NOVEMBER 6, 2019 | BY COLE ZAHARRIS & LEIGH MARSHALL
Shanna is an international student with American citizenship living in New York. At Duke she was an International Comparative Studies major, a French minor, and a Markets and Management certificate. She was Marketing Director for Spoon and, as you know, a member of BOW. Shanna was undecided in her career path for most of her school career. She went through consulting recruitment during her senior fall and started her career working at a fashion start-up for women's professional clothing called MM.LaFleur. She is currently working in operations at Juice Press.
What was your favorite part about being in BOW?
I really enjoyed hearing from established Duke and BOW alumni – particularly from non-traditional careers like Mark Overbay of Big Spoon Roasters nut butter. The lectures and discussions allowed me to get a better understanding of what options were available after college and helped me realize that there is no one set path to success. I also loved the various panels BOW hosted with topics like entrepreneurship and women in leadership. They gave me the unique opportunity to hear from successful women from a wide array of careers and hear how people in varying careers and with diverse personalities handle different obstacles and choices in the ‘real world’.
Could you talk about your Study Abroad programs in Berlin, Paris, and New York?
I think studying abroad can be one of the most valuable experiences. It is so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of the Duke academics, social life, and extra-curricular activities. Going to a different country and engaging with a new culture a step away from the intensity of Duke’s campus is one of the best ways I know to educate yourself outside of the classroom. I arrived in Berlin not knowing the language but developed an intermediate proficiency while living in a homestay with a German family for 4 months. I have family in Paris but had not yet had the freedom to explore the cobble stoned city with all its beautiful architecture and amazing food at my leisure until I spent 6 weeks there my Sophomore summer. I was able to imagine what a post-graduate life would look like in New York, one of the busiest and liveliest cities in the world thanks to my summer Duke in New York program. Each of these programs gave me a taste of a new culture and a new life and I was able to feel like I was living independently, but with a safety net below, which is a reassuring way to break out of your comfort zone. In addition to seeing new places and taking classes to a more interactive and immersive level, these programs also gave me the opportunity to interact with students from Duke that I may never have crossed paths with if not for the programs.
What was your experience like working at MM.LaFleur?
When I graduated college, I had not been prepping for med school, or law school, or investment banking. With a major in ICS, a French minor, and an MMS certificate my truly liberal arts background did not clearly point me in the direction of any one career. MM.LaFleur was the perfect next step for me – in large part because I clicked incredibly well with the company culture. This can be so important with your first job. If your personality does not match that of the company, you’ll be joining there is a high chance that you won’t enjoy the work you do. Set yourself up for success as best as possible by finding out as much about the personality of the company you’d like to join. The job itself was customer service and styling. I was communicating with customers every day via email, phone calls, sometimes video chats, in person styling, and eventually photo shoot styling (I even got to meet and style Ruth Zuckerman, founder of Flywheel). That said, what I was really learning was how to do well outside of a syllabus and grade driven academic environment. MM.LaFleur is incredibly well organized and inducts every employee into the fold with care. Every decision that I saw made or that I made myself in the role was driven by the over-arching values that the CEO Sarah LaFleur had first expounded with her fellow co-founders and continued to do at each bi-weekly all-hands meeting. I learned a lot about customer service, project management, time management, and other essential business skills. However, I think my main take away from that role and my experience with the company is that a strong guiding mission alongside well communicated values and goals help keep employees motivated and eager to innovate.
How did you transition from MM.LaFleur to JuicePress?
I had always been interested in the food industry, but particularly in learning about a) plant-based nutrition and b) how business analytics and strategy intersect with food corporations. About a year and a half into my time at MM.LaFleur I realized that the role I was in was not giving me enough opportunity to test and hone my analytical skills. I started to understand that the career path I was headed down was one more focused on personal styling and premium customer service. Although these are great skills to have, I was hoping to get more experience working with data and driving projects forward. I was not totally sure what jobs in the food industry would make the most sense for my skills and experience at that point, so I decided to focus my job search on a few select companies that I admired. The leaders at Juice Press hired me into their open position of Business Operations Analyst where I now work primarily to forecast daily food and juice deliveries as well as weekly deliveries for shelf-stable products like our smoothie supplies. The work is very different from what I was doing at MM.LaFleur. Unlike in customer service where there are often right and wrong ways of taking action as well as checkboxes to complete each day, in the world of supply chain management and forecasting the variability of customer buying habits is enormous. I am challenged every day to think of new ways to optimize our distribution quantities and make our product launch and ordering processes more efficient. Similar to stepping out of my comfort zone to study abroad in 3 entirely different cities, this career move has pushed me to think about problems and situations in new ways, and it has taught me more about how I work and communicate with a variety of different personalities.
What is the greatest obstacle that you faced in your career?
I don’t know that I have had an obstacle in my career as such because, given that I am not currently pursuing a straight and narrow path, every decision, rejection letter, or promotion opens a few more doors, each with their own opportunities, choices, and hurdles. I will say, the biggest challenge of my career so far is feeling that I have so much yet to learn. My current position is nothing like a Duke class where I can spend hours researching and then pouring over an essay to make sure each sentence and footnote is accurate or where I know there is a right or wrong answer. Nor is it like customer service where there are plenty of tools at your disposal from gift cards, kind words, in-person experiences etc. to adjust a customer’s experience with your brand. Forecasting and supply chain management rarely has a straightforward answer and I currently operate as the primary person responsible for creating a production plan for over 70 stores across New York, Connecticut, and Long Island. The responsibility can feel quite intense at times; however, I am incredibly lucky to have this ownership over such an important part of the business. I’m learning so much each day about how to assess problems, evaluate priorities, and provide solutions, and I know this experience and the challenges I face today will be invaluable for any future role or industry I go into in the future.
What advice do you have for BOW members trying to navigate what field they want to pursue?
For current members of BOW, if you’re not yet sure what you want to do after college please remember that that is truly ok. You likely won’t have even heard of the job you end up doing in 5 or 6 years so while at Duke I would recommend a few things:
Pursue a major that truly sparks your curiosity - The classes you take should be those that you think will supplement your current academic interests. Whether it’s Economics, Gender Studies, English Lit, or Chemistry – outside of the careers with specific academic pre-requisites, the subject of your major likely won’t be the limiting factor when it comes to getting a job so find professors and classes that teach you how to be analytical, and thoughtful.Use your extra-curricular activities as a way to start honing your business and entrepreneurial skills - The activities outside of the classroom (budgeting for events, leading a team, coordinating between different organizations) are where you have the chance to be more creative in your problem solving and more responsible in your decision making. Finally, start to learn more about what roles do exist and interest you. There are so many lectures, panels, and meet & greets at Duke. Take advantage of these kinds of events to learn more about what people are doing after education and use the alumni network to schedule information interviews to learn more about the fields that interest you. The more information you have before starting to apply to jobs the better.