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Lorilea Zabadal

"It was very important to me to experience the way different cultures informed others’ working styles in order to become a better leader."

General information:

  • Name: Lorilea Zabadal
  • Home Country: United States of America
  • Current Job Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Job Function: Client Relations Team Leader
  • Industry of Work: Luxury Retail
  • Name of Company: Richemont
  • Hobbies: Vegetarian cooking, cross stitch, travel
  • Degrees:
    • Bachelor of Arts, Michigan State University
    • Master of Business Administration, Rotterdam School of Management

What did you do between undergrad and MBA?

I worked for 3 years as Director of Constituent Relations for a Michigan State Representative; then I managed 2 J. Crew stores for 2 years.

Why did you decide to pursue a Master/MBA degree? What was the “light bulb” moment you knew business school was in your future?

I felt I’d hit a wall career-wise.  As a store manager, you have a hand in all aspects of the business – it’s very entrepreneurial. I wanted to learn the theoretical material behind the practices in order to round out my business acumen. It was also very important to me to experience the way different cultures informed others’ working styles in order to become a better leader.

Please describe your current job and the skills you need.

  • I manage a multi-cultural team of 10 Ambassadors who directly address the needs of the clients of 8 brands within the Richemont group. Additionally, I serve as liaison to the brands, and manage ongoing projects for these brands and the group as a whole within the CRM team.
  • Cultural understanding is very important in this role because we offer services in 6 different languages, all over Europe, and often handle requests from Asia and the Middle East as well.
  • Strong leadership is also very important as I need to flex to the needs of each of my team members, who come from many different backgrounds.
  • Project and stakeholder management are essential as well. I have several projects running consecutively and need to effectively manage my time, as well as prioritize actions. I also need to ensure that all stakeholders are kept in-the-loop and up-to-date on the status of ongoing projects.

What did you learn or gain from business school that has allowed you to get where you are today (skills, internships, network, etc.)?

Every term during the MBA we were randomly assigned to groups of 5-6, which offered the opportunity to adapt to different learning and working styles. This really helps me in managing my current team and being flexible with their needs.

What was your inspiration for pursuing your current job/career—why did you get into this particular line of work?

It was always my intention to stay in retail. Coming from a specialty retailer that places high value on a superior customer experience, as well as quality of their products, I knew a fast fashion retailer would not be a fit for me. So, I decided to pursue a career in the luxury industry.

Your greatest takeaway from business school?

My biggest takeaway from b-school was to be open to opportunity. After all, I probably wouldn’t have even  pursued an MBA had I not left my comfort zone! Having spent the whole program being open to new things, I have learned a lot about myself and what I want for my future. It’s been a completely invaluable experience. 

Is the job/industry how you expected it to be? If not, what’s the biggest difference?

For the most part, yes, the luxury industry is what I expected. It’s extremely competitive for job seekers, but at least for my company, there is an emphasis on development and retention.

If applicable, what concerns did you have about going to business school and how did you overcome them?

One of my main concerns was that I’d be out of the workforce for an extended period of time. This is one of the reasons RSM was perfect for me – it’s a one-year program. I also completed a business cognate in undergrad, so I was concerned the classroom experience might be too similar if I went to an American school. Again, this made RSM perfect – I had the opportunity to learn with classmates from 35 other countries will being immersed in a culture that was not my own.

Did you take the GMAT exam and if yes, when do you think is the best time to take the exam (e.g. during the Bachelor or after practical experience etc.)

Yes; I took the GMAT during my application period. I think the best time would likely be closer to your Bachelors unless you continue to use the skills the GMAT is based on on a daily basis. For example, I never had to use much math so I needed to brush up on that before the exam.

Things you wish you had known when first starting to think about business school and a career in business.

I wish I’d known that the MBA is not an automatic ticket to success – you won’t be welcomed with open arms just because you have MBA after your name. Of course, I expected to work for my career opportunities, but I’d managed my own expectations a bit.

Where do you see your career taking you 10 years from now?

Recently, I learned the CEO of one of the brands within Richemont is 38 – 10 years older than me. So, this is my new goal!