Jaeseok Lee is a South Korean, 2020 ESSEC Global MBA Alumnus with an appetite for retail. Having had a broad experience in the fashion retail industry beforehand, he realized the one thing that motivated him the most was luxury retail, and that the ESSEC Global MBA helped him find the dream job. Today, Jaeseok works as a Senior Retail Strategy Development Professional at Chanel Korea. In spite of the covid-19 pandemic, he describes his time at ESSEC in 3 words...
#LIFECHANGING #UNFORGETTABLE #OVERCOMING
Can you tell me 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 quite an opportunity… However, what I really wanted to work in was luxury retail, which is why I applied to the Global MBA in Luxury Brand Management program at ESSEC.
What was your source of motivation to integrate the Global MBA program?
I am a big fan of many inspiring designers and luxury brands, and I had worked with the most successful local premium brands, but I was never fully satisfied with my career. I wanted to experience the luxury industry from another perspective, and this program allowed me to do just that, all while giving me precisely that international perspective and challenges that I had never experienced before.
I found the fastest and certified way of changing my career was the Global MBA program, but the problem was my language and lack of international experience. I had never lived in other countries and hardly spoken in English after graduating. After the interview with ESSEC, I received an email saying that I was not qualified and might have the second chance in the condition of a drastic improvement in English. My wife, who had also applied for the same program and had already got accepted, suggested that we move to Canada to work on my english to enhance it dramatically. I had nothing but the motivation to move forward during the Winter days in Toronto, and I finally made it. If it weren't for my wife's full support, I would have never become who I am now.
Why did you choose ESSEC and why this program specifically?
I had been in contact with the alumni, more specifically with people who have completed the program I was considering, and I noticed how they successfully changed their career paths after the program. I witnessed exactly what I seeked in terms of professional development, and I decided to participate in a masterclass in Seoul to get familiarized with the school. I met Prof. Denis Morriset there, and I have admired him ever since… I definitely wanted to be a student of his.
Did you join the program with a specific idea of where you wanted to go after?
My plan back then was getting to work in Paris after the program, as I wanted to experience working abroad and getting that international point of view, and in the long run, I wanted to go back to South Korea and land a good position in luxury retail as I wasn’t sure to get a role in South Korea immediately - but I was wrong and was thrilled to be offered a role in Retail Strategy at Chanel in South Korea.
Best moment(s) in the program?
The Capstone Projectwas 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 boutique internships and visits, so this project became more valuable to me than ever before.
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 devour me. In the end, me and my team got wonderful feedback, and we learned a lot in the process.
What is the biggest challenge you've overcome?
I had an issue with my English from the beginning of the program. It was quite complicated because it affected me emotionally. In Korea, my English level was much higher than the average, so it was truly hard for me to face reality and admit that I had to improve. I took a step back, fought the fear inside of me and started practicing non-stop. Before the program ended, I had improved my speaking skills significantly, and today, English isn’t a barrier for me anymore.
What was the most valuable aspect of studying the MBA at ESSEC?
The Global MBA program has opened many new doors for my future, and it was the gateway to my dream job that I never thought I would have. It introduced me to a lot of amazing people that I care a lot about. They helped me blend in and become a part of this awesome international experience.
You recently started a new position, can you tell us more about it?
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 launching new boutiques. In recent years, building Omnichannel strategies also became essential to the luxury world, so cultivating the environment and designing the future are also my priorities.
What skillsets did 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 basic of business. At the same time, catching your potential employers’ attention is also key. I learned to be the candidate they are looking for thanks to all the experiences and exchanges inside the classroom.
What’s your advice to future applicants?
Apply to this program if you want new doors to open up and if you want to choose the right professional path in Luxury. This program will give you an international point of view, and you will learn so many valuable things and meet amazing people.
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