professional at Chanel Korea. Despite the challenges of being in a Global MBA program during the Covid-19 pandemic, he describes his time at ESSEC in these 3 words:
#LIFECHANGING #UNFORGETTABLE #RESILIENT
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
My professional career started at LG Fashion, the biggest fashion conglomerate in South Korea, where I worked in retail planning for four years, and then switched to merchandising. It was an excellent opportunity. However, what I really wanted to do was to work in luxury retail, which is why I applied to the Global MBA in Luxury Brand Management program at ESSEC.
What motivated you to choose the ESSEC Global MBA program?
I am a big fan of many designers and luxury brands and I had worked with the most successful local premium brands in South Korea, but I was never fully satisfied with my career. I wanted to experience the luxury industry from another perspective, and the ESSEC Global MBA allowed me to do just that, all while giving me the international perspective and challenges that I was missing.
For me, the most efficient and comprehensive way to gain this experience was through the Global MBA program.
How did you make the decision to apply?
I had been in contact with several alumni and was motivated by their success in changing career paths after the program. This was exactly what I sought in terms of professional development, and I decided to participate in a masterclass in Seoul to get to know the program better. I met Professor Denis Morriset there and I have admired him ever since. I knew I wanted the opportunity to be one of his students.
What were your goals when starting the program?
My initial plan was to work in Paris after the program, as I wanted to experience working abroad and getting an international perspective. And of course, when it comes to luxury fashion, Paris is a great place to be. In the long run, I wanted to return to South Korea and land a respectable position in luxury retail. I also thought I might need an intermediary step before getting my dream role back home, but I was wrong: After completing the ESSEC MBA, I was thrilled to be offered a role in Retail Strategy at Chanel in South Korea.
Best moment(s) in the program?
The Capstone Project was the most important and rigorous part of the program, and to me, it was an inspiring experience. The pandemic brought massive cancellations of almost all other activities, like internships and visits, so this project was incredibly valuable to me.
My team worked with Duty Free Shopping (DFS), and the project consisted of setting a new strategic approach for La Samaritaine. It was extremely intensive, but I never let it take over my life. In the end, my team and I got wonderful feedback and we learned a lot in the process.
What is the biggest challenge you've overcome as a participant?
My main problem was my English language skills, and the issue affected me deeply. I had never lived in a country outside of South Korea and hardly spoke English after graduating university. After my initial interview with ESSEC, I received an email saying that I was not quite qualified and would have a second chance on the condition of a drastic improvement in my English-speaking abilities. My wife, who had also applied for the same program and had already been accepted, suggested that we move to Canada to work on my English. I was incredibly motivated during our first winter in Toronto and worked hard on improving my language skills—to great success! I took a step back, fought the fear inside of me and started practicing nonstop.
Thanks to my wife’s support and ESSEC’s second chance, I am where and who I am today! Today, English is no longer a barrier for me.
What was the most valuable aspect of being an ESSEC MBA participant?
The Global MBA program opened many doors for my future. It was the gateway to the dream job that I never thought I would have. It introduced me to a lot of amazing people who are now a part of my life. They helped me participate in and appreciate this amazing international experience.
Tell us more about your new role?
I started working at Chanel Korea in their F&BP division as a Senior Retail Strategy Development Professional. I organize all strategies related to retail, and I also plan and operate the launch of new boutiques. In recent years, building omnichannel strategies has become essential to the luxury world, so cultivating the environment and designing the future are also among my priorities.
What skillsets did ESSEC help you develop for employment in the luxury sector?
Two main things. Understanding customers in the luxury world, and being “attractive” to employers. Knowing your audience is the very core of business and att the same time, catching your potential employers’ attention is also key. I learned to be what they are looking for thanks to all the experiences and exchanges inside the classroom.
What’s your advice to future applicants?
If you want new doors to open for you and if you want to choose the right professional path in Luxury, apply to this program. It will give you an international point of view. You will learn so many valuable things and meet amazing people.
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